Sometimes personality is enough to make a game that’s otherwise decent into something greater. Earthbound, for instance, caught the attention of many by placing its characters in a somewhat modern American setting despite having traditional turn-based gameplay. Knights of Pen and Paper is a fantastic turn-based RPG that reveres Dungeon and Dragons’s influence in popular culture. I’ll be honest: I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons, and I have no idea how the real thing plays; however, I felt that the game is cleverly designed enough to capture an audience that consists of fans of turn-based RPGs looking for something new—all the while awakening an interest in Dungeons and Dragons
Knights of Pen and Paper takes place in the basement of a comic book nerd (he can later be switched out for another) who happens to be a Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master is implied to bring the game’s world from imagination to fruition, making the starting characters somewhat impressed with the roleplaying. Eventually you come across the first main campaign which consists of hunting down the Black Mage; however, it eventually evolves beyond that, and actions in the game have real (still in-game) world consequences.
The writers help craft a unique world thanks to its sharp Dungeons and Dragons and old school gaming jokes. Dialogue consists of something I envision out of any show from recent popular culture that deals with Dungeon and Dragons. The writers spruce things up for modern times by including references to both classic and modern video games, and even include emoticons for good measure. The game has a great sense of humor and never takes itself too seriously, even at its most intense moments.
Characters are one dimensional caricatures of today’s youth, such as the hipster, nerd, jock, teacher, alien and others. None of them go through a character arc beyond the skill points players will spend on them. The Dungeon Master, on the other hand, is an enigmatic figure who seems to have a supernatural side to him. He largely narrates the game’s events, allowing NPCs to speak to the players directly; even after it’s established that he’s more in tune to the game’s world. We don’t know whose side the Dungeon Master is on, but it is clear that the man has such reverence for the game.
I alluded earlier how the Dungeon Master can bring the world to fruition, and I meant it quite literally. Dungeons, towns, and the map all come to life in a pixelated fantasy setting. Enemy sprites and town folks face your direction like in Dragon Quest. The players and Dungeon Master are on screen the whole time, and while they remain seated, their would-be actions still happen on screen, which in itself is hilarious. Certain environments have a glow in which the player can click to mine for grindstones. While the aesthetics seem appropriate for a Super Nintendo, the music is strictly 8-bit. While it seems underpowere given the aesthetics, it is quite catchy. Still, the designers did a good job creating a world that reminds one of Dungeons and Dragons and old school gaming.
I can only speak from the point of view of a player who has never played Dungeons and Dragons. As such, I know that you don’t need to be a devout Dungeons and Dragons player in order to understand or enjoy Knights of Pen and Paper. You begin in the Dungeon Master’s basement where you select a couple of characters. Each comes with their own passive stats and personalities. You can initially choose between classes such as Warrior, Druid, Cleric, Paladin, Mage, and Rogue; however, you can unlock more classes as you complete the game’s quests, as long as you’re willing to pay the price.
Chance plays a large role in Knights of Pen and Paper. Traveling between towns and dungeons, whether on your personal time or part of a quest, requires money; however, the dice also needs to fall in a certain number range in order to avoid enemy encounters. This system of chance also works when it comes to running away, camping for the night, successfully crafting weapons and armor, and even in story missions. It’s an interesting system; however, I don’t’ care about my lack of Dungeons and Dragons experience: if my black smith unsuccessfully makes a weapon and then demands the same amount of money to try again, is questionable. But the whole thing brings about the kind of suspense replicated in gambling, which I think works in a turn-based RPG.
Combat plays most like a turn-based RPG. Characters are transferred to the field of battle where they face off against various foes. Some of them are of the Dungeon Master’s choosing, but for most quests players can pick how many and which kind–be it regular henchmen or elite units– they want to fight. By doing so, players can set the difficulty to their liking. Players can take their time to pick their moves; however, a number hangs above each unit (including the enemy) which signifies turn order.
You earn one skill point per level (at current version, anyway) which you can use to upgrade your character’s skills. On one hand, none of the characters have a skill tree to learn—only four moves per person, which includes both active and passive. This might seem shallow at first. Still, each class certainly plays a role in battle. The paladin has a lot of hit points and can draw in enemy attacks while the rogue can turn invisible and take out one enemy; the warrior can cause damage to multiple enemies while you’re stronger characters can pick off the stragglers. This is just the simplest strategy for the basic class; however, you do gain the ability to buy more characters; thus you can figure out the group and strategy that’s perfect for your combative style.
Behold studios recently released Knights of Pen and Paper +1 edition for Steam, but it’s also available on the original versions for iOS and Android devices. Despite this, Knights of Pen and Paper costs more on the PC version ($9.99) while retaining the virtual store system from the mobile versions ($2.99). Money plays a significant role in making the game easier, whether you’re buying new characters or a piece of decoration to help increase certain stats. The difficulty does spike significantly near the end of the Black Mage’s quest, which will tempt you to buy ingame purchaes. So with the element of the random chance, Knights of Pen and Paper is an expensive game in terms of gold coins. Thankfully the Dungeon Master does increase how much gold you earn, making the grinding more bearable.
Even with the higher price point, Knights of Pen and paper is one of the most charming turn-based RPGs I’ve played in some time, and it certainly has value. While I have no idea how much of Dungeons and Dragons the game actually follows, Knights of Pen and Paper created a fascinating world that I want to explore both either in game or on table.
This review of Knights of Pen And Paper +1 Edition was played on the iPhone.