You’ve all played Dungeons and Dragons, right? Right? Well, if you have then you’ll be somewhat familiar with this game already. Indeed, Knights of Pen and Paper is essentially a game about playing Dungeons and Dragons. Surprised? Neither was I.
So here’s the run down, Knights of Pen and Paper was originally an Android mobile game. It proved so popular that it’s now moved up from mobile gaming and onto the PC (insert PC master race comment here). In the game you play a group of table top gamers who are tackling a game of Dungeons and Dragons, and you must guide them on their quest, fighting monsters and rescuing villagers.
The world is littered with little gaming clichés that will certainly make you giggle, and just like a proper game of D&D, it’s also filled with a variety of loot and monsters. Initially you’re simply grinding for experience, but later on you’re introduced to a pretty decent plot, which sends you galloping across the world from place to place.
All the while you’re earning gold, which can be spent on upgrades for your characters, items to equip and stuff to pimp the D&D table. In fact, it’s the random stuff that’s probably the most useful. Purchase the Holy Grail for your table and you can field five characters instead of three. Snacks and drinks give you bonuses for a certain amount of time, and you can decorate the background to provide bonuses to experience and loot gain. You can even buy in game gold with real money.
The nitty gritty
Combat is controlled by a simple turn based system, rolling for initiative then taking turns in order. Characters can choose to either attack, defend, use class abilities, use items or just chicken out and peg it. But for all the vast variation in enemies and tactics, I never found that I needed to do anything special to win. My Paladin tank drew the enemy fire and used defensive abilities to soak up damage while my Cleric healed him, this left the rest of my group free to pummel mindlessly at the enemy until they died. Either I’m not being very clever at the moment or the game simply doesn’t give you enough tools to be clever with.
Some of the enemies at least try to be smart. Most simply hurl themselves against whoever was generating the most threat, but others use a more varied set of tactics. Some heal their allies, others can stun your characters, and some enemy types can weaken your character's attack, rendering them essentially useless. That’s not all they do either.
Despite the wide enemy variation I found my tactics didn’t change. You have the ability to gain classes other than the presets that you start with through completing certain quests, and you can swap out characters for others with different abilities. I didn’t find a use for tjis however, as several of the classes do pretty much the same thing with only a slight variation or a different theme. Still a little samey for my tastes, but it’s nice to have the option if you really don’t like your group or you spec'd your party out badly at the start.
Talking about character creation, that’s also another fairly simplistic part of the game. You can choose from a variety of characters with different base stats to act as players. After selecting your player you then choose their class. Naturally some players favour different classes; for example a rocker has bonuses to health, best to make him a tank, and vice versa. This makes character creation a little bit of an arbitrary experience. It’s not as in-depth as some of the other character generation experiences I’ve had, then again, it doesn’t really need to be. There’s a good variety of options that would benefit every class, even if it’s not entirely customisable.
My experience of the game is sort of a mixed bag. The interface is very clear cut and simple to use, whereas the storyline quests were difficult to find at first. I ended up starting the main quest at level ten instead of level two, a drastic difference to say the least. Speaking of storyline, the game’s main plot is moderately compelling. It’s very classic D&D generic storyline that, while fun to follow, isn’t terribly imaginative, but hey, what D&D plot is? In fact the game openly makes fun of the classic tropes of the Dungeon Master. In-game NPCs are either celebrity knockoffs or simply labelled “Random man” or “King.” It’s actually quite funny most of the time, and it’s interesting seeing just how many times the Tardis turns up in the background.
The only major flaw with the game is the emphasis on grinding. At times it actively encourages you to grind if you want more experience, there’s even a place specifically for it. A lot of side quests involve killing X amount of Y. The game also insists a lot of the time on you creating your own fights as the Dungeon Master - in theory, you can tailor the fights to only the creatures you need to kill, eliminating pointless grinding, but in practice it can also removes the element of surprise from encounters. Not all quests do this, which makes it annoying when it forces you to pick your own fights because it essentially allows you to skew the fights drastically in your favour by removing any challenge. The only downside to skewing fights one way or the other is the annoyed comment you'll hear from your player characters, they don’t do anything about it however.
The return of the D20
At its heart, Knights of Pen and Paper remains a game for mobile devices, and it definitely seems better if played in smaller segments of half an hour or less since it’s very long, and there just isn’t enough of that PC game element for me to want to sit there for any extended amount of time. It's probably lucky that the game is on iOS and Android, and I recommend you buy it on those platforms. If you do decide to purchase for PC and are looking for a game with that classic RPG feel however you won’t be disappointed.