Name one game where you search for a Holy Macguffin with the help of your father’s diary, you fight an evil nemesis, choose sides in war between hippies and frat warriors on a mystical island, eat a Grue, get a sex change in a sleazy back alley, and defeat a naughty sorceress? Only one game has all these features wrapped up in one? For shame. Then again, not every game is as crazy as the Kingdom of Loathing.
The Kingdom of Loathing is a web-based (mostly) single-player RPG. One that, unlike most web-based games, does not feature any referal rewards. There’s also no emphasis on micro-transactions, no ads scattered across the pages, and unlike almost every other web-based game, it has an actual ending.
You play as one of six classes, two based on each of the three main stats. That’s right, there’s only three main stats in this game. Muscle, Mysticality, and Moxie, with their alliterative appeal combined you have your three Mainstats. It’s a simple system that’s easy enough to grasp, although it can be a bit confusing at first when you start to notice the names of the experience points for the three stats keep changing in name. Like how Muscle experience is often put down as strongliness, beefiness, or fortitude at random.
The basic structure of the game is simple. You get quests from the council and your class’s Guild. To complete them you have to spend “adventures” in areas until you succeed in your goal. You get 40 adventures a day as a standard. Adventures work as a measurement of time, and every area will have a number in paranthesis behind its name to tell you how many adventures it costs to play there.
You can raise the amount of adventures you get every day by eating food and drinking alcohol, but both have a daily limit. The better foods and drinks require you to cook or mix them, and there are plenty of recipes and farming strategies involved with this process.
The adventures themselves consist of combats and non-combats. In a combat you fight an enemy in a typical turn-based way. You’ve got your regular attacks, spells and abilities, and items. After the fight you gain experience, items, and meat. That’s right, the game’s main currency is meat. You also use it to glue items together, or create new weapons and armor. Surprisingly, you don’t get to cook with it. Non-combats either consist of multiple choice adventures or just a long text message explaining what happened and the results of it in terms of stat, meat, or item gains.
One of the most unique aspects of the game, outside of its sense of humor, is the Ascension system. Once you’ve finished up on the level 13 quest, the main questline is over. After that you get the choice of ascending, which is generally a New Game+ function. You get to choose one skill to keep and then start completely over, allowing you to change character class, gender, moon sign, and restrictions. You can play Hardcore, which disallows you to use anything from previous run outside of skills you’ve chosen to carry over in another Hardcore run. You can choose to restrict yourself from eating food, or drinking alcohol, or both. And with the new seasonal challenge, you can try and play through the game minimizing how many items with the letter “b” you use in “Bees Hate You.”
With all the choices in restrictions and playstyles, this of course means that The Kingdom of Loathing can be tackled many different ways. You can play it casually every now and again, not putting much thought into it and just enjoying the sheer nonsense that the game often inspires. You can dive into Hardcore ascension strategies, and do whatever you can to speed up the process. You can impose as many insane self-imposed challenges as you want and see if you can somehow make it through them.
All this and yet I haven’t even touched on the major strongpoint of the Kingdom of Loathing: the comedic and completely insane tone of the game. When you’re playing the game, you can be sure that every item, every adventure, and every NPC is referencing something. You can adventure at The Oasis, fight a group of Scarab Beatles and find a weapon named Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. One of the Turtle Tamer’s skills is called Hero of the Halfshell. There’s a Bulky Buddy Box familiar that doesn’t do anything. Not to mention the entire questline where you search for a Holy MacGuffin with the help of your father’s diary…
Another amazing thing is the community behind the game. Almost every web-based game has one, and a main chat room, but how many games force you to take a prove yourself literate to an angry ghost of the English language before allowing you to take part in it? There are several different chat rooms integrated into the right frame, each with their own community, in-jokes, and stories. Most interesting of all is that one is based around a fan-hosted radio channel that’s featured on the game’s main page. There’s a DJ on 24/7, and they take requests and host competitions for in-game prizes.
The Kingdom of Loathing is a unique experience. The game itself is confusing, complex, and challenging. The people supporting it are a fantastic community. It might not be for everyone, but for the few people the game works, it’s something that lasts a lifetime. And since the game is updated (almost) weekly, and still rolls out new content to this day, it’s not a bad life.
- Updates weekly, seasonal challenge paths, quests get revamped often enough
- The community surrounding the game
- Fantastic sense of humor
- It’s fully text-based, plus stick figures. Can feel dated because of it
- Very confusing and complicated, especially at first
- You’ve don’t know what funny even means
Absolutely worth your time.
(since this is a free to play online game, Buy/Borrow/Pass doesn’t exactly apply folks…)