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Kingdom of Loathing (PC) artwork

Kingdom of Loathing (PC) review

"Picture the scene. You face off against a scourge of this valley in mortal combat. The Council has request you aid the baron of this place, and you are eager to please. "

Picture the scene. You face off against a scourge of this valley in mortal combat. The Council has request you aid the baron of this place, and you are eager to please.

Your grip your weapon tightly, a weapon forged by your own hands in an epic quest demanded by your guild. You stand your ground, and build up a mighty Lunging Thrust-Smack to smash your opponent in to submission. Sadly, it remains upright despite the huge damage you inflict.

What to do? Your resources are almost spent in this conflict. Using wits to match your brawn, you fish around your sack and bring forth the bane of this creature's existence - the dictionary!

The anime smiley feels physical pain as you read from such a holy item, and it is beaten. You smile to yourself, burp from the martini you had earlier, admire the new tattoo the martini gave you, and prepare for the next challenge. All in a turn's work for a powerful Seal Clubber.

The Kingdom of Loathing is a browser based game that takes all the tropes of role playing games and sticks them at any twisted angle that will ensure maximum humour. Pop culture and more humour is then added to hold it all together, and to disguise the painful truth: There is actually a very playable, enduring game with some novel mechanics awaiting you here. More surprising - it is free to play!

The interface and artwork take a parallel track that xkcd also found, using stick figures to great effect to let the writing and wit have full force.

You pick from six wildly different (and bizarre) classes, and play throughout the Kingdom. Investigating the nooks of the Seaside Town, the crannies of the Distant forest, and even stop to admire the handiwork of preposterous protagonists as they fight upon a Penultimate Fantasy Airship. Will you be a Turtle Tamer, headbutting all foes while caring for his pet, or will you be the infamous Disco Bandit using his smooth dancing moves to pickpocket and facestab opponents?

The Council give you mighty quests, monsters give you meat - the money of the kingdom - and stats to boost you on your way to ultimate power, and a whole host of items and abilities are available to you to play around with.

What makes this game stand out are five important things.

1. Humour. The game keeps up a consistent narrative while throwing amusing, odd or laugh-out-loud creatures and situations at you. PG13 content ensures no one should be too offended, while you can still respect the odd vulgarity such as fighting constellations all named after euphemisms for...well, I hope you will see.

2. The game is turn-based. In order to explore an area, engage in a fight with a monster, forge an item, mix a drink, bake a pie, or fish around for a worthless trinket in a sewer, you need to expend an adventure. You only get a set amount of adventures each day, although there are many ways to get a few more as you play.

So no WoW style grinding from day one until you keel over from exhaustion. You play, you have fun, you run out of turns, you get on with your life. This adds to the game's longevity. A nasty puzzle can only haunt you for so many turns, and then you can disengage for a few days, knowing your brain is working things out and your extra turns are being lumped together ready for you to take another big push at it a few days later.

3. RNG. The gameplay outcomes are based on a random number generator. While clever things are happening beneath the surface to make the game fair, and while you can use skills and items to influence Lady Luck, in the end many things come down to a controlled gamble. Will the adventure you click on this time give you the non-combat you need, or the monster you wish? Can you win at the casino this time? Will the monster drop the item you know it must have this time? Can you get the right insult from the pirate this time in a welcome Monkey Island homage?

This uncertainty may well drive you to rip your hair out or groan with frustration, but the maker knew what he was doing. For every groan, there is that satisfaction of the right drop at the right time, of getting that unlikely outcome, or of being proved right. It is certainly what keeps you clicking just one more time to spend one more adventure.

4. Novel mechanics. There are many quirky things just waiting to be played with or discovered. Use the currency of the realm - meat - to create meat paste and glue all sorts of items together into new and exciting items. If that seems too subtle, get a tenderising hammer and meatsmith powerful items, weapons and armour. If all that seems too savage, then indulge in the more civilised cooking and cocktail making that will earn you more adventures per day. Though while you try to work out the best food and drink, try not to get falling down drunk!

Obtain familiars that will aid you with stat gains, meat farming, fighting, or other abilities. Learn the ultimate secret of your guild to craft powerful items. Many old ability and item tropes get enough of a twist to be fresh and fun.

5. Open beta. This game is constantly evolving, with new content provided all the time. And no need to download a gigabyte of patches!

6. Lying reviewers. Did I mention that the community aspect of the game means that you can join guilds, play in a clan dungeon, play from chat windows, or even ignore the game to build your meat up in the mall instead? Did I mention this game is completely free due to donations, and will stay that way - no ads, no cost? Did I mention the fact that once you beat the game, it possesses a comprehensive 'new game+' mechanic where you can restart while keeping your items and slowly building up a permanently multi-skilled character, a character you can run through new content in as easy or difficult a restart path as you wish? No? Hmm, must be because I am conscious of the size of this review, and realise I need to start summing it up.

This game should appeal to those who like MMORPGs and are looking for something quirky that takes their normal gameplay methods and adds a fun, fresh diversion. One that might stay with them for a long time!

However, this game should also appeal to those who are simply looking for fun entertainment freed of the usual trappings of RPGs and computer games.

In balance, those looking for it to be more than it appears upfront may be disappointed - this is a fun game that may creep up on you, but at its heart is an entertaining browser-based point-and-click.

Some might grow tired of the random generation mechanic at the heart of the game that sometimes forces you to fight the same monsters before you can advance. Then again, if that were a turn-off to many WoW would not be so popular!

Also, the open beta status of the game may be a curse as well as a blessing - major content can roll 'when it's ready', gameplay can get altered from time to time as the development team have to re-balance the latest released content.

This is at least a game that you lose nothing checking out. At best you waste some minutes today giving it a try. At worst you curse my name a few years from now, as you keep coming back to it and playing it.

An adventurer could be you!


beowuuf's avatar
Community review by beowuuf (March 20, 2009)

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If you enjoyed this Kingdom of Loathing review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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zippdementia posted March 20, 2009:

Hey, Beowuuf! Welcome! Good to see you're posting some reviews!
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beowuuf posted March 22, 2009:

Thanks :)

Will try and keep my hand n with retro reviews from time to time!

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