Published on August 25th, 2021 | by Abdul Saad
Dragon Star Varnir Nintendo Switch Review
Summary: Dragon Star Varnir is quite a mixed bag in terms of enjoyment. While it provides an intricate and engaging combat system as well as some solid alternate modes, the rest of its elements are unfortunately rather lackluster or just plain inconveniencing.
Dragon Star Varnir is a surprising game in many ways. While it has many entertaining aspects, its design and execution are unfortunately flawed which sometimes take the immersion and enjoyment out of the experience.
The game follows Zephy, a knight who, one day, gets into a sticky situation involving an angry dragon. He is ultimately gravely wounded until two witches walking nearby save him by feeding him dragon’s blood. Now granted with magical powers, Zephy becomes the very thing his order seeks to destroy: a witch. Afterwards, he reluctantly joins the witches on a journey to find out how to return to his former self amidst groups of enemies like the knights and infamous dragon hunters chasing them along the way. The game’s premise is admittedly quite basic, especially if you’re an anime fan.
The story basically boils down to the characters moving from one location, encountering a dragon and ultimately defeating it, to encountering the knights and their other enemies and doing the same. What’s more, it is also incredibly tropey, which isn’t much of a surprise for a JRPG, but it is worth mentioning regardless. Though this isn’t to say the story wasn’t entertaining. As both a JRPG and anime fan, those very familiar tropes were just enough to engage me throughout the game. However, I can’t confidently say the same will be true for regular players.
As for the gameplay, I can wholeheartedly say that the combat in Dragon Star Varnir was the highlight of my experience. While I initially had qualms with its structure, it gradually grew on me as I realized how intricate its mechanics were. Combat in the game consists of the traditional turn-based action, except this time, players can switch between three tiers in the sky, instead of playing on a level field. Physical attacks won’t hit an enemy in a separate tier from you, whereas magic attacks can hit them on multiple tiers. The game also has this neat thing called the Devour mechanic where, after weakening a dragon, the player can consume it to gain its core which can further be used to unlock more skills including passive skills, magic skills, physical skills, and more.
One thing I did notice about Varnir is that it progressively and significantly gets harder as you keep playing. The game will constantly and consistently throw more challenging enemies and bosses at you the further you go. As a result, some difficulty spike incur, which felt really jarring, so grinding out enemies before boss fights especially in the game’s latter half is highly advised.
Varnir also includes other gameplay elements to engage the player such as the ability to gift characters items to increase your bonds with them, which consequently prompts extra scenes between them. There’s also a mode where you regularly feed a group of little witches to keep their dragons at bay, as well as a mode where players spawn a dragon which has a chance to drop powerful items upon defeat.
I found the last mode to be the most engaging as it provides a challenge and rewards your efforts sufficiently. However, the most intrusive and annoying mechanic included in the game has to be the Madness system. Depending on what dialogue choices you make, the number of defeats you concede to, and the type of enemies you encounter, your whole playthrough can be turned upside down or forced in the wrong direction.
This basically means you have to make sure you limit your amount of defeats, always stay vigilant with your choices and additionally make sure you’re constantly micromanaging the aforementioned little witches, or your playthrough will be in jeopardy. This mechanic makes it incredibly hard to progress your game freely and it only serves as a significant inconvenience throughout.
Another subpar part of the game is its awful 3D graphics. Whether you play docked or undocked, the character models in cut scenes look rough and choppy, while the illustrated stills outside cut scenes are laughably executed by having barely moving mouths on their faces during dialogue. What’s worse is that movement is done by dragging them across the screen like a drawing on MS paint. The only part of the game that’s visually impressive are the witches’ elaborate but stunning transformation and devouring sequences.
I’ll also give credit to the game’s unique and sometimes captivating character designs. Each character’s dressing is a consistent and bizarre mix of Gothic and Steampunk fashion, which I admittedly found appealing. What I didn’t find appealing however, is the game’s generic JRPG soundtrack with a very limited number of repeated mediocre songs.
All in all, as you can probably guess, Dragon Star Varnir is quite a mixed bag in terms of enjoyment. While it provides an intricate and engaging combat system as well as some solid alternate modes, the rest of its elements are unfortunately rather lackluster or just plain inconveniencing.