I want to at least give myself a bit of a head start on the disdain this article may receive from the Kentucky Route Zero (KRZ) fandom. Let’s not pretend that this game doesn’t have some utterly fantastic elements to it. In fact the visuals for this game are so strong, I found myself legitimately obsessing over even the smallest details, such as scene transitions. A cabin darkens, a TV turns on, and the camera pushes through a membrane-like wall, to reveal an intimate close shot of two characters in Act I. There’s a moment in a forest that shows the interwoven narrative of the forest, and its occupants in Act II. As you move through, the scene has trees passing in parallax to wipe and separate out images of houses, characters and more to a surreal effect. The sound on offer is equally inspiring. The world is filled with all manner of auditory information, which is foreboding, and yet rarely oppressively so. There are some resounding, beautiful uses of visual and audio design here. There are moments that will stay with me as exemplars of how games truly are a modern-day art form. Although with all of that said, I really don’t know if I can truly recommend playing this game.
Light on story, heavy on telling
It’s fair to say Act V was merely the culmination of the many idiosyncrasies picked up over KRZ’s narrative. The story, as it appears in the opening act, is a straightforward road trip. Our protagonist, Conway, is transporting antiques. In order to reach his destination, he attempts to find the mythical, titular highway. It’s such a simple start, but the narrative it spins is a remarkably intricate tapestry. Winding together a ragtag bunch of misfits into a travelling troupe, the game deals with all manner of bureaucracy, dreams made and lost, lives torn asunder. This narrative is one I completed within 10 hours, yet the density of this world is intense. To attempt to encapsulate all that it becomes is a fool’s errand. Not that it makes much difference, because honestly, I think it matters less than I anticipated.