loving the loathing

13 July 2005, 9:38 am

Kingdom of Loathing neatly dodges most of my complaints about role-playing-esque games: it’s genuinely clever and creative, very low on sexism, and although there is combat, it’s refreshingly low key — you don’t die so much as get beat up. And, oh, yeah, it’s free.

KoL isn’t perfect. Too much of the gameplay is basically waiting for the random number generator to cooperate with your wishes, and most of the interactions aren’t very nuanced . . . it’s all “attack with your spooky staff” or “run away.” Many of the puzzles are of the standard “wander around until you find the prerequisite things” variety, or until you’re strong enough to face a certain opponent. The graphics are aggressively minimalist, which is fine with me, but which might be offputting to people with more feet in the 21st century than I’ve got.

But the creators’ sense of humor is bizarre, pervasive, and often hilarious.(People who hate puns should steer clear.) I could list some of the low- and high-culture references, but I think that would spoil the fun. So instead, I’ll mention that I keep playing not so much to get to the next level as to see what else Jick and Skullhead have come up with. Or more simply: this is a computer game that just might appeal to you even if you hate computer games.

Kingdom of Loathing does have one gameplay feature — a set of related interfaces, for, um, doing stuff with stuff — that’s completely new to me, although I know almost nothing about computer games. Again, I want to avoid spoilers, because part of the fun is not only figuring out what you can do, but also what sort of logic applies.

One comment on “loving the loathing”

  1. Ezra

    Are you familiar with the Firefox plugin Greasemonkey? I found a nifty greasemonkey script that adds access key shortcuts to KOL. The “fighting” which I agree does become a little tedious is made a little easier by just having to hit ctrl-A to attack with your spooky staff…

    I, too, am not a big gamer, but I think that some of the appeal of the MMORPGs I’ve read about seems to be in the crafting, barter, customization, and community. But even if KOL isn’t necessarily innovative in that department, (if I’m guessing the gameplay feature you’re talking about correctly) I think KOL’s version of it is extremely clever.

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