Knights of Pen & Paper +1 Edition Review (PC)

The best role-playing games are often the ones that don’t take themselves *too* seriously. Knights of Pen & Paper +1 Edition is one such game. Starting life on mobile platforms, this quirky little RPG experience has been given a boost and ported over to the PC with some tweaks and a load more content. In an excellent of meta-gaming, you play as a group of people playing a table-top RPG, complete with table-top, dungeon master, and silly hats. As you explore the world of Pen & Paper, the table ‘moves’ with you from one environment to the next, and all in all you get to experience a very simple, tongue-in-cheek digital version of a table-top RPG.

In same vein as games like FTL this is a very no-frills affair with a focus on gameplay over visuals. Its simplistic graphics add to the charm that this game has, and as soon as you exit the opening dungeon into a place called ‘Default Village’, where you’re met by ‘Old Guy’, you can’t help but smile as you realise what kind of experience you’re in for. Knights of Pen and Paper doesn’t take itself seriously at all, but that doesn’t mean this game was made lazily or anything like that.

The more monsters you add in, the tougher things can get

Before you begin your adventure though, you first need to assemble your party. You can have a maximum of five people in your group, however when you first play the game you can only have three – two are giving to you free of charge, and you can add a third for a small amount of gold If you wish. You have to acquire a certain in-game item to be able to recruit the final two slots. Characters are created by choosing an ‘archetype’ – so Jock, Nerd, Pizza Guy etc…, this is essentially the person behind the character, and this will determine their passive trait. You then get to choose what class they will be playing as – Paladin, Rogue, Warrior etc..., which will determine their skillset. You can experiment with the combinations here, as obviously some archetypes and classes go well together. If you’re impatient and you don’t want to wait to get the in-game item, you can always leave characters behind at an Inn, and then replace them with a new person. Those characters will remain with all of their experience and items, leaving you free to experiment without worrying about starting again.

Playing the game itself is extremely simple. Your party travels from location to location, with a dice roll to see if they make it there safely or whether they are attacked on the way. In every location they’ll be the option to rest and replenish your health and mana, start a quest, fight a random battle for experience or move on to a new location. In non-safe areas (so outside villages, towns etc…), when rest you do another dice-check – if you fail, you’re attacked. In towns and villages, depending on how good it is, you’ll also have the option to buy and sell items, craft, or upgrade your weapons and armour at the blacksmith. You can also manage your inventory and go to the game menu from anywhere as well. Questing is very free-form and open – there is a main ‘story’ thread that will lead you through the game, but essentially you create your own side quests, although the choices are limited. As far as type goes, you can choose from types like Slay, Escort, Collect etc..., and then you also get to choose the general difficulty level of the quest.

This free-form nature also extends to combat as well. Usually, quests will require you to kill a specific monster, but in a lot of cases you can choose what monster you fight – each area will have a small monster set, and each monster will have a scaling level of difficulty, with ‘Elite’ monsters being the hardest to kill. You can also choose how many of your chosen monster you fight at once, and if you throw in at least two monsters (up to a max of five); you get bonus experience and gold. Fighting is very simple, almost tedious. For each battle, a turn order is randomly selected, and everyone takes turns at doing an action. You can use items if you need it, but as far as offensive options go you either have your basic attack, or your special abilities. These cost mana to perform.

The world of Pen & Paper isn’t that big, but there’s plenty to do in each area

Sadly, for all its charm and simplicity, something doesn’t really sit right with Knights of Pen & Paper. It’s possible that the fact that it started off as a mobile app is holding it back a bit – granted, the +1 Edition has new content and tweaks, but the mobile users get all of that as well. At the moment, there is a fairly noticeable price disparity between buying it on PC, and buying is on a mobile device, something that’s not really accounted for. Ultimately, this game doesn’t really work that well as a PC game, I feel. It’s great fun, but its casual fun - something you’d jump on for like half an hour or so, but over the long term it can get boring quite fast. The classes are fairly limited and inflexible, and levelling up isn’t really that exciting – you simply get to make one of your abilities slightly more powerful. Games like FTL, Game Dev Tycoon and other similar titles that go for simpler design do a better job of making the experience worth your while and fun over the long-term. As we’ve mentioned before, there’s something incredibly basic about Knights, and unfortunately in this case it isn’t always a good thing.

Like most mobile game, Knights of Pen & Paper comes with a monetisation element to it. As we mentioned above, it’s not free-to-play, and the monetisation revolves around ‘coins’. Essentially almost everything in the game cost gold to do: Upgrading weapons and armour, buying equipment or items, even travelling from place to place. Some of these cost minute amounts of gold, some of these (like upgrading) cost a lot of gold. You can also buy cosmetic items, like a new skin for the table, a new avatar for the dungeon master… props for the ‘room’ you exist in (like a TARDIS), table snacks, pets etc… these items are mainly just to personalise the static elements of your game environment, but they all come with their own in-game effects as well, and again the gold amounts you have to pay varies.

Earning gold is pretty easy: Fighting monsters and completing quests always nets you gold and experience (and sometimes loot), with bonus modifiers depending on how hard you made it for yourself. Still, on the lower and even middling levels, you don’t really earn that much gold per encounter. We’re not talking in hours here, but sometimes it can take a bit to earn enough money for one of the bigger upgrades, and there’s always the possibility you could fail so you’ve essentially wasted gold.

Your ‘game room’, where you can buy cosmetic items that come with unique buffs

You start off with a very respectable amount of gold, but you can spend it quite quickly, so you’re only other option is to pay money for it. Or grind for it. Gold itself is reasonably priced - £4.99 will give you 10,000 gold, which would last you a long while. Perhaps even for the rest of the game, if you’re earning gold in-game as well. This is a fairly typical monetisation system, pretty much optional and not really something you can blame the team for. If you don’t mind shelling out – good for you, but for those of us who like to try and avoid this kind of thing, it still doesn’t stop the game from being a tad dull at times.

Knights of Pen & Paper +1 has a lot of charm, and a lot of game hours to go with it. As a mobile game, it works really well, and the improvements only make it better. As a PC game? Well the fact that it simple isn’t a detractor in itself, but things can get a bit tedious over the long-term, so it’s not something you’re going to commit hours at a time to playing. With the price difference as well, you can’t help but wonder whether or not you’re being done over a tad. Apart from the potential grind if you want to avoid paying beyond the asking price, there’s few reasons to NOT get this game, but it’s still one you could easily skip over.

Top Game Moment: Spotting the Easter Eggs dotted about the game is quite amusing – I spotted a Stargate buried in the sand, for example.

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By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 28, 2013
I like the concept and the charm this game has, but dear lord it got repetitive real fast for me. Too much killing random mobs in between interesting parts.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Jun 28, 2013
Tell me about it. It's great if you're on a train and you can jump on it for short bursts on a mobile device... but sitting at the PC and trying to play it for long sessions is a bit of a slog.