Remember the last time you played Dungeons and Dragons with a number of like-minded role-players? Well, imagine if that whole experience - in-character dialogue, tables, die rolls and all - was a video game. That’s the premise of meta-RPG, Knights of Pen & Paper. And it’s a rather fun and compulsive take on the art of tabletop gaming.
Rather than picking a character, you control the players who assume the role of the warriors that step forth into the cutesy, pixel-based fantasy world. You begin by selecting one or two players to sit at the table. These players range from businessmen to grannies, each with their own personalities and stat bonuses when in character. Then, you get to choose the character class for each player, from Paladins to Warriors and Priests.
As you venture through caves, forests, plains and other assorted landscapes, you’ll encounter enemies that need to be vanquished. This is perhaps where Knights of Pen & Paper
sticks most to tradition - battles are presented in a turn-based fashion, with you having to input commands before witnessing a sequence of attack and defense animations.
Beyond that, however, Knights of Pen & Paper
takes quite a unique approach to battles and questing. For you only really command your players directly during battles - the rest of the time, you take control of the Dungeon Master on the opposite side of the table. As a result, you have full control over the evolution of the story and the quests that your players embark on.
When you enter a town or new area, a number of Dungeon Master options become available to you. These range from speaking to townsfolk, purchasing items at the shop, visiting the blacksmith, or even engaging in random battle skirmishes to raise your level.
You can also set the difficulty of each enemy encounter - the more enemies you place on the field, the higher the difficulty slider will go. There’s a risk-reward element at play; if you can beat your self-set challenge, you walk away with an experience bonus. Fail, and you have to eat humble pie.
Completing quests and emerging victorious from battles earns you virtual money, which you can use to buy items, upgrade weapons, or add new players to your table. You can also deck out the ‘real-life’ room - from the type of table your players use, to various wall decorations and even the kind of Dungeon Master that accompanies you. You can also buy ‘real-world’ snacks for your players, like pizza and fizzy pop. All of these will offer stat bonuses in some form or another.
Although you can choose to grind for virtual money to beef up your player squad, you can also opt to pay real money (as in real-real money - using your credit card) to earn dollars in a speedier fashion. It’s worth pointing out though, that I was able to progress quite far into the game without spending a penny - the microtransactions on offer really do seem to be more of an option than a necessity for players.
The whole thing can be summed up as something like ‘Game Dev Story
for Dungeons & Dragons
’. Which is apt, because Knights of Pen & Paper
actually started life as a mobile game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing - its big, chunky icons and accessible interface may remind you of a tablet UI, but it works just as well on a PC monitor as it does on an iPad.
This upcoming +1 Edition
also comes with a bunch of additional content that seeks to expand on the original release, but for those who have never played it before its PC debut will feel like quite a fresh, self-referential take on the classic tabletop experience.