Monday, November 11, 2013

Kentucky Route Zero

I try to keep my video game talk minimal around here, but I keep coming across video games that seem relevant to table-top gaming.

Besides, every moment you spend not playing this is a disservice you do to yourself.

This one is called Kentucky Route Zero, and it's a point-and-click adventure in five Acts.  As is the style with some games at the moment, it is being released in installments; currently, only the first two have been released.

Kentucky Route Zero revolves around a truck driver named Conway and his dog as they try to make a delivery to Dogwood Drive.  As the adventure progresses, it becomes obvious that Conway needs to find his way to the Zero, a strange subterranean road, to complete his delivery.

KRZ is a linear experiment in much the same vein as Goichi Suda's killer7 — it's not terribly innovative in terms of gameplay or graphics, but it does play with how the player identifies with the main character(s) in the story.  The only meaningful choices the player makes involve how the characters interact with others; the game seems as though it plays similarly no matter what choices you make, but what is the mood of the game?  Tired?  Wistful?  Hopeful?  You help influence that by way of your dialogue.

In terms of story, I'd particularly recommend it.  It falls within the slippery genre of "magic realism," placing it among the works of artists such as Tim Powers and David Lynch (when the latter isn't out-and-out surrealist).

More relevant to this discussion, it oozes mood for Unknown Armies.

Without getting into the metaplot of Unknown Armies, the Zero is clearly an "Otherspace," any one of a multitude of alternate realities that bleed into our own.  Some claim that they're the leftovers of potent or repeated magic, while others claim they're the remnants of dead realities.  Whatever the case, sometimes it's possible to find a place where the rules of reality run a little strange.  The Zero is clearly such a place, running on symbolic and narrative rules rather than physical laws.  Likewise, the area of Kentucky surrounding the Zero clearly has been influenced by this strangeness — an abandoned church plays a tape recorded sermon to no one (strangely enough, mirroring a similar church in Act II), while on the other side of Route 65, two guys push a propeller plane up the road.  For that matter, you come across an accident that may have happened years before, and the person who leads you to the Zero might be a ghost (or at least, has a particularly fluid relationship with reality these days).

Once the whole thing comes out, I'm sure I'll adapt some parts to Unknown Armies, because seriously, how could one resist?

If you head over to the KRZ site, you can find the game available through Steam and Humble Bundle (the Humble Bundle version gives you Steam download codes as well as a DRM-free version).  I believe that grants you access to the new Acts as they are released.

If you're not quite so sure about all this, you can also check out Limits & Demonstrations, a free mini-game featuring three characters wandering around an art museum.  This side story details the artwork of a minor character in Act II, and grants a little more insight into the setting.  It plays just like the main game, so if you feel comfortable with the point and click interface of Limits & Demonstrations, you'll be fine with KRZ.

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