An RPG about RPGs
It is a sad truth that the majority of role playing game fans haven’t experienced their pastime’s ancestor, the pen and paper rpg. Knights of Pen and Paper is a game for the old guard of RPG fans, or any gamer who has had the good fortune to take part in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Knights of Pen and Paper emulates the experience of sitting around a table with friends, rolling new characters, and setting out on a journey that will be governed by your own choices (along with those of the dungeon master).
While most RPGs mimic Dungeons and Dragons, Knights also includes the meta level. Which is to say, it is a game where you direct players of a role playing game. Knights tasks the player with tending to the needs of the “real-world” characters, and with directing their pen and paper RPG campaign. Confused readers should direct their attention to one of the included screenshots to see a cast of players and a dungeon master sitting around a table, as a visualization of their adventure plays out in the background.
Knights’ scope and concept are certainly ambitious, and the game makes some clear sacrifices to achieve its vision. The most notable difference between Knights of Pen and Paper and a D&D campaign is the lack of positioning in battle. Knights is geared both towards quick play sessions, and repetition of minor encounters as the player grinds out experience and gold. This is more reminiscent of JRPG titles in the vein of Dragon Quest. While the reduction in battle length and complexity is understandable, it takes away from the free form combat and space for creativity that most players love about Dungeons and Dragons.
D&D veterans also expect to have some leg room when it comes to story decisions. The game does allow player to pursue quests at their leisure, but the lack of human interaction reduces the dynamism of having a real dungeon master to push the story forward. Games typically solve this with procedural content, or building in a variety of player choices. Knights chooses instead to overload the player with possible quests and activities. Hand in hand with the static nature of the story is the lack of player choice and the need for rolling dice. Players may miss having the chance to circumvent certain encounters by simply rolling an intelligence check. This would not have bothered me if the game didn’t have the pretense of allowing the player to forge their own story. Of course the Dungeon Master must always have a plan laid out, but there should be some room for player input.
Knights of Pen and Paper circumvents the comparisons to true Dungeons and Dragons by presenting itself as a lighthearted experience. The punny nature of the dialogue and the cheery artwork meant that I wasn’t really surprised when I found that certain D&D elements were missing. While there is plenty to do, this isn’t an exact replica of a D&D campaign.
Perhaps Knights takes too much from the JRPG. Grinding is a necessity, with most items being priced exorbitantly. Quests ramp up quickly in difficulty, although players do have some options with respect to scaling encounters. As usual, the option to purchase gold with real-world money raises my suspicions about the validity of the game’s balancing. I have been able to push my way through without paying extra money for gold (the game costs $1.99 to begin with) and it seems that the balancing is largely fair. Still, I’d rather this was just left out.
Knights is an enjoyable facsimile of the traditional role playing experience, but lacks severely in the localization department. Frequent misspellings, broken grammar, and a general lack of quality take me out of the game’s already sparse story. Most jokes fall flat, with the most humorous portion often being the two or three words that were not spelled properly. Because the game hinges heavily on its text to convey the sense of a pen and paper RPG, many potentially nostalgic lines miss their mark. This may not matter to some, but it certainly diminished the experience for me.
Knights of Pen and Paper certainly does not want for content. There is always something to do in the game, and there is the potential for tens of hours of content. Knights comes to iOS hot on the heels of Retro City Rampage. While not an iOS title, Retro City Rampage served as an example that it isn’t enough to just fall back on nostalgia. Knights of Pen and Paper seems lazy in parts, and has clear shortcuts taken in localization. As a JRPG style experience with some callbacks to Dungeons and Dragons, Knights of Pen and Paper excels. Just don’t expect the full pen and paper experience.
Knights of Pen and Paper is available as a Universal download for $1.99