Kentucky Route Zero is not a new game -- the Kickstarter launched in 2011-- but it’s definitely a fresh game. Detailing the supernatural adventures of a deliveryman on “one last job” Kentucky Route Zero feels like indie gaming’s most adaptable project. Initially announced as a part of the first wave of successful gaming Kickstarter campaigns, Kentucky Route Zero weathered the Early Access storm, the episodic fad, and has now signed with one of the newest indie publishers Annapurna Games. Basically: Kentucky Route Zero has tried every "Hot New Thing" in indie gaming over the past 6 years. Yet somehow Kentucky Route Zero doesn’t show its age.
This week Cardboard Computer put Kentucky Route Zero on sale for half off with the goal of raising money for the areas affected by the recent hurricanes. If that wasn’t enough of a reason to convince you to pick Kentucky Route Zero up, let’s talk some more about how great the game itself is.
The American south isn’t represented very frequently in gaming. Sure you get a handful of Civil War games but which games feature regular people living their lives? All I can think of are Left 4 Dead 2 and Resident Evil 7 and that’s a stretch. Kentucky Route Zero isn’t about zombies or one of America’s deadliest wars by contrast, it’s a game about the mysticism of living in the country. During the game’s time in Kentucky you’re never presented with huge groups of people, the game is intimate and restrained in its presentation and leaves you -- and the player character Conway-- alone with your thoughts more often than not. This is a game about staring into the darkness on the side of the road while you drive.
When you consider Kentucky Route Zero’s presentation it’s difficult not to consider its place as a piece of modern americana rather than a project that apes the aesthetic. KRZ dives into the lore and tone that makes americana and folk tales interesting. There’s the myth of the American Dream-- where you work hard and retire happily, you’re always coming to grips with the fact that you don’t know everything but through grit and self-reliance you’ll turn out on top. Playing Kentucky Route Zero is a constant bombardment of uncertainty and growth.
This isn’t to say that Kentucky Route Zero is a sealed and dead thing on a shelf. As a part of Cardboard Computer’s need to present KRZ episodically the final act is due out some time early next year. Fear not: as a purchase now gets you all existing content and the final act upon release. Building on that, Cardboard Computer has also released 3 pieces side content for the game: a small sidegame, a play, and a strange telephone service. Yes, really. They’re all worth your time and are give you a great sense of Kentucky Route Zero’s tone if you’re hesitant to jump into the full game.
It feels like a long ride for Kentucky Route Zero (and it has been) but booting up the game again after all these years still feels just as mysterious. Kentucky Route Zero is half off for the next few hours for hurricane relief so pick it up and prepare for the final act in a few months.