The Kingdom of Loathing is not your typical fantasy RPG setting. It does not have mere clerics, wizards, and fighting men — I shit you not, 1st edition DnD had the Fighting Man class. It’s instead populated by Turtle Tamers, Pastamancers, and Accordion Thieves. These disparate adventurers have united because King Ralph XI — in the long line of Ralph — has been kidnapped by the Naughty Sorceress. For what purpose, no one can say but it cannot be a noble one because she’s seriously naughty, like so naughty. The Council of Loathing — in a clear bid to rescue their king — must first give you 11 quests before the Council runs out of ideas… I MEAN you are ready to face her naughtiness. Solve puzzles, fight monsters, and become an adventurer in the Kingdom of Loathing.
Kingdom of Loathing begins with one man, Zack “Jick” Johnson and begins with high silliness. Working as a programmer, Johnson made a few games that he never released, thinking that they were too serious. He decided that he’d work on something for a week and then release whatever he had completed. The art was drawn by hand, and all of the initial content was stream of consciousness ideas where nothing but the worst ideas were discarded — I mean, meat became the currency of the realm so just imagine what the bad ideas were. A year later KOL had 300,000 player accounts. Johnson invited his child-hood friend Josh “Mr. Skullhead” Nite to help him write and design the game.
It grew and evolved as Johnson and Nite added more content on an, albeit, irregular schedule. The game started by running off of donations and eventually Johnson began rewarding donations with in game items releasing and retiring an item every month. In 2005 he and Nite quit their day jobs and started working on the game full time. In 2007 Johnson hired two members of the player-base to help him work on the game, offering their experience as players to design new content. In November of 2014 Nite was laid off from the development team.
Kingdom of Loathing was released in it’s earliest form in 2003 and content has been steadily added and trimmed to this day. It’s current form is known as NS13 which released on June 15th 2007. It’s competition in 2003 was Dark Cloud 2 (PS2), Galactic Civilizations (PC), and Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis (Xbox).
I’ve been playing this game for seven years and I still have more to do. There are still enemies I haven’t fought yet, still items I don’t have, and quests I haven’t completed. I run about 300 turns a day in under an hour thanks to the miracles of scripting and assistance tools like KOL mafia. I’m the leader of a clan and still ascend when the latest challenge path rolls out. I make enough meat to purchase the item of the month. And I love this game. The content is always fresh, funny, and has something for a player of every variety.
KOL is a single player MMO with turn based combat. Single Player MMO might sound like an oxy-moron but in this case it’s just a bizarre descriptor. The community is large and very present in the player economy, a silly PVP, and the ever present chat but when it comes to your character and your adventures you’ll mostly be flying solo. That being said, you can buff other players and throw bricks at them — you know, your choice.
The major mechanic of the game is the turn limit. The player is limited to how many turns per day they can adventure. The player is provided with 40 turns per day and when the player is out of turns well, there’s always the chat to play around with. You can get more turns by eating foodstuff and drinking boozestuff but not all food and booze is created equal. The better the food and drink, the more adventures and experience points it confers. Don’t drink too much though, or you’ll be too falling down drunk to do anything.
The three main stats of the game are muscle, moxie, and mysticality. Muscle gives you more health, a greater chance to hit, and more damage with melee weapons. Moxie makes you take less damage, harder to hit, and a better chance to hit with ranged weapons. Mysticality gives increased MP (Muscle, Mojo, or Mana points respectively) and greater spell damage. Each class has a primary stat, a secondary stat, and a tertiary stat. Muscle classes hit really hard, soak all the damage, and can dish out more damage with sweet skills. Moxie classes don’t hit very hard, don’t take much damage, and can do weird things with their sweet skills. Mysticality classes might get beaten up in one hit but can generally defeat enemies with a single spell — they also have other sweet skills to facilitate their spellslinging. It’s not all about how thoroughly you can pummel monsters though. This game will also require the player to solve fiendish puzzles — the less mandatory they are the more fiendish they will be.
After the player defeats the Naughty Sorceress the game only opens up further. Between clan dungeons, The Sea, collecting bounties, and ascending there’s still more game to play. Ascension is the real big mechanic of the game. As a player you’re not tied down to your class. After you defeat the Sorceress you can begin the game anew with a new class and one of your old skills. In addition to the standard game there are challenge paths that alter the way the game is played allowing you to play a specific character — like the Avatar of Sneaky Pete, the most moxious man in the lands — or just altering the rules of the game — like in Bees hate you where you cannot use items with the letter B in them.
I mentioned Clan dungeons before and I’ve got to bring them up again because they’re just about my favorite thing in the game. A Clan is like a guild in other MMOs and there are certain dungeons that you can pay to open for the opportunity to fight unique monsters and acquire immense and powerful loot. Team up with your Clan-mates and delve into the mysterious stronghold of Hobopolis, for example, and fight all manner of migrant laborer as you work your way towards Hodgman, the Hoboverlord. To what lengths will you go to acquire Roger, his Imaginary Hamster? Will you acquire it for the power it confers or the prestige it offers.
If the humor in this game doesn’t keep you playing then the systems just might. The game seems simple — the seal clubber was designed to play through the game doing nothing but attacking monsters — but the systems can get really complex. You can banish unwanted monsters from certain areas or use an item that allows you to run away from combat without spending a turn. It might be hard to believe but people have figured out how to finish their runs in under 800 turns.
My personal favorite part of the game is probably the player economy. Most of my time spent these days is on the mall pricing screen and in the trade chat channel. I buy, sell, trade, and sell my services to the highest bidder. In game currency also retains its value because you can spend in game currency on out of game currency. A Mr. Accessory runs about 23 million meat and I can make that in a month meaning that as long as someone is willing to sell, I am able to buy. Premium content can also be purchased from the mall for a modest — and sometimes exorbitant fee — so if you save your sirloin you can acquire these limited items.
Speaking of Premium Content, the microtransactions of this game are actually really player friendly. Because it’s single player you don’t need them to compete, some of the strongest items can be acquired without paying a cent. For the low price of 10 dollars per thing, it’s pretty cheap. And, as I said before, you can spend in game meat on these premium items.
The game’s depth can be confusing and even intimidating at times. I often need to have strategies of high level play and intense speed runs explained to me in chat and I’ve been playing for a good long while. Jick and co keep adding simple ways to complete quests, but speed runners retain their strategies. It used to be back in the day that a new and casual player would NEED to use the wiki to make headway in the quest line. That’s not so much these days but it can still seem daunting at first glance.
The game may have deep systems but they’re all based on the simple concept of numbers getting bigger. If it doesn’t excite you for numbers to get bigger then it might be really difficult to get into the game. Numbers get bigger, you kill skeletons, you get some sweet swords.
There’s so much more to this game that I didn’t have time to mention. World events will sweep across the Kingdom and change everything for a few days, the game also celebrates out of game holidays. I really like this game and the best part is that it’s completely free. It’s silly and goofy and yet has incredibly deep systems at its core. If you’ve got the time and feel like some goofiness then give it a whirl.
Play it for Free at www.kingdomofloathing.com
Next Week: Word Realms