Tobold's Blog
Monday, July 08, 2024
Unicorn Overlord

Most of the video games I play, I play on my PC. But there are a few specific games that are exclusive to some console, and while I only have a Switch as current generation console, I consider that one well worth it just for games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. But there are some more games that I play on the Switch: Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Fire Emblem Engage, and now Unicorn Overlord. They are of a tactical JRPG genre which is very typically only available on consoles, with the exceptions being a few PC ports of console games. There are of course a lot of games on Steam that combine RPG elements with tactical combat, like Wartales or Battle Brothers, but if you know of a good tactical JRPG on PC in the style of Fire Emblem or Unicorn Overlord, I would be interested in that. The closest I got on Steam is Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga.

Before Unicorn Overlord, I would have said that an important feature I like about these games is the turn-based tactical combat. But it turns out that Unicorn Overlord's weird combination of real-time with pause tactical movement and auto-battler combat is just as much fun. What makes the auto-battling fun is that you can "program" your characters: You can set the conditions under which they should attack particular enemies or use particular skills, and what they should do when none of the specific conditions apply. As every character class in the game has one or more other character classes that work well against it, every battle becomes a bit of an interesting puzzle. You don't just brute force to victory (unless you are overleveled and the difficulty is too low), you set up your squads to be able to deal with the specific enemies of that particular battle.

Unicorn Overlord is quite a big game. Even the demo lets you play a full 4 hours, and that isn't counting the time spent setting things up in menus, so in reality it is more like 8 hours. If you rush just the main story, you can beat the game in just under 50 hours, but if you take your time you can spend way over 100 hours in this game. The downside of that is some repetition, like quests you can do in every one of the five regions. And good luck remembering the rock/paper/scissors unit strengths and weaknesses when there are 41 classes in the game.

Unicorn Overlord is also one of the few games where I am considering switching to the highest available difficulty level, after doing quite well at the second-highest level. That is probably because the real-time part is slow enough for an old foggy like myself to have time to pause and give commands. There is nothing in this game which requires sub-second reaction time. On the other hand, it is quite an intellectual game, where bringing the right unit with the right programming and the right equipment makes all the difference. Fortunately there are many opportunities for mock battles to try things out.

As an aside, I still have my original Nintendo Switch, that I got Christmas 2017. But for Unicorn Overlord I finally bought a new set of Joycon controllers. The original ones had drift, which I managed to temporarily fix several times using instructions from the internet, but that was never a permanent solution. From all I read I have good hope that more recently produced controllers don't have the drift problem anymore, so I bought a set in colors that weren't available at release. Overall I am quite happy with my Switch, and am considering buying a Switch 2 when it comes out in 2025 or 2026. On the other hand, I am less and less inclined to buy a new Playstation or XBox, because there are now fewer and fewer console exclusives on those, and I can play all the games I want on my PC.

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