Knights of Xentar (PC) review
"Drunk, horny, and stupid is no way to go through life. Yet thatís exactly how we see Desmond, the main character of Knights of Xentar. Strictly English-speaking players have little way of knowing heís actually a hero twice over, saving fair maidens from the clutches of the Xentar Knights in his first adventure and saving fair maidens from the clutches of the vain Queen of Mesaanya in his next. When Desmond makes his American debut in this RPG, his third video game outing, heís soused ..."
Drunk, horny, and stupid is no way to go through life. Yet thatís exactly how we see Desmond, the main character of Knights of Xentar. Strictly English-speaking players have little way of knowing heís actually a hero twice over, saving fair maidens from the clutches of the Xentar Knights in his first adventure and saving fair maidens from the clutches of the vain Queen of Mesaanya in his next. When Desmond makes his American debut in this RPG, his third video game outing, heís soused off the intoxicating combination of grog and fried pig gristle, ready to foolishly fight a lowdown gang of bandits. While one might expect him to heroically rise to the challenge, Desmond instead has his ass summarily beaten. Regaining consciousness the following morning, he finds heís missing his powerful Falcon Sword, Genji Armor, and even his clothes!
So begins our heroís quest. Starting only with Desmondís unabashedly naked character sprite, itís up to you to guide him across the medieval land to recover his stolen armaments. Little by little, though, this seemingly simple quest transforms in a fierce battle of good versus evil. Along this treacherous journey youíll have to defeat countless demons, put up with even more insults of Desmondís manhood and personal hygiene, and of course save many fair maidens from the clutches of all kinds of deviants. As Knights of Xentar is an adult game, you will get many glimpses of those delectable wenches. However, while the prospect of peeping will certainly pique your interest, itís far from the most impressive aspect of this title. This is a hilarious game with a joke at every turn, and it also provides interesting puzzles and expansive lands to explore. These are the reasons why this DOS dinosaur continues to shine to this day.
First and foremost, this is a game that focuses on humor, and Desmond is on the unfortunate end of many of the laughs. The amount of effort the writers poured into these jokes is amazing, as each of the numerous non-player characters will have a unique and witty line deprecating our hero. Men cringe at the pitiful sight of his miniature manhood, and little girls shriek at the horror of his uncouth appearance. Even the environments add to the perverted silliness of the game. To commemorate his past victory, Desmondís hometown features a refurbished Tower of Mesaanya as its main tourist attraction (staffed by his ex-lovers), and they even sell coveted Desmondô Action Figures. To top it off, thereís Neroís Retreat, a nudist colony where your party has to strip even their skivvies just to gain admittance.
Of course, Desmondís comrades also get in on the comedy act, providing exasperated comments whenever he finds himself in a bind. Of more importance, though, is the fact these characters are actually returning from previous adventures. The group reminisces enough that the player can peek behind Desmondís oafish mask to catch a glimpse of his more valiant qualities. The first companion he meets is Rolf, a Viking-looking hulk of a man who helped Desmond storm Mesaanyaís Tower. Naturally, he didnít receive any of the glory, so heís settled into the role of the consummate sidekick, not hesitating to join another campaign. More interesting is Luna, a temperamental sorceress-in-training who aided in the defeat of the Xentar Knights (who ironically donít appear in this game, despite the title). Luna has an extreme love-hate relationship with Desmond; to keep him away she conjured up a barrier to prevent all men from entering her village, much to the dismay of the other girls. Even though her sharp tongue never fails to sting its favorite target, Luna transparently acts wholly out of concern for out hero.
What draws most of Lunaís ire is Desmondís frequent rendezvous with the women he helps throughout the story. But keeping with the gameís theme, these encounters elicit more chuckles than arousal. The pictures themselves are certainly not low quality, but they are relatively low-key, featuring only topless girls in seductive poses. The dialogue doesnít describe anything explicit either. In fact, itís more likely to degenerate into a random, but hilarious, rant from the writer than anything overtly spicy. What makes these scenes really special are the ridiculous situations in which Desmond finds himself. He has to fend off catgirls in heat, resist the advances of an old flame trying to cuckold her ordinary husband, and try to please a Snow White look-alike who is used to sadistic attention from her seven dwarves.
Behind this veil of humor, though, lies a seriously constructed game. Far from a shoddy spoof of serious RPGs, Knights of Xentar provides tasks that require a combination of insightful thought and determination to unravel. One example of this is the maze inside the Castle of Kalist, a trial that must be overcome by going through a series of doors in the correct order. This would be nearly impossible without hints, so the game graciously supplies some. Unfortunately, its most obvious solution divides the clues between a pair of rivals, so if you speak with one the other will snub your questioning. If you choose to solve the puzzle using this route, you must either piece together the missing half yourself or dishonestly cheat through manipulating saves to speak with both. However, there exists a cleverer way as well. An ordinary character will give a seemingly insignificant hint to the location of the full solution, and only if youíre on your toes will you catch its meaning. Most quests work this way; you can smoothly deduce some answers to problems through innocuous clues, but even if you miss them a dogged effort will eventually be rewarded.
Knights of Xentar certainly encourages exploration in other ways, too. In addition to gleaning information from non-player characters and discovering random treasure in ordinary locations, youíre rewarded for thoroughly searching in unexpected places and trying different approaches to apparently straightforward tasks. In some cases, a container full of trash may reveal a hidden cache of money upon repeated inspections. Other times, surprising treasures can be uncovered by rifling through old haunts with a new party member. There are so many secrets to reveal that youíre likely to find something new every time you play through the game.
While unlocking new secrets is always exciting, one aspect of this game that quickly gets old is the battle system. Knights of Xentar uses a unique real-time scheme where your responsibilities extend only to dispensing items and casting spells with Luna. Everything else is automatic, as Desmond and Rolf will clash with the enemy at the center of the screen. In a 2-D side view, you will only see a flurry of flailing appendages over the din of nondescript sound effects. These rather ridiculous displays do offer a positive, though. The player doesnít have to spend much time mired in a virtual catalogue of complicated strategies for each and every enemy. In fact, the game includes a feature where you can increase the speed of these battles to milliseconds. Instead of spending hours of time in grinding training, you can concentrate on more important issues, like exploring the landscape and enjoying the mountain of humor that this game offers.
To be certain, Knights of Xentar isnít meant to be taken too seriously. Just about every event pokes fun at something or other, but that doesnít mean the gameplay suffers. Far from being shallow, the game immerses the player in an environment that can be both a blast and a challenge to explore. Entertainment like this canít be found in many games, so anyone seeking a uniquely enjoyable experience would be wise to give Knights of Xentar a try.
Community review by woodhouse (August 07, 2004)
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