Over last summer I finally tried, and got really into, tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Pathfinder was my group’s game of choice, and it was fantastic fun. The freedom and variety of missions and locations and worlds is unparalleled when you’re table topping, and the amount of life you can breathe into any given character is limitless. I’d like to tell you that Knights of Pen & Paper personifies this to a ‘T,’ but it’s really just a clever RPG that pays homage to the table top games of old.
Developed by the Brazilian Behold Studios, Knights of Pen & Paper puts you in the game room with a group of friends, which is always at the bottom of the screen while the game world is at the top. You technically play as both the players and the Dungeon Master. Each player fills one class role, and each class only has four abilities, with some of those being passive abilities. This is still a simple mobile game, after all. Unlike most conventional RPGs, you don’t control and move an avatar around the world in real time with random battle encounters. At each area, you choose whether you rest, start a quest, further the story, shop, or craft. You even choose when to fight, what enemies to fight, and how many of each you fight. In that way, you’re also the Dungeon Master.
As you gain experience points and earn money, you’ll spend that money on in-game actions and unlocks. Travelling and resurrecting players has a price, as does the purchase of items, furniture, and decorations for your gaming area. These items aren’t just cosmetic though, as they alter your game with small buffs, let you raise the enemy cap to seven, or even add new players to the party. There is an in-app purchase system for currency if you don’t feel like saving up for the more expensive items.
Unfortunately, this currency system causes some serious problems. Quests are often very generic, and ask you to kill a certain number of enemies, or collect a certain number of items by killing enemies. It’s nice that you get to set your own challenge level, but when dying or just travelling back to a safe town will set you back a few dollars each time, you’re far more motivated to play it safe, and fight those twenty bats one or two at a time. And it’s almost always “20” of something. Even fighting three or four enemies at a time, this makes the quests very generic and repetitive. I once got stuck in a forest with no money to travel or revive my fallen team mates. It was up to my lone wizard to fight enemies one by one, rest, and fight more, until I could afford to leave, all because I spent a big chunk of change unlocking a fourth player.
The story is also very basic, but the way it’s told with your players commenting the whole time puts you in the mind-space of a real table top gamer. Unfortunately, the Brazilian studio had some issues in the translation, with lots of lines in the vein of “We did not succeeded” or “I did not noticed.” The retro visuals and chip tunes are really well done, and slightly reminiscent of a Kairosoft outing. This game is super charming with great ideas at its core. It’s also overflowing with nerdy references and in-jokes. Even though the execution of those ideas is somewhat lacking, I’m still going to recommend this two dollar game, especially if you’re a tabletop RPG player!