Our Dragon Star Varnir Review covers the struggle of the Witches of Varneria as they search for a way to break their tragic fate. If thats not enough, you have the Knights of Requiem hunting them down and the Ravens who hunt Dragons while moving forward with their hidden agenda. Finally coming to the west, Dragon Star Varnir brings turn-based combat, battling dragons and more.
Dragon Star Varnir Review
Developed by: IDEA FACTORY / COMPILE HEART
Published by: Idea Factory International
Release date: June 11, 2019 for North America and June 14, 2019 for Europe
Price at time of review: 59.99 USD
Dragon Star Varnir Features
- Outcast Main Character – Take control of Zephy a former Knights of Requiem and newly turned Witch.
- Bleak Fate – Witches either go mad or die by birthing a Dragon. Add to the fray Knights of Requiem who hunt them, what a life.
- 3D 3 grid layered turn-based combat
- Sidequests & Goodies – Stop by the Huntery to undertake side quests and stop by the Witches Den to feed the little sisters to obtain goodies.
- Foster Interactions – Give presents to the Witches and perhaps you’ll grow close with them and unlock special stuff.
- Embrace Your Inner Dragon – Use Dragon Awakening to turn the tides of battle.
Story and Setting
The story follows Zephy, a former Knights of Requiem, who after succumbing to his wounds from a fight with a Dragon, becomes a Witch due to ingesting Dragon Blood. Minessa, a survivor of a devastating Witch genocide that occurred a decade earlier, administers the Dragon Blood to Zephy. Zephy’s reluctance to accept his position as a Witch gets slammed in his face, as the Knights of Requiem turn their backs on him. Zephy begrudgingly accepts Minessa’s help and becomes somewhat close to the remaining Witches.
The story follows him as he makes up his own mind about the Witches and their true nature which is a contradiction to the teachings of the Knights of Requiem. Meanwhile, the empire is astounded by the idea of a male Witch decide to ransack Zephy’s former home to obtain information on this defying transformation.
The Witches, Minessa and Karikaro, had planned to use Zephy as bait to recover their fellow sister Laponette from the Knights’ clutches. Once Zephy’s played his part in the fiasco he was left behind, until Minessa reminded them that he is now a Witch and one of them. Thus starts the adventures of Zephy and the remaining Witches of Varneria, to seek a way to break their doomed fate.
The game revolves around Zephy and the Witches as they progress through several levels flooded by Dragons as they are on their journey. You’ll travel through lust forests, empty deserts, ancient temples, and everything in between. When you are not questing you can feed your little sisters to avoid them succumbing to an early fate.
Players can develop their bonds with the female Witches by giving them presents to raise their affection levels. Or if they enjoy exploring areas, they may undertake sidequests to be rewarded with new items, formations, and more.
Players control Zephy and the Witches in turn-based 3 layered combat as they travel through Varneria. You spend time fighting Dragons and collecting materials from the world. Dragon Star Varnir is pretty straightforward as the premise is follows a pattern of:
- Start chapter
- Enter new area or the targeted area
- Get to the end while watching cutscenes in between fights
- Fight the boss Dragon
These outlined steps can be interrupted with sidequests from the Huntery for variation, feeding or ignoring the little sisters, and creating elixirs. Even on hard mode it’s difficult to “grind” levels. Usually your best bet is to enter the targeted area and farm experience there until you are equipped enough to fight the final boss of the area.
At times I would be 20 levels lower than the lesser enemies in a locale but can still defeat them without difficulty. As long as the player is consuming Dragons regularly, unlocking factors in their Dragon cores, and having a wide range of skills, they should be okay.
Most sidequests involve players bringing back items from a certain area, or finding a rare item in a locale that requires them to use their party’s environmental ability. Many of the requests will be fulfilled during normal gameplay but at times you would have to head back to a certain level to farm materials hoping RNG is in your favor.
I did find the camera to be quite annoying when a character flies on their broomstick as only the left stick will move them and right stick doesn’t move the camera. The camera sensitivity is also quite finicky making players find the right sweet spot for it. You want camera fast enough that you can scan the area but precise enough to avoid enemies and attack them first in the world.
The most annoying hindrance in Dragon Star Varnir is the equipment screen. There are 4 slots per character, and the game doesn’t keep your cursor on the last equipment slot you have adjusted. Instead it moves the cursor back towards the top slot making you input more than if you had free control over it.
