Sometimes, you do not need visually appealing graphics and hard-core animation to enjoy a game. You’ll be surprised how a simple browser-based game with limited visuals can build a solid and faithful gaming community and could last for an astounding two decades! In 2003, people were starting to understand the potential of the Internet. Video gamers were beginning to embrace new online platforms that allowed them to compete and communicate with other players worldwide. Interestingly, this is also when “Kingdom of Loathing” was born.
Developed and published by Asymmetric Publications led by Jack “Jick” Johnson, Kingdom of Loathing became one of the early browser-based and text-based games that were critically acclaimed and commercially successful. The overall simplicity of the game by using classic text-based adventure mechanics while incorporating it with simple hand-drawn stick figure graphics has become the game’s greatest strength. However, what really makes it unique from other games is the humor. During its peak, the game managed to get more than 300,000 active players. While other games would have taken advantage of its growing popularity by littering the GUI with ads to gain additional revenue, Kingdom of Loathing resisted and offered a simpler, more favorable business model. The game is entirely advertisement-free. It also doesn’t provide an in-game shop where players can purchase premium items and bundles in exchange for real money. Instead, the primary revenue of the game comes solely from donations. Those who donate receive a special item, giving players a slight advantage.
The mechanics of the game are straightforward and easily manageable. To get started, access the official webpage at kingdomofloathing.com. If you are a new player, the game will prompt you to sign-up for an account. Click the “Play” button to sign-up, and it will immediately guide you to character selection. The game comes with six unique comic characters (with changeable gender). Each character will vary in terms of their skills and play style. These characters include the Seal Clubber, Turtle Tamer, Pastamancer, Sauceror, Disco Bandit, and Accordion Thief.
After selecting your character, you will start the game with a tutorial. Here, you will be talking to a bird named “Toot Oriole” (pun for Tutorial), who will guide you through all the areas to explore in the game. Once done, all the explorable areas and the icons above the game screen will be unlocked, giving you quick access to the World map, Inventory, Skills, Crafting, Messages, and more. The side panel displays your character’s profile, showcasing your character's basic attributes like Muscle, Mysticality, and Moxie. It also displays your HP and MP meters and the number of Meat and Adventures you have. Meat is the game’s virtual currency.
Although Kingdom of Loathing is considered a text-based adventure, the game is not entirely non-graphical. The game treats you with funny stick figures and doodle-like illustrations that match well with its comical theme. To start your new adventure, click the Map icon and select the region or area you want to explore. Some areas offer single-player adventure campaigns, while others highlight PvP elements, allowing players to compete against other players online. You can also enter a dungeon for a nostalgic roguelike experience.
The combat system for the Kingdom of Loathing is where most of the text-based elements are found. While you can see the image of your enemy before the battle starts, you cannot witness the actual combat. Like any text-based adventure game, you’ll get the battle results in just a matter of seconds. Generally, the results will be based on how well-equipped your hero is, how upgraded the skills are, your current level, and your attributes. Some battles, however, are unpredictable, and engaging with them could either help or harm your hero.
Adventures are represented by the hourglass icon on your character’s profile panel. This indicates the number of turns or actions you can perform in the game. Entering each zone, for instance, will cost you a certain number of Adventures. Each player will get 40 new Adventures daily, but there are many other ways to gain more. Adventures are also earned by consuming food or drinking booze. You can also get additional Adventures by using certain items or through campsite furnishings. Speaking of which, Campsite serves as your home, a safe zone that allows you to rest and recover from battles. Resting will replenish your HP and MP points, giving you enough strength to fight another set of battles.
The Campground (campsite) also gives you access to your Quest Log. Here, you can track all the quests you have completed and all the tasks you are supposed to do. The campsite also gives you access to your Kitchen. Interestingly, the game allows players to cook by combining two items to make new food and beverages (provided you already own an oven or any cooking equipment). Consuming food and drink will give you additional Adventures in return.
Meat, on the other hand, is the game’s virtual currency. You can use Meat to purchase items from shops and various markets. You can use it to buy consumables to help your hero become more efficient in any battle. Better yet, use Meat to buy upgraded armor and weapons. You gain currency from successful combat and adventures like any other adventure game. You can also earn Meat and other items from looting, getting jobs done, entering zones like “The Barrel Full of Barrels”, and more.
It is also interesting to note that Kingdom of Loathing comes with Multiplayer elements which are quite a rare feature for a text-based game. To enter the PvP battle, go to the Huggler Memorial Colosseum in the Big Mountains. Here, you’ll get access to the Information Booth, Hall of Champions (leaderboard), Archives, Jack’s Swagger Shack, Snack Bar, and the Fight Arena, where the PvP battle takes place. New players cannot fight other players unless they decide to shatter the so-called Magical Mystical Hippy Stone into pieces (this item is provided to all players to prevent other players from attacking them). The game also allows players to interact with each other through its in-game chat system. It also comes with a Guild system where you can team up with another group of players and be part of an epic guild war.
Fourteen years after the Kingdom of Loathing was released, Asymmetric Publications released a sequel. West of Loathing takes place after the events of the 2003 game. While the game remained faithful to its stick-figure graphics, the gameplay drastically changed for the sequel. For instance, it is now accompanied by moving animations. The 2017 sequel was another well-acclaimed browser-based game from the studio. Many gamers of new generations became curious about its predecessor, giving Kingdom of Loathing newfound popularity. The studio also recently released a third instalment, Shadows Over Loathing, featuring a Lovecraftian theme.
Kingdom of Loathing is a very enjoyable text-based adventure wonderfully adorned with a funny and whimsical plot and graphics. It is a simple yet surprisingly addictive game. It offers a lot of zones and areas to explore, giving players many reasons to enjoy the game. If you find a particular quest quite repetitive, you can move to a new zone, explore new areas, or, better yet, engage in epic PvP battles. It even has a pet and crafting system for players to experiment and enjoy. Best of all, the game is completely free and doesn’t come with any form of advertisement. The game, however, allows donations that grant players a special accessory in exchange for $10. If you are looking for a light, funny, and entertaining game, Kingdom of Loathing is undoubtedly a great fit. Enjoy!
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