It’s unfinished, and not even halfway done, but Kentucky Route Zero has had such a strong start it would be a travesty to push it off because of a technicality. Yes, it still has a few episodes to come out in 2014, and I’ll have to figure out how it’ll end up on that end of year list when the time comes. But when I think of the games I played in 2013, I think of Kentucky Route Zero.
More than the art-school project it might look like at first glance, Kentucky Route Zero is essentially a five act play in which you play the role of Conway, a truck driver who ended up driving down the back roads of Kentucky. The whole game has a very prevalent Twink Peaks-ish air of mystery and strangeness to it, and has left more of an impact on me than almost anything else I’ve played all year long. The dialogue choices, while they don’t change the way things play out, allow you to build the characters and the world more than almost any other game I’ve ever played.
There are so many instances that had me staring at my screen in awe, sometimes just because of a few lines of text I had read. While a game like Save the Date had a pretty big impact on me with its philosophy on game design, Kentucky Route Zero aims for a much broader scope and nails almost every tiny detail. If I compiled a list of my favorite moments in 2013, several of them would come from the events of KRZ, and just thinking about them now makes me want to boot it up yet again.
If the remainder of Kentucky Route Zero even comes close to the first two episodes and interludes, we’ll be seeing something really special. In a world where all five episodes had come out, all of this quality, this would have been my Game of the Year. As for now, Kentucky Route Zero is an episodic masterpiece, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.