Appetite whetted.

For me, the most exciting announcement to come out of this week’s Nintendo Direct Partner Showcase was the immediate availability of the Unicorn Overlord demo. Through numerous training videos, SEGA and Atlus have been building the hype for this strategy RPG for a while now. So, Wednesday night, I put away my goings on (after AEW Dynamite, anyway) and dug into this newest title from the team at Vanillaware.

My thoughts? I’m hooked. But before I list off the reasons, here’s a little on why I knew I would be. Unicorn Overlord is a tactical RPG on a grand scale. Set in the fantasy world of Fevrith, the game follows Alain, a would-be prince now exiled when the kingdom is overthrown by General Valmore. Alain seeks to reclaim the throne, but will need to unite the individual countries of Fevrith to do so.

A corrupt ruler to face, an army to build, a world to explore, a tense political climate to navigate…it sounds pretty Fire Emblemy, doesn’t it? Well, it is, but it’s so much more. Let’s take a look at what I’ve already learned via the demo.

  • The demo is timed, so how far you get will depend upon how quickly you move. You’ll get five hours, which is more than enough to whet your appetite for strategy gaming goodness.
  • Of course, your progress will carry over to the full game should when you decide to buy it. However, it doesn’t look like there will be any bonuses for those who tried the demo before buying.
  • We get our traditional act of heroic sacrifice straight away, with a more surprising turn of events soon thereafter. If you’re as into JRPG melodrama as I am, Unicorn Overlord looks sure to satisfy.
  • The overworld is a living thing here. Unlike other tactical RPGs that just shove icons around a map as a narrator speaks, Unicorn Overlord charges you exploration. There are items to find (designated and hidden), characters to speak with, and enemies to engage or avoid.

  • Conversely, there are no towns…at least not yet. You’ll see and can interact with cities and buildings on the map, but just to pull up menus for buying/selling items, recruiting mercenaries, chartering ships, etc. Building up these towns makes them more useful to you,  a unique spin that keeps the game active when you’re not engaged in combat.
  • Speaking of mercenaries, you get to customize them! The game gives you plenty of plot-driven characters to control, but you also have the ability to hire reinforcements with some options for altering their appearance. Oddly, when naming them, you have to select from a predetermined list. So much for my idea of naming characters after members of the band Unicorn. Sorry, ABEDON!
  • Why the need for mercenaries? This begins our string of combat bullets, starting with engagement. Overworld battle scenarios happen in real time, with you deploying squads of 1 to 3 combatants (in the demo) for engagement. Each squad can be customized with the soldiers of your choice, including where they’re placed on a 2×3 grid. That placement will be determined by who is on that grid. Archers and healers in the back, of course. Fighters and guards in the front. Maybe. If you’re going up against an enemy that can attack an entire front line, you may want to move a lower defense attacker to the back. I found I didn’t have to tinker much with placement in the demo, but it’s obvious that’ll become more important as I get deeper into the game.

  • Who’s fighting together in these squads is important, as teammates will build rapport with one another the more they fight together. The game makes it clear who can share rapport and how far they’ve progressed.
  • The fighting animations we’ve seen are just that: animations. Like Fire Emblem, the gameplay focuses on determining who should fight whom, and making sure the right squad is within range. You can see the likely result of the fight before you engage. If you have multiple squads within reach, you can cycle through them to determine which will achieve the best results.
  • Each squad has a leader that can be assigned for various bonuses. If you have an archer leading a squad that’s within reach of a fight, you can call in a volley of arrows from his/her squad to do damage before you even engage. How cool is that? Other leadership skills include the ability to move faster on the world map, cross over mountains and rivers, etc.
  • The battle scenarios are timed. Once you engage the enemy and start moving your squads around, you have a limited amount of time to claim victory. The demo is generous with the time provided, giving you plenty of options to rest your squads (they can get tuckered out) and to compensate for mistakes as you spread them out for engagement.

That’s barely scratching the surface of what the demo highlights, but 11 bullet points is my traditional stopping point. I didn’t even get to the game’s lush graphics, the moral dilemmas (already with the tough choices?), the intricate item/skill management, and the sidequests that help you build up the territories you’ve freed. Unicorn Overlord gives you a lot to take in within the first few hours, but it’s also manageable…for now. I have a feeling it’ll get pretty complicated pretty quickly.

But I’m looking forward to that. The demo is a clear indication that Unicorn Overlord will keep gamers busy for quite some time. Exploration and combat are equally addictive and rewarding, and we’ve already met a handful of engaging characters. I’m more than ready to meet more and dig deeper into Fevrith when the game releases digitally and physically on March 8th.

For more information on Unicorn Overlord, visit