Battles are your typical turn-based fights similar to what you find titles such as Death End Re;Quest. Those with high speed will have their actions played out before those with slower speed actions. Dragon Star Varnir possesses an aerial, triple layer turn-based combat. There are top, middle, and bottom levels where both party member and enemies will be positioned. Players can move throughout the levels to activate positioning bonuses, as well as tactically push enemies onto traps that the players set.
Players can select:
- Physical: Standard regular attack
- Magic: Use one of the character’s Active Skills; requires SP to use.
- Devour: Use a devour skill.
- Toggle Command: Gives players a second menu of options.
- Switch: Replace a character with the paired support member.
- Item: Use an item to heal, revive, or replenish SP.
- Guard: Blocks incoming attacks to mitigate damage taken
- Flee: Attempt to escape from the battle; may fail. Not all fights will allow you to escape.
Battling is simple enough to understand: the main goal is to weaken opposing Dragons with skills that they are weak to help drive up their fear levels. This gives players a higher chance to successfully devour them. Once players have devoured all the Dragons they like in an area, they can go on to fight the boss Dragon.
Dragon Cores are obtained once players devour a dragon and acts as a “skill tree”. Players will spend factor points to unlock certain skills they wish to obtain. These skills include:
- Physical Skills
- Magic Skills
- Bonus Factors (permanent upgrades)
- Passive Skills (equip-able skills that increase certain parameters)
Devouring Dragons are a vital mechanic as all new skills and upgrades will derive from them. I like this feature but it does get tedious when you need to encounter a specific Dragon 3 times in order to have each character devour it. It gets even more tiresome as the Dragon tends to enjoy fleeing from battle, this can make gameplay a little repetitive.
At the Witches’ Den resides 3 little sister witches; these little sisters, like all witches, carry the “witches’ curse” and will go mad unless they drink dragon blood. Players have the option to feed dragon meat or blood found in the wild, or to starve them.
Each sister has a Satisfaction Meter that increases after feeding. At predetermined points of the Satisfaction Meter, players will receive gifts from the sisters as a reward. Players have the option to feed them in moderation, feed them to promote their birthing of their inner Dragon, or starve them so they can go mad. This mechanic really places you inside the game as you attempt to do your best and make the right decisions for your little sisters. This also places a bit of pressure on players to act with haste in the game, as time isn’t a luxury for Witches.
The Huntery will be the hub to undertake side quests from Zuba. Upon completing a quest, you will be awarded various items like the important “Books of Formation”, which allows players to change their battle formations to their liking. Most sidequests will be completed during normal progression of the main story while some quests will require players to double back and spend time hoping to obtain the item they need.
Audio and Visual
Dragon Star Varnir opening song is a favorite of mine and I’m really glad there is a music section under gallery to listen to the game’s soundtrack. I personally enjoy the choir god praising tunes when you are fighting. It really cements the disparity of the petite Witches versus the overwhelming large Dragons.
Graphically, the game is average as it is a 2018 Japanese game that became available to North America and Europe in 2019. You can tell the graphics are somewhat dated yet, it doesn’t take away from the game. My greatest complaint in this department would be the intermittent voice acting, 3D cutscenes and picture-esque screenshots. At some points I was expecting to hear the dialogue being spoken and was let down that I had to silently read it while other times I was caught off-guard by their voices. I think a bit more consistency would have made a greater impact to the overall feel of the story.
The character models are a great asset that I felt was underutilized. I loved Minessa, Corberia, and Ruby Eye’s design and I wish I got to see more of them. Most cutscenes are 2D and the sparse 3D cutscenes left me wanting more. For the 3D cutscenes and picture-esque screenshots, I felt that the game wasn’t using the attractive character models to their best ability. Players are also unable to hide the text box to snap a picture of the characters interactions, something that was included in other Compile Heart games. Most additional cutscenes/interactions must be unlock during the gift mechanic.
If you enjoyed this review you might be interested in another JRPG title Death End Re;Quest Review. You also check out more reviews in Devil May Cry 5 Review: Ssstylish Perfection, Days Gone Review: A Sapphire In The Rough and your might enjoy another Compile Hear title Death End Re;Quest.