Ever sat down with a group of friends, lined up the snacks and sat down for a night of D&D? Well, you’d be right in thinking that Knights of Pen and Paper was designed for you, but if you’d enjoy it is a different story. Full of charm, Knights of Pen and Paper perhaps doesn’t offer much past that, but still manages to be slightly engaging – or at least, a distraction.
Originally for mobile platforms, Knights of Pen and Paper has made its way to PC. The +1 edition acts as a content expansion pack. allowing players to access to extra campaigns and some brand new items in order to fluff out the game length and aims.
Throwing you into the fray immediately, you pick a couple of characters from a predetermined set and assign them archetypal Dungeons and Dragons style classes such as the Paladin, the Druid, the Mage, the fighter and so forth. As you go through the game you can unlock further classes in order to add more members to your party (which is done at taverns), but these are a matter of discovery as quests lead into you gaining items such as a bard’s hat to unlock the Bard class.
The way the game is designed is done in a manner where you are more viewing in on a game of D&D than actively participating, you are a player playing players rather than some kind of Neverwinter Nights style affair where the game system is put in a wrapper, everything in the game is decided more or less by a series of D20 rolls and this for the most part feels fair if it wasn’t for certain aspects that can slow the gameplay right down if this happens.
The first thing that I noticed really, is that the game does have some very charming visuals, opting for a look reminiscent of 16 bit RPGs from the SNES and Mega Drive era, as is the soundtrack with its simple midi sounding tracks. Creatures are simply animated with static movements, you’ll work your way through a series of creatures ranging from the traditional rat, to the tentacled swamp god.
Maps are fairly large, but seeing as they only act as a way to move from one screen to another this isn’t anything that stands out particularly. There are a large amount of areas that hide secret quests or allow you to get extra classes as previously mentioned. When you pick an area on the map you’re transported to a backdrop that themes that area; for the most part though the backdrops aren’t particularly gripping giving you the standard, swamp, forest, mountains, sewers, desert style, and don’t really make any difference to the game or how it’s played.
In the campaign I chose, I noticed that I was vastly outnumbered immediately, a large portion of my starting game was grinding against smaller mobs or finding generic kill quests in order to boost my experience points, until eventually it was told to me I was to journey to another area. As I clicked around the map I look at the level boundaries of the areas that I would have to pass through, confused I noticed that there didn’t seem to be much in terms of appropriate scaling. The game wants you to suffer immediately, and it may be your luck that you avoid combat when passing through higher level areas at first but it seems a slight unfair. So in order to continue, you grind, and then to improve your equipment you grind some more.
Battles are chosen by you, unless you fail a dice roll, and in these battles you choose how many monsters you wish to fight, what difficulty of monsters you should face, and this dictates how you level – do you take the risks of fighting larger creatures straight out or chip away at smaller creatures. It’s not a particularly deep combat system, if you’re familiar with the average JRPG combat system then you’ll be settled in pretty quickly. Battles rotate around the concept of “buff, debuff and exploit”, you’ll hit some enemies with spells they’re weak against or that cause them to bleed, whilst making sure you have the usual holy trinity arrangement in your party of healer, tank and damage dealer. Sadly this combat can start to feel a bit shallow when you’re having to grind for certain things and really feels like it’s lacking the depth that would make you continue playing for hours, rather than something you’d just dip into occasionally (as is intended with most mobile games)
Questing is the main part of the game and sadly, for the most part, the quests aren’t particularly engaging. Acting as a distraction rather than an aim, most of the quests you’ll take will be aimed at granting you more experience points to help you grind, so you may progress through new lands. As you arrive in new areas you may be approached by people from the town, or the village, that you’ve just visited and this may lead into you getting a class related quest or something that will drive on your campaign. Disappointingly most of these seem to be fedex style quests, having you run an NPC from one end of the map to the other and then drop them off. Sometimes you’ll dive into dungeons, these are random encounters – as you move from chamber to chamber your D20 is rolled from here it’s decided if you find the boss key or fight creatures.
As you win fights and finish quests you earn more gold, gold is pretty much the decider of whether you’ll fail or succeed in this fictional world. The game uses this as a gateway for everything, from travel to crafting, to revival. It’s the major currency and as such plays a vital role. Interestingly, perhaps a hangover from its mobile inception, there are microtransactions for gold. Gathering gold is a fairly grinding act, but microtransactions feel like an odd waste of money, especially at the cost. Still, there are those who will use it as they wish to progress through their campaign quicker, this doesn’t break the game but I find it a strange thing to include.
For all it’s flaws Knights of Pen and Paper feels mostly like a desktop toy on the PC, not something that you would play for hours on end but definitely something you’d find yourself dipping in and out of on a regular basis or whilst doing other things. Ideally if you wished to play this, I’d say your best option would be the mobile version, the campaign system works well in short boosts and you can find yourself working through a story over several journeys. It’s also on Android and iOS so go crazy.
This review was done using a review code provided by Paradox, to Parable.
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