Sometimes, games set out to achieve a fairly simple goal, and are all the better for it. Knights of Pen and Paper is one of those games, a game that has a clear remit and achieves it with simplicity and without ostentation. Originally released on iOS, Knights of Pen and Paper is another quirky release form Paradox Interactive, who continue to make the world a richer place with niche releases that offer something a little different.
Presentationally, the game is a 16-bit role playing game, and the concept is that you are taking part in a pen and paper, Dungeons and Dragons style table top adventure game. The main menu shows a simple bedroom through a window, and upon starting the game you select your players, made up of a list of social archetypes – Jock, Nerd, Pizza Delivery Guy, etc, – and assign them a fantasy class – Mage, Rogue, Paladin and so on. It cost gold to unlock more slots and as a result allow more players at the table but this can be done fairly early on.
Gold is earned through – yes, you guessed it – completing quests and defeating monsters. There is nothing revolutionary or original here, but this is alleviated the tone, which throughout the game is highly tongue in cheek: speech bubbles coming from the characters as you are directed in the world by the overly serious dungeon master remind you that you are playing a game within the boundaries of playing a game. Banter between the players is amusing, and you are constantly reminded that the players are simply sat in a room cos-playing the epic adventure they are being sent on by the dungeon master.
Battles are turn based, and each member of your party has the usual health and mana bars, and a number of skill, attacks and spells to apply in encounters; these fights aren’t too taxing unless you choose to purposefully step outside your comfort zone, and despite being easy to control, can be overly long, especially when traveling from different areas of the world, where random dice rolls as you travel might generate a battle that interrupts your movement .
The map is open from the start, but areas are clearly levelled, MMO style, so you know where to go and where not to go, and the story does a good job of steering you into the relevant locations. Death can be avoided if you are careful and instant deaths can be mitigated against by sound preparation and prudence. This is not a game to be rushed, and racing off into higher level areas and facing off against higher level monsters will see you punished.
Plot matters little, as you will mostly be following big yellow exclamation marks and grinding monsters to level up. To aid this, neutral areas such as villages and towns contain battle areas, where you can grind endlessly to level yourself up.This may sound tedious, but the game gets around this by allowing you to tailor your exploits to your abilities and your needs. If your party is hovering around the level 11 mark, visit a similarly levelled village, select a battle, slide the number of beasts you want to face, and go. This small feature allows you to be as reckless and as cautious as you want, and puts progress or failure firmly in the hands of the player.
It also presents a meaty challenge. Around ten to twelve hours of old-school, yet post modern RPG-ing are on offer here. Luckily the game is windowed, and is perfect to play in small burst whilst occupied with something else (small things like work, or the forum, for example) Its mobile roots are clearly apparent, and whilst this review is based on the steam version, the iOS version, at just a couple of pounds, may be an alternative if you think you may prefer this kind of game on the go.
Knight of Pen and Paper is a pleasant little RPG, that doesn’t take itself seriously, and is a pleasure to play in short bursts. You may not find yourself putting endless hours into it at a stretch, but as a quick pick up play game, it is clearly achieves its goal – to make you feel like you are playing as people playing as heroes in a role playing world.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Format: PC Release Date: 18/06/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Knights of Pen & Paper +1 for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 4 days on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.