Video games that explore the hardships witches, people who in most instances are women, have to face. Series like Luminous Arc and The Witch and the Hundred Knight both have explored how evil such people really are and looked at the persecution they face. Dragon Star Varnir is a game that feels like it takes the notion a step further. Yes, once again we happen upon a group of persecuted individuals who are hated for who they are, the power they have, and what they could become. However, this game offers an even darker perspective that works hard to ensure everyone understands just how critical and dangerous the situation is for everyone.
In Dragon Star Varnir, players follow a young man named Zephy. Formerly a Knight of Requiem, a member of a group dedicated to defeating both dragons and witches. (The former, because they are bloodthirsty monsters, and the latter because they can use magic and could eventually transform into dragons.) When he nearly dies after a fight with a dragon, witches named Minessa and Karikaro feed him dragon blood to see if it could save him when healing magic couldn’t, so they could try and trade him for their captured friend. It does, but it also results in his becoming a witch. After learning that his Knights of Requiem commander doesn’t value his life enough to make the trade, seeing the witches aren’t really evil, and coming to terms with his new identity, Zephy finds himself fighting on the side of the witches.
Every story element does its best to hammer home exactly how dangerous life is for witches in this world. The knights are out to kill all of them. The Ravens, a mercenary group, is constantly hunting down the dragons they need to eat to survive. If they don’t hunt down dragons and eat enough of them, then they can go mad and have the dragons living in their stomachs explode out of them and take over. If they drink too much dragon blood or eat too much of their meat, they’ll also turn into dragons. If too many devastating events happen around them, such as their friends dying in battle or certain choices being made, their despair rises. One of the first things Dragon Star Varnir forces players to deal with, after establishing that Zephy is now a witch and must adjust to a new way of life, is the search and rescue of one of the witches’ “little sisters” who stopped drinking and eating because she felt the dragon inside of her move.
Dragon Star Varnir succeeds in preparing people for these devastating sorts of action by actually showing consequences, rather than constantly talking about them. We hear about the legendary Witch of Hellfire, who went mad and killed 100 witches leaving peacefully in a den in an event called the Carnival of Death. But then, if people aren’t careful with decisions, they’ll see opportunities when people could start going mad. We initially only hear a suggestion regarding how heavily Laponette’s clairvoyant abilities, which allow her to see who witches who had turned into dragons were, weigh upon her. But then, the more that we play, the more we see the devastating effects. Then, there are the little sisters.
There are three young witches who rely on Zephy and the party back in the witches’ den. Chiquita, Monet, and Pio are too young to go out in the world and fight. But, since witches need to maintain a steady diet of dragon blood and meat, you have to provide for them whenever you are in town. Taking care of them builds up their satisfaction, which means they will be happy, healthy, and offer you rewards. But, you can overfeed them. This means more rewards and a chance to get special dragon cores, which are essentially the skill trees characters can go through to unlock new abilities. Except, you only get those dragon cores after they endure incredible suffering, become dragons, and you kill them in a challenging, optional boss fight. It really makes you think about what you’re doing.
You constantly see the devastation in Dragon Star Varnir’s world. The places around you are dark and destroyed. Dragons roam everywhere. The witches are in horrible situations and only just getting by. Groups like the Knights of Requiem and Ravens may seem like they could do more harm than good. The game makes sure you realize exactly how dire things are, and then gives you the chance to make decisions that could make things better or worse.
Dragon Star Varnir will come to the PlayStation 4 on June 11, 2019 in North America and June 14, 2019 in Europe. It is immediately available in Japan on the PlayStation 4 as Varnir of the Dragon Star. It will come to the PC in 2019 with no modified CGs.