Kingdom of Loathing: Sandbox or no?

This past week I felt the pull from an old favorite, Kingdom of Loathing, and acquiesced.  I know I should stop saying yes to these ex-girlfriends of mine, but the memories we’ve created are too rich to ignore!

Anyway, KoL has always held a weird spot in my gaming life.  It’s sort-of-but-not-quite an MMO, it’s heavy on jokes and puns and goofy stick figure drawings, and it’s unimaginably complex.  I think that might have been what shied me away from this game in previous eras, because while there’s a main quest line to progress through, KoL really is about making your own way by setting goals and achieving them.

Which says “sandbox” to me.  And yet it isn’t.  You mostly don’t make a permanent mark on the game world, but are constantly looking to expand your abilities and possessions.  Crafting is a huge part of the game, but so is discovering secrets and trying to unlock them for their juicy rewards.

In the two days that I’ve been playing following a complete character restart, I’ve started making a list of goals I’d like to accomplish based on items I’ve discovered, things NPCs have said, and advice from my clan.  In two days, here’s what I have so far:

  • Assemble a meatcar for a quest
  • Pursue the daily bounty to get the monster-hunting book
  • Figure out how to light the unlit birthday cake
  • What’s up with the slug lord’s map?
  • Kill the boss bat in the bat cave
  • Obtain more Hermit Permits and stock up on ten-leaf clovers
  • Translate the map to the Goblin King
  • Get the key to the tower in the misspelled cemetary
  • Assemble my epic weapon
  • Pull together a bugbear outfit so I can shop in that store
  • Pull together a scary clown outfit so I can kill the clown boss

On top of those, I’m getting back into the swing of cooking and cocktailcrafting (both of which are essential to get you extra adventures every day) and am reading through the wiki looking for other goals that I should be doing.

There’s a ton of depth to this game and very little in the way of penalties for exploring and experimenting.  It scratches an itch that I so needed scratched right now.

I’ve also been bowled over by how helpful the community is.  Between generous souls in the newbie chat and my newfound clan, I’ve had so many useful goods and advice sent my way.  Nice to get off on the right foot like that.

5 thoughts on “Kingdom of Loathing: Sandbox or no?

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus March 30, 2012 / 11:35 am

    KoL seems more like a theme park with a very unique theme to it. What you have listed out is a series of pre-made things created to keep you busy in the game, no?

  2. Syp March 30, 2012 / 11:47 am

    A little yes and a little no… it’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s more an eschewment of quest assignment to a system where you either stumble upon an item that prompts a quest, or you figure out a goal you want to achieve (say, build a robot companion) and then go on an adventure of your own making to accomplish that. It just feels a lot more freeform, is what I’m saying.

  3. Liore March 30, 2012 / 12:48 pm

    How interesting.. I’ve never thought of KoL as a sandbox before, but I think it is more of a sandbox than a themepark!

    There are pre-made things to keep a player busy, but everything is optional and can be done at the whims of the player. You can play the meat market, go basement diving, “raid” Hobopolis, explore the ocean floor. You can level up to 30 (this takes a long time) or you could level to 1. And even if you are “just” doing an ascension, it could be hardcore, softcore, kittycore, beecore. I was always into the oxycore speed ascensions myself.

    Noooow I wanna play KoL again. Thanks. 😉

  4. Yeebo March 30, 2012 / 7:29 pm

    KoL is definitely a sandbox in the sense of “here is a crap to of stuff you can do, decide for yourself which is fun to you.” That the stuff you can do has a lot of really amusing content associated with it does tend to blur the line a bit if you come from MMO land, where sandboxes are expected to have little to no scripted content to speak of. However, offline sandboxes (GTA, Elder Scrolls, fallout, ect.) often have a lot of scripted content available, so I consider that a skewed perspective.

    What is more interesting to me is whether KoL can be considered a true MMO or not. A lot of folks play at once, and you do at least indirectly interact (for example through the AH). However, the other players tend to have little impact on your moment to moment gameplay. It’s not like you can go to a spot and see a bunch of players running around. I am not even sure if it’s possible to group in KoL. When I’ve played it, I personally never interacted directly with anyone save through chat.

  5. coppertopper April 1, 2012 / 12:01 am

    interesting! You spoke about the civilization that LoTRO brings to the MMO genre once – does KoL have anything like that?

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