Seven years after the first enchanting act of Kentucky Route Zero, Cardboard Computer concludes the report of his very narrative work in a fifth final chapter; the studio thus marks the end of a long episodic journey fueled by encounters and philosophies that have taken on different shades over the years. From a simple package delivery to a return shipment in a foreign dimension, what is the outcome of this unique interactive story?
Good to know : Kentucky Route Zero has recently benefited from a French translation following an update that also includes act V, published on January 28, 2020. The Cardboard Computer game is now available on PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Conway, delivering antiques from the Lysette store on his way to the final assignment of his carrier. Only he has no idea where the meeting point, 5 Dogwood Drive, is located. It therefore marks a short stop at a gas station, where he meets Joseph, who owns the property and stretched out firsthand from his epic. To join 5 Dogwood Drive, he told Conway that he would first have to follow the mystical zero route. But it is not on a card. However, some people are aware of this. This is followed by a journey in five acts rich in encounters and shared memories, whereby the detours become even more important than the final destination. Half realistic, half supernatural, the silent and often metaphorical adventure of Kentucky Route Zero never follows the same route, even if it means that we sometimes lose ourselves.
What had I already started doing?
The last mysterious package that Conway must deliver is not an easy task. As Joseph leads you to the home of the enigmatic Weaver, it will lead you to the abandoned mines, to his cousin Shannon. This is the habit that you will lead: the personalities you will meet will in turn give you new destinations, full of secondary stories to tell. Also every name or face – without lines – will weave new links crossed to a common ground: when one calls the other, you expect to soon cross its path, from one moment to the other. This set outlines the primary purpose of Kentucky Route Zero. The most important part of the journey you undertake here is the detours and stops. So from place to place your search for 5 Dogwood Drive will be cleared to pay attention to detail ; a bit like when you enter a room, you suddenly forget what you came to do there, but you find new activities instead.
Episodically, the quiet adventure of the game does not always offer the same tastes ; the first act, as fascinating as impenetrable, creates atmosphere and tension that sometimes disappears. With a step heavier, you might find it difficult, two actions later, to appreciate the mystery that is being affected by an exaggerated casual rhythm. At your own risk, Act III of the story becomes particularly slow, before being overtaken by the freshness of Act IV two years later. As a whole it will be necessary to know how to appreciate the vagueness of the search; difficult for those who seek a rational balance in the story they are told.
Rich and minimalist
The artistic direction of Kentucky Route Zero is based on very careful minimalism. Each decor is graphically similar to the other, constructed from its warm colors and precise contours. They will often surprise you with a rather seductive sobriety. Like working on the sound, without double dialogues: here this absence is even a plus. Full of sweet melodies and sometimes guitar chords, the soundscape is remarkably simple.
Thanks to the silence you can also fully devote yourself to the long textual parades that the game offers. The multiple characters who carry this story without real thread, have lost their dreams aloud, express their regret and regret without shame. Their words follow unusual, sometimes confusing and sometimes painful exchanges. Anecdote in anecdote told, we must gradually accept that the story is not so much the main engine. Few answers come out while we combine the questions. Why do these foreigners entrust their deepest fears to their first words? Why is Ezra’s brother an eagle? And what is hidden in the dark?
The art of narrative style
On the way to 5 Dogwood Drive you will meet a multitude of characters. so bad that you’ll almost forget a few. Some will come your way without you noticing. Most have no specific reason to accompany you; but for mystical reasons, you and your multiple heroes are gradually taking the same path. If they allow them to bring many glances to their world, they also serve to express narrative styles intelligently. Because Kentucky Route Zero likes to play with unbridled narrative structures. As if he adheres in an abstract way to the mechanics of a novel. He organizes a double dialogue, goes from descriptive to narrative discourse and juggles between points of view
The intermezzo’s which fragment the actions are from a rather superficial playful aspect, but have the charming intention of introducing a small mechanism, and especially new characters who join the story. It is pleasant to ask yourself at every introduction what face we will embody this time. Between 7 and 9 o’clock playing it has been possible to control a whole series of characters, even for a moment, from the most transparent to the most striking. If you thought Conway was the main character of the adventure, the point of no return to Zero will gradually show the opposite.
Their story is yours
The playing mechanism of Kentucky Route Zero is, just like its artistic direction, minimalist. The whole thing works smoothly. The nice thing about your road trip is in the first place the card that you have at your disposal, or rather the cards that are imposed on you. First of a classical type, it gradually becomes phantasmagoric and absurd, accompanying this feeling of increasingly sinking into the fourth dimension. It is possible to observe certain points along the way and reach your destination according to the directions previously given by new friends. A pleasant activity to decide with the linearity and the abundance of dialogues.
Once in the port, you can view the places in a well-arranged way. Above all, it is an opportunity to exchange words with passers-by. Again, the story is not only honored for its subtleties, but also for its interactivity, with many dialogues to choose from. You are free to determine the story of your character. Note, however, that no real consequences are drawn, so there will never be a bad choice. It is often his past that you decide, and the story that you want him to tell. When we first met Shannon, she was on the phone in the middle of a conversation; in his skin we could then answer the sentences we chose to the conversation partner, without even being able to hear him. The Zero Road is not meant to lead you to the truth or to victory, but to decide many stories and some destinations; a taste that is hardly appreciated by everyone. The last act V of Kentucky Route Zero, more valued as an epilogue, will satisfy poetics because it will frustrate the more rational.
- Halfway through a decreasing rhythm
- Vague dialogues and unanswered quests that can frustrate
- Very abstract representations that can also frustrate there
- The player’s field of action should have been expanded
Kentucky Route Zero is an intensely narrative journey that will gladly take your time and let you know. The zero path is not necessarily intended to be traversed at high speed; just like his episode, the way to go in this peaceful adventure is better appreciated by taking a few breaks. As vague as abstract, the universe told by Cardboard Computer can disturb more than one, but should represent a unique work for many. In Kentucky Route Zero nothing can be won, everything has to be taken and interpreted. Far from being error-free, the laziness of the interim story sometimes makes us regret the spark of the beginning. At the same time, the game will underline the use of cleverly manipulated strategies to decorate its narrative dimension: narrative mechanics that is uniquely exploited and a neat minimalist artistic direction.