This post contains spoilers for Acts I to IV of Kentucky Route Zero. You’ve been warned!
In Kentucky Route Zero’s fourth act, the cast expands to Durarara-like proportions. Some might bemoan this lack of focus, but there’s actually a method to the madness.
While the previous three acts of the game focused on geography and the relationship between place and space, Act IV turns its attention towards the people who reside within that geography. It presents itself as a series of vignettes that unfold as the characters sail along the Echo River, navigating its caverns by lamplight. At each stop, the player chooses whether to learn about the boat’s passengers or about the people at the stop.
Choosing to learn about the people at each stop tells the player more about how the world’s denizens have reacted to the changes within it. We first got the sense that the world was changing back in Act II, when we were introduced to the Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces. The realities of modernity and progress have forced different locations in the world to be repurposed.
Not all of the world’s denizens have responded positively to change, but not all of them have responded negatively either. Kentucky Route Zero is not an anti-capitalist screed. “Progress” is simply a fact of life, and people react to it in various ways. Tradition is being eroded by entities like the power company and the Bureau, but Kentucky Route Zero holds no special reverence for tradition. The game merely depicts its world and invites players to draw their own conclusions.
At the end of the Act, Conway is gone, and now it’s up to Shannon and her new friends to complete his delivery. This seems to indicate that Act V will have a renewed focus on her journey, and we may finally learn the answers to the mysteries that have been hanging over our heads since the first act. Who knows what we’ll learn?