Kentucky Route Zero Act V

Traveling on Kentucky Route Zero sure takes a while. Here is my Act V review.

It’s been 7 years now since Cardboard Computer released the first act of their weird adventure game/interactive novel/art project Kentucky Route Zero. Now they’ve finally managed to pull the fifth and final act out of their asses.

The journey on Kentucky Route Zero has been a long one. So long, in fact, I don’t remember much of what happened in the first four acts. The previous act was released back in July 2016, and Cardboard Computer has taken its sweet time working on Act V. Triple-A titles have been designed, developed, and forgotten in the time it has taken them to get Act V out the door.

But let’s try to focus on what Kentucky Route Zero Act V has to offer instead of how long it took for it be released.

Try to Remember

Kentucky Route Zero Act V puts you in a village that is recovering from a flood. Something probably happened at the end of Act IV, but who can remember what they did 3 and a half year ago? Not this guy, at least. You play as a cat moving around the village, where you overhear people’s conversations, and meow at anyone who cares to listen.

There are some semi-familiar characters hanging around, and I wonder if I saw any of them in the previous acts, or if it’s just a false memory? There’s also something being mentioned about a power company, which feels vaguely familiar. But who these people are, where they came from, and what they are doing here, I have no fucking idea.

Why? Because the previous act was released 3 and a half damn years ago1!

But I digress. Again.

Some bird sitting on the top of ruined church. They have created a nest of colorful clothes.
So, that’s were the clown went!

A Beautiful Mess

The graphics in Kentucky Route Zero Act V is still as beautifully simple as in the previous acts. It even looks the the graphics engine got an overhaul. The animation of the cat running around is particularly impressive, at least if you’re not getting too close to the cat. The sound design is still mesmerizing, and the music is still a pleasure. So visually and audibly, Kentucky Route Zero Act V is quite the achievement.

In terms of making sense, however, the game is a train wreck. Act V is the final chapter of a book I stopped reading 3 years ago. Now the book is opened again, and I’m trying to make sense of the closing chapter with the help of few parts I remember of the previous chapters. Playing as a cat that’s running randomly around in the village doesn’t help either. Since the storytelling in Act V isn’t linear, I’m trying to piece it together as best I can with the pages being handed to me in random order.

Some people hanging around, having a conversation. Two are sitting on separate benches, one is standing between the benches. They look relaxed.
After the flood.

Yay nor Nay

Would I recommend Kentucky Route Zero? Well, I wouldn’t recommend just playing Act V by itself. It makes absolutely no sense, and the ends so abruptly it feels like the developers suddenly realized they were all out of drugs, and went home. Act V is also very, very short. It only took me the good part of 30 minutes to play through it, and it makes you wonder what the hell Cardboard Computer spent the last three years doing.

It’s also worth noticing that, according to Steam, only about 3% of Kentucky Route Zero players have completed Act V in the two month since it was released.

All that said, it’s important to remember a book is as good as the sum of all chapters, and the same goes for Kentucky Route Zero. Perhaps the sum of the other four acts make up for the lackluster experience Act V was? To that question I can answer a resounding “maybe”. Since I don’t really remember the previous acts, I don’t know, and I really doubt I will sit down and play through the entirety of the game from start to finish. That’s a shame, to be honest, because Kentucky Route Zero feels like a game that deserves that.

But there are so many other games in my library that deserves my attention as well.

People standing in front of a barn, looking down a large hole in the ground.
And now we’re burying some horses.

This review is based on roughly 30 minutes of gameplay of Act V, and 8 hours gameplay of the previous four acts.

  1. As it turns out, I have a hard time focusing on anything but the fact that it took ridiculously long to get Act V released. ↩︎


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