GAME NAME: Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition
DEVELOPER(S): Behold Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Paradox Interactive
PLATFORM(S): PC, Android, iOS
GENRE(S): RPG, Indie
RELEASE DATE(S): 18 June 2013
While technically an RPG, Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition (KoPaP) is more a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) styled simulator than anything else. You’re tasked with exploring and overcoming the many obstacles and adversaries that would await any knight of the pen and paper medium that is D&D. As such, you play the many characters participating in the D&D game, as they sit around the table, and as their chosen heroes venture through the D&D world, the environments change around the table. It’s a very weird almost 4th wall breaking concept and it actually works quite well. I’m just surprised something like this wasn’t thought up sooner.
As a D&D themed game, and as has been the case with almost all preceding games, I’ve come to expect a rather sombre story and an uncompromising and unforgiving dice roll mechanics. With KoPaP however, that just isn’t the case. The characters constantly backtalk the dungeon master as he narrates the game, often with comical effect, and, in kind, the dungeon master is only too happy to let you know when your level grinding has become tiresome and that he’d prefer some variety to your choices. The dialogue is far from an award winning dialect and usually pertains to very simplistic comments and hints that frequent most of your actions, but it’s more than enough to add to the D&D experience. It’s the fact that the game never takes itself too seriously that gives it so much appeal.
As a D&D styled RPG, you’d expect dice rolls and hero classes like rogues, paladins, bards, mages and so forth, and you would be right. Fortunately, KoPaP very rarely uses dice rolls in calculating your attacks, unlucky dice rolls and subsequent death is a frequent annoyance in D&D RPG’s; instead, combat is centred around strong tactical RPG mechanics. Less frequent tasks, like crafting new equipment and travelling from place to place, will require the roll of the dice however, with an unfortunate roll usually ending up in an enemy encounter or the blacksmith bodging the piece of equipment he was supposed to craft for you. Luckily though, these are the sorts of things that will never grate at you too much and instead encourage a little more careful thinking to each of your actions. And when has a more tactical and thought out experience ever made an RPG game worse?
But don’t let KoPaP’s simple 16-bit aesthetic and nonchalant nature fool you, Knights of Pen and Paper is a deceptively deep game. It’s far from Planescape Torment, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Not only do you have to make the right equipment choices for your heroes, but your characters playing D&D can receive bonuses themselves. Should you purchase them snacks, of varying types, your characters (and so heroes) will receive temporary bonuses to things like experience gain, life steal and so forth. Furthermore, you can use your D&D earned gold to purchase furniture and change varying things around the room you’re actually playing D&D in for other (permanent) bonuses. So various tables, for example, will offer different bonuses, though you can only equip one at a time and so you should spend your money wisely and choose the furniture and furnishings that best suit your play style.
The rest of KoPaP involves questing around the land, saving princesses, slaying monsters and generally larking about. In each area you visit, you can choose the sorts of quests you go on, whether they are side quests for the sake of experience and gold or the main storyline. In addition to that, you can choose, at least most of the time you can choose, the amount of monsters you encounter (allowing you to adjust the difficulty and reward of each encounter). The more monsters you fight at a time, the quicker quests are completed and the more bonus experience and gold you receive. Though be warned, the game can become fairly difficult should you bite off more than you can chew by giving yourself too many enemies at too high a level. It’s a generally addictive way of doing things and encourages you to grind at every turn without ever forcing it.
Speaking of a simple 16-bit aesthetic; KoPaP might have a rather simple look to it, but like the simple gameplay sheltering deceptively more involved mechanics, the artwork actually has a lot of nuanced detail to it. There is a lot of cameo and pop-cultural references drawn into the backgrounds of many of the areas you visit, and they fit well into the theme of an imaginative game such as KoPaP. The soundtrack is also pretty good. It can drone on at times but fits the game like a glove and will never detract from the experience. Think of KoPaP’s aesthetics as though you would a Pokemon game. The game looks simplistic but the aesthetic suits the style of game and tends to grow on you, it’s the same for KoPaP.
There is a lot more to KoPaP, like new class unlocks, alternative mission styles, the tavern, hero intricacies and more; but the truth is, you already know if this is the sort of game for you or not. So here’s my proposal; should you feel even the least bit interested come the end of this review, give KoPaP a try, you might very well enjoy it. Should you decide that it’s not for you well then no harm done. The beauty of games like this is that there is one for everyone and KoPaP is definitely one for me.