Well, that took only a year and a half. Waiting for Act V, the conclusion, I mean. And that’s if you discovered KRZ when I did. If you got it when Act I released, it’s been seven years. Still faster than Black Mesa!
As ever, the storytelling is innovative. It’s a full 3-D environment this time… well, it mostly always was, but in earlier acts it generally posed as 2-D. After the beginning cutscene, you can wander around… as a cat. When you come upon people, you can stop and listen, and occasionally contribute a meaningful meow.
The clever bit is that as you wander around, things happen that you don’t see. So you keep going (the map is basically circular), and projects advance, people intermix, things happen.
Now, the last episodes got somewhat dark, so I was curious what they’d do for the finale. So, besides the death of–
Oh, yeah. Spoilers. I won’t give away any story elements, but I will talk about the overall feel of the last act, so if even that’s too much, come back after you’ve played it all.
Also, I didn’t replay Acts I-IV, but maybe you should. I was forgetting a few of the characters and what their previous dilemma was.
Anyway, they didn’t go grimdark; they chose a low-key, reflective ending, with an air of elegiac melancholy. They basically leave it up to you to seek closure or not. That is, the little choices you get in the dialog can imply either a sad and dissipating ending, or a more hopeful one. I really like this… the events you witness go the same no matter how you choose, but you give them the meaning you want to. And what I wanted was to give this little band of misfits a chance at community.
I will say that it’s not as weird as some of the previous acts. The surrealistic elements are muted. They do open up the story a bit– there are new characters with their own implied stories. But it was probably a wise decision, and fits with the overall character of the game, which has a keen sense of the quotidian. These characters bond– if you let them– doing mostly ordinary things.
The political themes are muted too, though as with the surrealism they don’t go entirely away. The place you’re in has basically been ruined by the evil corporation that’s been dogging the characters all along. There’s no resolution to that. But it’s background noise by now, and there’s a hint of escape.
Anyway, if for some reason you read all this and haven’t played it and were wondering if you should: yes, please do. It’s not quite like anything else in games, and if you’re interested at all in game design, it’s a rich vein of techniques and ideas. Yet it doesn’t leave me with a list of regretful complaints as some experimental games do. It does things in its own deliberate way, but once you’ve adapted to that it’s very satisfying.