Varnir is set in a world where fearsome dragons roam the land. The origin of these dragons are girls called witches. Witches are born into the world already pregnant with a dragon, which gestates for a long time (10-20 years usually) before being 'born' by fatally ripping their way out of the witch's insides. Reviled as harbingers of doom, witches are haunted not only by their inevitable fate of being torn apart by the dragon inside them, but also by the Pope's Holy Knights who hunt down and kill witches. The protagonist Zephy is one such knight, whose life is turned on its head when he gets separated from his unit and is nearly killed by a dragon, but gets saved by two witches.
I bought Varnir with low expectations, just wanting something to kill time with. While I did eventually play through the whole game and wring some enjoyment out of it, I dropped it for almost a full month to go play other games after I couldn't stop a mixture of laughing and exasperated sighing at the opening couple hours of the game. The game does not give the best of first impressions. Since it happens in the first couple hours of the game and is featured in most of the promotional material, I'll walk you through the opening of the game and hope you won't consider it spoilers.
After being blindsided by a mixture of severe tone whiplash and almost comically forced fanservice in the opening, I put the game down and didn't pick it back up for several weeks, when I got really bored. The first impression was that bad.
For most of the game, the objective of Zephy and the witches who took him in is to find a way to avoid their cursed fate as witches. Witches go insane if they don't regularly eat dragon meat, but the more dragon meat they eat, the more the dragons in their wombs grow, usually ripping their way out before the witch can even turn 20. A mysterious witch named Charlotta shows up and promises to show them a way to free witches from this cursed fate, and they reluctantly stake their hopes on her, journeying to shrines said to hold the secret to free them.
Why not? Because Varnir is a pretty short game. The true ending took me around 20 hours, and getting the other endings, seeing all the witches' events, and doing the postgame dungeon added another 7 or 8 hours on top of that. It's something to consider if you value your time played per $ calculation. At this stage in my life I'm not troubled by small purchases anymore so I didn't mind, but I had bought this back in high school or college when money was tighter, it's possible I'd have felt a bit let down by the short length.
- Some characters, mostly the witches, did grow on me throughout the game. Karikaro was my least favorite witch at the beginning but my favorite by the end, for example. The skits involving them can be enjoyable. Zephy's an alright dude, despite being in a harem protagonist-esque setting he's not overly annoying or weird.
- Little Sister feeding system is an interesting way to make players value their time more and prevent mindless grinding (although there are ways to get around it)
- Gameplay is not that great - it's a little better than Neptunia style 'spam your highest SP moves on health sponge enemies' thanks to the three-layer battleground and formation system, but honestly not that much better.
- Overall story presentation sucks. From the laughably bad opening, it only ever becomes 'kind of okay, maybe, I guess' later on, not something I'd call great or even good. Many moments that are supposed to be sad or dramatic instead made me laugh.