Friday, February 1, 2013

Today in the Kingdom - The Joys of Bad Moon

I’m in the middle of my first Bad Moon run in the Kingdom of Loathing, and it’s been one of the most exciting gaming experiences I’ve had in a while.

For the uninitiated, the Kingdom of Loathing is a fantastic browser-based RPG full of pop culture references and gaming tropes. Bad Moon is basically the hardest of hard modes available: it restricts your interactions with other players, it removes all usual benefits of a New Game+, and it throws a smattering of unique content at you, most of which hurts in some way (there are a bunch of buffs you might receive that benefit you in one way, but hurt in another – for example, one gives bonus elemental damage, but it also causes you to take elemental damage passively).

I find Bad Moon so exciting because it’s taught me a lot about the game (or, perhaps more accurately, it has reminded me of a lot).

The Kingdom of Loathing is very detailed and expansive.  It’s easy to focus on only one aspect of the game.  I have spent my last 50 or so ascensions (the colorful name given to starting a New Game+) working on developing a speed-running strategy – how can I get through the game as quickly as possible?  There are plenty of incentives to do so: leaderboards, in-game trophies, and access to more skills (“ascending” allows you to mark a skill you acquired during that run of the game “permanent” so you can use it in future runs) are among the best.  But it’s still only a small fraction of what the game has to offer.

Of course, I also knew about some of the end-game content for non-ascenders – there are clan dungeons and a few areas that are only open for sensible exploration at higher levels than you need to complete the main questline.  And the rewards for those areas can be great, as some of the best equipment and consumables come from those dungeons.

There is also a growing number of challenge paths available to the casual (and hardcore) ascenders.  Each season brings with it a new challenge path, like “Bees Hate You,” where you are randomly attacked by bees and are penalized for each instance of the letter “b” in your equipped items, or “Trendy,” where only items and skills obtainable in the last year are accessible (which actually has a pretty serious effect, as some of the most powerful goodies were limited-time offers).

Plus there’s a thriving in-game economy, various PvP contests, and the hoarder’s dream of obtaining all the things.  There’s a lot that a player can do to keep busy in the Kingdom.

Even with all those other options, Bad Moon is in a class all its own.  It’s like looking at the game with fresh eyes, giving players a chance to re-experience that initial rush that you only get by playing a new game.  It’s a nostalgia miracle.  I love that.

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