Local Spotlight: Draculesti Is A Gothic Romance-Horror Dream

Local Spotlight: Draculesti Is A Gothic Romance-Horror Dream

Aussie-made visual novel Draculesti posed a very important question at PAX Aus 2023: what if Dracula, but make it gay? Beyond the interesting implications of lawyer R. M. Renfield beginning a sordid love affair with Vlad Dracula himself, this intricately illustrated game spins a dark narrative in the “decadent world of vampires, tragic heroes, and demonic contract law.”

Draculesti (stylised as Drăculești) has you take control of Roger M Renfield, a “lawyer on the brink” who becomes trapped at Castle Dracula after a job gone wrong. Renfield must survive or “risk it all for love” in what developers Fine Feathered Fiends describe as a horror-romance visual novel with “strong LGBTQI+ themes.” 

In this reimagining of the classic novel Dracula, your choices all count in both matters of the heart and in retaining your own humanity. With so many different routes to explore, the game looks primed for multiple playthroughs to see how many different ways Renfield’s tale can pan out.

Draculesti, of course, involves Dracula himself, but he’s not the only character you come across as Renfield, nor the only one vying for your heart (or perhaps your life). Each of the four love interests comes with their own goals, desires, and intricate backstory for you to unravel and learn over multiple hours of gameplay.  However, each choice you make impacts the castle’s inhabitants’ actions – meddling in the affairs of ghosts, vampires, and brides of Dracula is no easy task. As the Draculesti’s description says, “friends in one playthrough may be foes in another,” making for fraught negotiations as Renfield tries to make it out in one piece.

Image: Fine Feathered Fiends

While the romance element of Draculesti’s gothic story is at the forefront, this isn’t to say that the horror takes a backseat. After all, Renfield is a nervous wreck, stuck in a castle with a powerful vampire and inhabitants who could all just as easily kill him as they could romance him. With the ever-looming threat of death and the dire circumstances Renfield finds himself in, he’s prone to dreams that lean into the abstract and horrific. 

Even these dream sequences lean into the decadence you’d hope for in any sort of lavish gothic tale, with terrifying images that look like hand-painted masterpieces peeled away to reveal something that you can’t quite comprehend in a way I’d describe as akin to a glitch, but make it old-timey and moody.

Much like a vampire (and excuse the Twilight reference), everything about Draculesti invites you in; the beautiful art style of both the characters and backdrops, the sound design and music, the flowery prose, and the enthralling characters. Queered gothic storytelling never looked so good. 

While Draculesti doesn’t yet have a confirmed release date, it’s one to watch. You can wishlist it on Steam now and follow along with the developers on X (formerly Twitter) here for updates. 

Lead Image Credit: Fine Feathered Fiends

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