Kingdom of Loathing (PC) review
"Welcome to the Kingdom of Loathing, a magical land of scintillating wit where the people are stick figures and the legal tender is meat. That’s right, meat. "
Welcome to the Kingdom of Loathing, a magical land of scintillating wit where the people are stick figures and the legal tender is meat. That’s right, meat.
Go into Kingdom of Loathing expecting your standard free browser-based online RPG, and you’ll be scratching your head halfway down the sign-up page when you encounter class descriptions like this:
The scourge of mariachis and polka bands, the Accordion Thieves have plied their malign craft since time out of mind. Their Moxie serves them well in both their adventures and their interactions with "the ladies."
KoL does not have fighters, mages, and rogues. Instead it has Seal Clubbers and Turtle Tamers, Pastamancers and Saucerors, Disco Bandits and Accordion Thieves. Pastamancers’ spells stem from their mastery of Noodlecraft, which strikes fear into the hearts of their enemies with spaghetti spears and rays of something, while Disco Bandits subdue their foes with fearsome skills like Disco Eye-Poke and Overdeveloped Sense of Self-Preservation.
Whatever you pick, you’ll soon find yourself thrown into the Kingdom of Loathing, a small island with big problems. The wise and benevolent King Ralph XI was recently kidnapped by a Naughty Sorceress and imprismed in a black crystal, and in the meantime, the Council of Loathing has taken it upon itself to impose its will upon the kingdom, although it success has been limited mainly to the odd adventurer. Oh, and also get the king back, but, you know, there’s no real need to rush into things, is there?
Fighting the Naughty Sorceress is a long way off. In the meantime, the Council assigns you an assortment of quests from fetching them a mosquito larva (don’t ask why they need it, they won’t tell you) to undefiling the Cyrpt near the Misspelled Cematary. Quests come from other people around the Kingdom’s sole town, too. The Pretentious Artist lost his art supplies; return them to his hovel and he’ll reward you with a pail, which makes a fine helmet. Some random guy in your guild enlists your aid in rebuilding his bitchin’ meatcar because those dastardly gnolls stripped it for parts, and he later sends you to White Castle to pick up his fast food order. Meanwhile, your guild leaders require your aid in forging your Legendary Epic Weapon, be it the Shagadelic Disco Banjo or the Greek Pasta of Peril, to defeat your Nemesis, but first you must wrest the components from the evil clown lord Beelzebozo.
As you explore the Kingdom, you expend adventures, which are restored daily. Adventuring in an area triggers some kind of event, be it a stat gain, item find, or combat encounter. Explore Noob Cave for the first quest and you might find this:
Deep within Noob Cave, you find a strange pool filled with a glowing blue liquid. You think back to what your mother told you about unfamiliar liquids found in caves.
You're pretty sure she said "Drink it! What's the worst that can happen?"
You grab a nearby frisbee and use it to scoop some of the liquid into your mouth. It's delicious. You had forgotten how good it tasted, when it's from a pure source.
You discard the frisbee and walk off, pulsing with Mystical energy.
You gain 1 Magicalness.
Venture into the Dire Warren later in the quest, however, and encounter something much more sinister:
You're fighting a fluffy bunny
This is one of the cute, fluffy bunnies that populate the Dire Warren. You're not entirely sure why it's called the Dire Warren, as you can't imagine any particularly dire circumstances (or straits) coming about because of these little things.
Nonetheless, it's probably safer to destroy it.
You trade hits with the bunny, smacking it around with your saucepan or stolen accordion while it distracts you, making you stub your toe on a rock, or stares at you with its cute little bunny eyes--it’s so cute it hurts! If you’ve been to the guild in the town yet, you might have a skill or two as well, which consume MP and range from attacks to heals to buffs. You can also use any combat items you may have, and for extra help, you can bring a familiar into battle with you after letting its baby form mature in your Familiar-Gro™ Terrarium. The Mosquito sucks blood from enemies and injects it into you, restoring your HP a little, while the rarer Cocoabo heals you, bashes enemies, or finds you extra meat.
When you run out of adventures, you can eat food unless you’re full and drink booze to gain a few more, although you can’t adventure if you get too drunk. (KoL’s homepage has a list of the game’s drunkest players right under the announcements. Why, when level or something might make more sense? Because it’s funny.) If you have the right skills and equipment, you can make combine different foods and boozes to get more out of them. KoL has a lot of item-combining; the most common form of this is mashing wad of meat into meat paste so you can use it to stick two items together to form a new one, often a piece of equipment, familiar, or quest item. You rebuild the bitchin’ meatcar for your guild buddy this way, assembling springs and cogs and sprockets into a new assembly, combining it with a meat tank made of an empty meat tank and a meat stack, and finally adding the result to dope wheels (tires and sweet rims).
Some equipment requires access to meatsmithing, though, which lets you combine meat stacks with special kits to produce equipment that can then be further modified. Beelzebozo’s clown lackeys sometimes drop clown skins, and if you smith one with a basic meat helmet, you get a clown wig. The most advanced armor requires more advanced skills, though. If you have Torso Awareness, the ability to understand how to use the middle part of your body to wear things known as “shirts,” and the Turtle Tamer’s Armorcraftiness ability, you can use another clown skin and a shirt kit to make this:
This is a collection of clownskin straps and buckles which crisscross your torso in a "cover the nipples but still give off a really creepy bondage vibe" sort of way.
It is also the single most horrible garment in the entire game.
Although the single player component is the largest part of the game, KoL is still an MMORPG. If you want to shoot for the leaderboards, you can activate PvP by smashing the Magical Mystical Hippy Stone at your campsite, but instead of actually fighting other players, you engage them in a random series of minigames: the player who is less full wins the pie-eating contest, and the character whose armor has the highest total power wins the fashion show. They’re based on everything from current HP and MP to PvP or in-game accolades to how drunk you were at the previous day’s rollover (winner goes to the highest one!). At the end of the match, the winner’s rank increases or s/he gets to steal meat, items, or stats from the loser.
KoL also has player-run clans that, in addition to uniting users with common goals, can give their members extra adventures, meat, or PvP attacks, share items, and so on. The community is tight-knit and intelligent. To access KoL’s chat channels, you must first pass a literacy test, although KoL also provides private messages and forums. You can also buy and sell items from other players.
While adventuring can get a bit repetitive after a while, you do eventually defeat the Naughty Sorceress, and then you can reincarnate your character as a different class, take on voluntary restrictions, and play through on harder difficulties, which reward the player with extra rewards after beating the game again. The replay value is incredible.
Once KoL sucks you in, it doesn’t let you go. It’s hilarious, engrossing, and utterly unique. Also, did I mention that it’s free?
Community review by Cornwell (April 11, 2009)
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