Victim of Xen - Review  

by Mike "JuMeSyn" Moehnke

Click here for game information
Less than 20 Hours
+ Good variety of locations and tasks
+ Interesting work mentality
- Narrative isn't fleshed out
- Enemies vary wildly in strength
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   Victim of Xen is an interesting RPGMaker title that could have used some extra polish to make it worthy of recommendation. Most of the ideas on display are strong, but their execution leaves enough to be desired that the experience is nowhere near as good as it should have been. At least it has a unique identity, and I'd be interested in seeing where Smolders goes in a future title.

   Will is just going through a typical day, sleeping late and then tackling a paying job to root out whatever is causing the noise under his neighbor's house. It's Will's bad luck to be there when Xen, a witch working for the Opress nation with orders to conquer his hometown, arrives and takes exception to his determination to resist. Xen deals with this by turning Will into a female, and straightening out his mixed-up body becomes the goal. There's also some business about fighting against the Opress nation's reach around the world.

   Most of Will's dialogue stems from the quest to return to his original gender, and other facets of his personality are underdeveloped at best, with even the prospect of humor from his predicament not being examined as fully as possible. This is also true of the three companions who eventually join his quest, all of whom conceivably could have been fleshed out to become much more interesting characters than they come across through the text. Transitions in the narrative often seem truncated, in particular one where Will winds up being friends with a girl named Zehra after a two month gap that is completely expunged from the story on screen. Later in the game, when Will is sent to capture pieces of a powerful artifact around the world, the locations tend to receive no explanatory text whatsoever despite such things as islands floating in the air.

Starting a fire without making sure it won Starting a fire without making sure it won't spread? Smokey the Bear is not happy!

   Combat's essentials in Xen are familiar from many other turn-based titles. No-frills physical attacks are the standard method of dealing with enemies, while each character has a gradually-expanding lineup of special moves to use. Every offensive move is physical and has a chance of missing, which can be infuriating when the enemies of Xen are very dodge-prone. Everything proceeds efficiently, and the basics of taking down opponents are solid.

   The devil lies in the details, and here they take the form of several quirks. Having most items not be usable in combat makes sense from a strict logical perspective and the few which can be used for replenishing characters in a fight thus become much more important. Wildly varying enemy strength is harder to accept though, particularly when the world map only has three types of enemies and one of them will rip the player to shreds without adequate strength. This issue continues throughout, with most enemies incapable of putting up a threatening fight while the occasional foe will knock out characters with one hit.

   Gaining money is an interesting matter in Victim of Xen, mostly because attempts to make it more realistic do not wholly succeed. Only humanoid adversaries will drop cash upon their defeat, with the monster hordes giving up nothing but experience as they die. A number of odd jobs are available to supply cash in their place, and they range from deliveries to NPCs around the globe to helping construct a chicken enclosure. All of them are one time only, except for a job that involves picking up a material at a bench and moving it two spaces away that nets five gold for each repetition. Getting the best equipment for every character, which will help greatly against the final boss, requires performing this task a great number of times.

You must not be good at discerning succulent souls from the lousy ones, because mine is corrupted. You must not be good at discerning succulent souls from the lousy ones, because mine is corrupted.

   Visuals are what the RPGMaker program can produce, though the numerous character artwork samples are very helpful in visualizing what the sprites indicate. A few additional images for regular enemies would have been nice though, since dungeons tend to have one adversary show up all the time. A good number of music tracks are present and vary for each location, but are unmemorable.

   Victim of Xen feels like it should have been a bit longer to adequately convey the story presented. The game is quite short and is designed to be finished in the four-to-six hour range, but a larger share devoted to the narrative would have been a good idea. Smolders displays some interesting ideas in its first release and will be worth paying attention to in future, hopefully after digesting what to improve with the next release.

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