(Free-Game Friday is a new weekly feature in which a writer from the GamerLimit staff looks at a completely free game and discusses their experience with it. Since there is no absolute structure or checklist for writing about one’s experience, these features are not necessarily reviews.)
The first time I had ever heard of Kingdom of Loathing was in a small Game Informer sidebar, many years ago. Sounded interesting, but as a strictly console-only gamer throughout my youth, I forgot about it shortly thereafter.
About a week ago, I stumbled upon KoL while strolling through cyberspace. Seriously, I have been missing out. This game has the best writing I’ve EVER seen in a video game, and the gameplay is not too shabby either.
At its core, Kingdom of Loathing is just another role-playing game – there’s HP, MP, quests, inventory items, battles, leveling up, familiars (animal allies), alchemical item creation, the works. It even starts off like every other RPG; you fight bats and rats and gain experience to fight stronger enemies. However, whereas a multi-million dollar Square-Enix epic is very heavy-handed, this game slays the player with its sharp (and sometimes childish) sense of humor and obscure pop culture references.
At the beginning of the game, you select a class. Instead of thief, white mage, warrior, bard, etc., you get to choose from: Pastamancers, Saucerors, Seal Clubbers, Turtle Tamers, Accordion Thieves, and Disco Bandits. I went with the Disco Bandit (he’s got a lot of Moxie, just like me), and was dropped into the Noob Cave. You know… the cave where noobs start.
After a few minutes, I was already discovering some great armor (Knob Goblin Uberpants and a Meatloaf Helmet), meeting fun people (Shifty the Thief Chief and the Crackpot Mystic), and mixing my own drinks (nanite-infested eggnog, anyone?).
As soon as I left the Noob Cave, the world opened up, like the first time stepping into the world map in Final Fantasy VII. But in Kingdom of Loathing, the world kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. At the start, you can click “town”, “plains”, “mountains” or “woods.” (You fast-travel to each location; there is no tedious world traversing.) In each of these areas, there are more sites to explore. And in those sub-levels, there’s even more.
The exploring never feels like a chore, because the writing in the game is INCREDIBLE. You never know what you’ll see next. Some things I stumbled upon in my first week in the Kingdom:
- a Continuum Transfunctioner
- a reference to the band Cake
- a bar (da kind dat lives in dem dere woods, don’tcha know)
- a pompadour’d poodle
- a back alley drug dealer (“Hey, man. You, uh, you wanna try some goofballs? First bottle’s free, man.”)
- a pretentious artist that lives on the wrong side of the tracks and won’t paint my portrait because I’m too “bland”
It’s nice to experience a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Even the sun and the moon in the game are named Ronald and Grimace. There’s nothing like completing a quest to be rewarded with, “Grimace smiles down upon you.” Hilarious.
Also, you can join a clan, and engage in some PvP combat, and let your familiar fight in the Cake-Shaped Arena, and engage in all other sorts of RPG conventions, but I am still too low-level to experience all that the game has to offer… so far. But I will, eventually!
Sadly, after playing for awhile (about an hour, depending on how quickly you quest), you run out of adventures. You don’t run out of things to do; there’s PLENTY of things to do. You just run out of the ability to do them.
See, each night at 10:30 CST, the game servers shut down for about half an hour. This is for site maintenance, to kick off cheaters, to tidy up, whatever. During this time, every player in the game restores forty adventure points, up to a maximum of 200.
Each time you perform a quest-related action in the game, be it exploring a cave, traipsing around the Misspelled Cemetary, or even sleeping to restore the HP you lost when battling CRYS-ROCK (the first boss, see him below), you use an adventure point. After you use up your allowance of adventure points for the day, you can’t do anything else to advance your character or story until the next day of real time.
That sucks. It’d be like telling WoW players, “Oh, you completed two dungeons today, that’s enough! Time to go to bed, kiddies!” I don’t know if the adventure points are to keep players from simply milling around the Noob Cave for the rest of the game, leveling up against the easy baddies before eventually having enough Meat (the currency used in the game) to get some cool weapons, or if they’re to ward off the RPG addiction that can easily ensnare gamers when allowed to play limitless games unhindered. Maybe it’s just to keep people playing the game a little bit everyday for the rest of their lives like Animal Crossing. Who knows?
I could see myself getting sucked into the Kingdom, easily. Luckily, restraining my playtime will eventually lead me to give up the game for something I can play all night.
But, I’m going to hang on to this one bright spot in an otherwise bleak, dark gaming landscape for as long as my attention span allows. It’s just so funny, I can’t help but go back. I just wish I could Loathe a little longer!
Want to Loathe yourself? Check out KoL at www.KingdomOfLoathing.com!
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