Unicorn Overlord Will Borrow the Best Fire Emblem Mechanic
Love is a battlefield.
Sure, tactical battles and epic stories of revenge are fun, but can they really compare to going on dates with your video game crush? Didn’t think so. Unicorn Overlord, the next game from 13 Sentinels developer Vanillaware, has already shown off its intriguing strategy side, and a new update reveals the more romantic cues it’s taking from one of the giants of the strategy RPG genre.
Fire Emblem is far from the only game to mix turn-based battles with character relationships, but it’s one of the series’ most defining traits. Various games in the series have let characters go on cute lunch dates, get married, and have children. With its engaging cast of characters, these interactions are some of Fire Emblem’s biggest selling points.
Now, it looks like Unicorn Overlord is trying the same tried-and-true winning formula. As Vanillaware revealed in a press release, Unicorn Overlord will include a relationship system that strengthens characters who fight together, and will allow your main character to marry one teammate.
These new features are all part of the rapport mechanic. Whenever characters fight together in the same unit, their rapport stat increases. If their rapport gets high enough, the pair will gain bonuses in battle. There’s more to relationships than slaying enemies together, though.
If you want to get two characters to hit it off without having to engage in combat to do it, you can also have them sit down for a nice meal together. That’s certainly the less dangerous way to go about it, and probably less messy, too. It’s here that the Fire Emblem comparison really shines. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you could have tea parties with your companions or cook together with bonuses, depending on the quality of conversation and how well you matched the meals to their particular tastes. Unicorn Overlord likewise asks you to pick dishes based on your friends’ (or potential love interests’) preferences.
The team-building meals call back to a previous Vanillaware game, Dragon’s Crown. Between sidescrolling beat-’em-up levels, your party would sometimes be sent to camp for a mini-game about frantically cooking and shoveling food onto everyone’s plates. If there’s a similar mini-game in Unicorn Overlord, Vanillaware still hasn’t shown it off. One thing that’s definitely returning, though, are the mouth-wateringly gorgeous illustrations of the dishes, rendered in the developer’s signature art style.
After you’ve had enough meals and fought enough battles, your main character can even propose marriage (which is also how I’m pretty sure it happens in real life). Once protagonist Alain has reached the max rapport level with a companion, he can offer them the ring of the maiden and perform the rite of the covenant.
To be clear, Vanillaware isn’t exactly calling this marriage. While it’s a clear counterpart, the official party line is that the two characters “pledge fealty to each other forever” — not the most romantic description I’ve ever read. I’d love to see options to decide whether the rite of the covenant has romantic or platonic connotations, but there’s really been no word about what the ceremony really means.
That’s the one part where the otherwise fascinating rapport system could fall apart, at least for me. When I played Fire Emblem Engage earlier this year, one of my biggest complaints was its half-baked romance. Its social side was considerably pared down compared to Three Houses, making it much less fun to get to know party members. Even after reaching max support and performing the game’s version of a marriage ceremony, many of its relationships ended on vague proclamations that characters would protect each other or be by one another’s side forever. Without any clear statement of what the characters were feeling, it felt like being stuck forever in a virtual, not-ideal situationship.
Whatever shape the last stage of its rapport system takes, I’m glad to see Unicorn Overlord treating its characters as more than just chess pieces to move around its battlefields. As much as I’d love to marry a buff sword-wielding woman — in the game and real life — I’m looking forward to just sharing meals with them, too.