At several points during Kentucky Route Zero, the game experiments with the common video game notion of a "player character ." Although Conway is the first character whom the player can directly control, the game will regularly switch its point of view to other characters, providing different perspectives on the story. This toys with the idea of Conway being the game's "protagonist," and makes it less a narrative about one person and more a narrative about a group of travelers at large.
The player begins in control of Conway, and by extension, his hound, who follows him everywhere. This is the default for most of the game across every Act - the player decides where Conway walks, what he interacts with, and the words he speaks - but as the Acts progress, different voices arise, and the perspectives become more diverse.
Upon discovery of the Elkhorn Mine, control switches to Shannon, who is talking into her phone. The player chooses what she says, but only Shannon's side of the conversation can be heard, and it is not clear who is on the other end.
While navigating the Elkhorn Mine, the player controls the mine cart, simultaneously moving both characters, but they are once again choosing lines for Conway, and not Shannon.
Control remains with Conway until the end of the Act, hampered somewhat by his injured leg.
The player begins Act II in control of Conway at the Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces.
For the first time, the player is given free access to the Zero, with Conway in the driver's seat. If the player roams the Zero for too long without progressing, an icon will appear that allows Shannon to take over, moving immediately to the next intended destination.
When the group arrives at the Museum of Dwellings, the most notable change in perspective occurs. Although the player is still controlling Conway, the perspective has changed to that of the museum's security camera, which tracks them as they explore the building. Conversations are ignored, and instead the dialogue changes to the security staff (at some point in the future), trying to piece together what Shannon, Conway, and the hound are up to.
Once the group meets Ezra and flies off, control switches to Julian, soaring over the world map, until they land in the forest beyond Lake Cumberland. Once in the forest, the player is given control of Ezra for the first time, skipping through the trees and chatting with Conway's hound. Control remains with Ezra until the last scene, when Conway passes out.
Act III begins with a flashback from Conway's perspective, but he is quickly roused and met with his "new" leg.
Back at the Museum parking lot, the player controls Conway, but if they explore to the south and interact with the reflective puddles on the ground, they can end up controlling Ezra.
Once the group breaks down on the side of the road, the game introduces Junebug and Johnny. The player decides how they react to one another's remarks, and the sight of the broken-down truck. The player cannot actually affect whether or not they stop to help, but can influence their reasons for doing so. During the performance at The Lower Depths, the player takes the role of Junebug and decides which lyrics to perform as part of Too Late To Love You.
The concept of "player control" is given a maddening twist during the encounter with Xanadu. Here the player controls Conway, who controls the virtual character of Donald, playing a video game within a video game.
During the sojourn in the graveyard, the player moves Ezra but chooses dialogue for both him and Junebug. This same scene is later revisited from the perspective of Shannon and Conway, who are exploring the Hard Times Whiskey facility.
Act III ends with one of the only choices that the player is outright denied: when offered the whiskey, the cursor will slowly drift toward the glass, and Conway will inevitably take the drink, whether the player clicks or not.
Act IV Edit
The player spends almost all of Act IV in control of Shannon, with a few exceptions. Scene I switches between Shannon, Ezra, and Conway for only brief moments. For the first time, Shannon is the default perspective, and not Conway - in fact, this is the act in which the player has the least control of Conway.
In an interesting return to the tape-review perspective seen in Act II, the player can control Shannon during their stop at the Institute, but in the past tense. As before, the staff (two interns, one of whom was dating Charlie in the past) discuss their own opinions on the visiting travelers.
Junebug and Johnny are controlled during several long conversations that they have, at the gas station and at the concert. Ezra and Johnny are controlled when they play the crane game at Sam & Ida's.
The player has little to no direct control during The Entertainment - they are merely watching, as the Bar-Fly. The same is true in Limits and Demonstrations - the player controls Emily, but her role is strictly observational.
However, things are very different in the third supplemental installment, Here and There Along the Echo. In this game, played over a real-world telephone, the main character is the caller themselves.