It generally doesn’t take me seven years to complete a game, let alone can’t complete because the entire game hasn’t been released. Yet, this is my experience with Kentucky Route Zero, a game that I bought the first episode of in January of 2013 and did not finish until February of 2020 because that is when the fifth and final episode released. I’ve waited for episodes of games for a long period of time in the past but KRZ takes the cake.
I played that first episode when it released and then waited and waited, and waited some more. By the time episode two released I had decided that I wasn’t going to play anymore of it until it was complete. And here we are seven years later.
I did not remember any of the plot of the first episode except that I was delivering something and needed to find a mystical highway called the Zero. And as such I decided to replay it from the start and boy, has my memory done the game favors. I remember the game playing similar to a standard point and click adventure except this is generally not the case. KRZ is more of a visual novel where you influence some choices and dialog but mostly just the mood of the entire thing. There are a few puzzles over the five episodes but they are minimal and aren’t anything like what you’d expect out of a traditional point and click. It’s probably why so many loved it when it came out because it was a different take on the traditional model.
The first episode came out in the wake of Telltale’s massive success with The Walking Dead and both games share the desire to change the model. They just happen to do it differently. KRZ has none of the tell tale markings of what your choices are manipulating. A choice you make in dialog or decision could impact something far down the road but you may or may not be able to see the linkage. It’s much more atmospheric in its storytelling than the more game tropey way Telltale handled things. Neither is decidedly better than the other, its just interesting to see two sides of the same coin.
In terms of story, and let’s be clear, that is all KRZ is, the narrative will be hit or miss for you depending upon how you take to realistic stories told with a magical bend to them. The main drive of KRZ is very realistic, delivering a final package, trying to find your lost cousin, friendship and partnership. However, it is all told with surreal happenings, like an office building with a floor full of bears, a wolly mamomth powering a river barge, or a distillery run by the souls of those indebted to them.
It’s pretty crazy stuff and it mostly works. I was engaged in the story for the first four episodes and then something happens and the game veers off in another direction for a wet fart of a fifth episode. It wasn’t enough for me to end up disliking the game as a whole but I did feel let down that the previous 7 hours or so of my playtime had amounted to an ending that just didn’t work for me. Maybe I’m just too dumb for what the game was trying to say and I didn’t get it but regardless, I feel that is on the game and not on the player. 80% of it though is a wonderful time.
Played on: PC
Time to finish: 8.5 hours
Personal Score: 7/10
Ranked Score: 725 points
Current All-Time Ranking: 585 (below Yoshi’s Crafted World, ahead of The First Tree)