Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Choose My Adventure: How I fell in love with The Kingdom of Loathing


Well, it's time for me to say goodbye to The Kingdom of Loathing. It's more accurate to say that it's time for you to say goodbye to the KoL diary that I've been keeping over the last several weeks. Perhaps we can meet in-world to discuss the game further? Before you go, allow me to recap what I learned from my time with this odd browser-based MMO.

I guess it'd be easiest to tell you what kind of player I am and why this game fits my playstyle so well. That way you can ask yourself if it sounds like the right fit for you, based on a comparison of our two personalities. No matter what conclusion you come to, you should still try the game. I don't know how someone could not want to try any new game he came across, but that's getting into my preferences. Even then, there is no denying the convenience of a free-to-play, browser-based, multi-platform sandbox MMO that also offers years of content and a very unique fanbase.

It all started several weeks ago...

The Kingdom of Loathing screenshot
The truth is that I seriously did not think that The Kingdom of Loathing would win the initial vote on which game I should play. Not only did I include larger communities, but some of the games I put on the list had very passionate communities. I knew from past experiences that the size of the community isn't the deciding factor, but when you combine players who care about a particular title and a larger number of those players, it would be logical to think that game would be the winner. Sure, The Kingdom of Loathing boasts some of the most dedicated players I have come across, but the community is quite small. My money was on a game like AdventureQuest Worlds. If you want to find a massive, passionate community, you really do not need to look further than the Artix lineup. It turns out that no one was able to post a link to the initial vote on the official Artix forums, however. The moderators didn't want any mention of other MMOs on the official forums even if it meant winning a vote for several weeks of coverage.

Oh well, I like surprises. Many of Massively readers who do not play The Kingdom of Loathing surely raised the numbers as well. Either way, it was good to see an older game, one that boasts unusual mechanics and lore, get the win. I gleefully jumped in.

"Once a player runs out of adventures, there is not much else to do but read about the game or chat with other players. That's not a bad thing, and the game fit my schedule perfectly."

I haven't seen much difference between the game's classes. It seems to me that the only real differences between them all are class-specific abilities and starter stats, but it appeared that items, weapons, and armor could change those important factors. I know The Kingdom of Loathing is a sandbox, but I wasn't sure how deep the sand goes. On top of the ability to tweak your character's class, players have the ability to go where they want and to discover the game at a pace that is comfortable for them. I have made it clear in my other columns how important it is for me to state how casual a player I sometimes have to be. I'll typically play a game for a first impressions write-up for around 10-12 hours. The Kingdom of Loathing doesn't usually play for that long in a whole week. Once a player runs out of adventures, there is not much else to do but read about the game or chat with other players. That's not a bad thing, and the game fit my schedule perfectly. Sometimes I have to play three or even four games for my various columns and reviews I write, so a casually paced game that is meant to be played in smaller chunks is a wonderful thing.

This casual approach and slower pace does not equal a game with no depth. Instead, the content is as deep as a player wants it to be. During my time with the game, I discovered that each encounter can be thought over and approached with the most strategy a human could muster. You can also just click, click, and click through quests and dungeons. My polls showed that long-time players did about the same thing and played for maybe an hour or two a day. How such an odd game with such zippy gameplay could hold on to a healthy community for so long was mostly a mystery to me until I discovered that the snarky gameplay was deceiving. The game was as deep as some of the best titles I have come across. Sure, there are fart jokes and the occasional third-grade sexual reference, but none of it is distracting. After all, the entire game is based on silliness, so the goofy pop culture references do not feel out of place like they would in a more "serious" MMO.

I do have some gripes about the game, however.

First, I did not feel attached to my character. After more time and more customization, the little stick figure might have grown on me, but I generally forgot he even existed as anything more than a series of figures and items. I'd like to see a more robust character graphic. Of course, I would like to see more detailed graphics in all of the game, something I brought up in my initial impressions, but that would no longer be The Kingdom of Loathing. Perhaps allowing players to add personal drawings to a character sheet or to buy more detailed stick figures (yes, it's possible) would ensure the character I played truly mattered. He didn't seem to play much differently from the Turtle Tamer class I played before.

This might seem like a very minor gripe, but I would love to see the combat interaction page retooled. Every KoL player knows that combat or dungeon-crawling is mostly a series of clicks. I imagine that many players do not read a single thing on the combat page unless they start to get hurt. With as much clicking as is standard in KoL, I'd like to see the attack or skill buttons switched to a different section of the game. I would sit back, ready to click for a while, only to have to constantly scroll up and down to do it again. Moving those key buttons would mean fewer screen adjustments. All of those tiny adjustments get very annoying.

The Kingdom of Loathing screenshot
It appears from my polling that many players just look up specific items to understand their effects. I find this a bit puzzling because there is so much information through the game. Why are many items simply not explained in depth? I understand that a wiki is a handy thing, but it would be less confusing if certain other weapons and equipment also had no indicator of how powerful they are. Instead, some things are explained and some are not. I just do not understand why there is a difference.

Despite these flaws in KoL, I had a great time. I found a nice community, tons of different activities, and many areas to explore. I spent much of this past week just exploring and finding trouble. I finished the main quests I was supposed to but kept finding myself wanting to just click around. After 10 years, the title is immense. If a player were to spend most of her time in just a few areas, then she'd miss one of the most appealing aspects of the game. Even when I died, I didn't feel punished beyond what the challenge level called for.

In fact, the entire game felt really balanced and smooth. I guess after so many years in development, the game has worked out many of its game-stopping bugs and imbalances. The balance that a player might find in an older game is just more proof that we MMO fans should always go back and check out the elder titles. Not only do many of them have dedicated communities, but they also feature gameplay that is engaging, challenging, fun, and smooth. KoL has all of those in great abundance.

Will I continue to play KoL after this is over? I don't know. The text is still a bit much for my eyes as I suffer migraines, but I will definitely use it as an example of just how clever MMOs can be. Even though it runs in a basic browser, KoL offers a lot for many different types of player. As long as that player doesn't expect very distinct classes or non-stop play, he should be very happy. At least the game can be a wonderful pocket game or "lunch break game." I know I'll be checking back on my tablet when I can.

Sure, I fell in love with The Kingdom of Loathing, but I am not a monogamous gamer. Luckily for me, KoL is cool with keeping it casual.

Next week our very own MJ Guthrie will be taking over the Choose My Adventure column! Which games will she have up for a vote? You'll just have to tune in and see for yourself!

For this round of Choose My Adventure, Beau Hindman wanted to try something different -- different for you, anyway. So he's diving into the world of browser, indie, and offbeat MMOs! Come back every Wednesday to vote on what he does next; goodness knows he needs the help. Tweet feedback to him at @Beau_Hindman!

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr