Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition Review. OLE!
Developer: Behold Studios
Genre: Turn-based RPG
Throughout the years, there have been what seems like countless video game interpretations of pen and paper RPGs. Most of them are merely action games which happen to hold the title of whatever table top game they were emulating, such as Dungeons and Dragons. Very few go that extra mile and make players feel as though they are really sitting there playing a table top RPG, albeit with some serious changes, of course. Thankfully, Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition has come along to give connoisseurs of these table top RPGs the video game that they have been waiting for, complete with a D20 die!
Before we can begin our adventure, however, we need a team. To start, we're given the choice of 6 classes which can be combined with 14 characters with plenty more to unlock later on. Each class, as one would assume, has its own specific purpose whether that be healing, tanking, or simply dealing out the pain. Every character has their own passive ability which will compliment some classes better than others; such as the Jocks bonus to his attack used in conjunction with the Warrior class, or the Little Brothers increased initiative which allows him to attack faster, making him a perfect choice for the Rogue class. In all, there are 5 seats to fill at the table, though to fill a third requires some gold, and to fill all 5 requires gold as well as an item from the store.
The store, not to be confused with the in game marketplace, is where we can use any gold acquired to purchase items that give our party a permanent or temporary, buff. Each category in the store represents an item within your 'room' which holds the table where all of our characters are seated. Within each category there are 5 choices (only one can be active at a time, with the exception of table items) and each variant offers something a bit different. For example, a golden table offers 10% more gold whereas a wooden table provides us with a 5% increase in experience. Keep in mind that none of these items are required in any way. If players desire a slightly more difficult experience than they can simply use the default items, which have their own, smaller bonuses.
Once everyone is settled in and our room is in order, the only thing we really need is a quest...
Quests here in Knights of Pen and Paper don't work as normally as you'd expect from a retro style RPG. Early in the game, players are introduced to the concept of creating their own quests. This may sound as though we can create our own epic adventure, something which rivals the primary quest line, but this feature is not nearly as varied as you might think. The quest interface gives players a couple of different options as to what kind of quest they would like to partake in, whether it involves escorting someone from town to town or merely wiping out a certain number of monsters, as well as a number of variants of that particular quest type. Virtually every quest is short and sweet, lasting no longer than about 10 minutes.
Unfortunately, despite all of this, quests will soon begin to feel as though you're doing the same thing over and over again. The only real variety to be found within side quests comes from the type of monsters that you fight or the cities that you travel to. To be fair, there is only so much that can be done with a game of this sort.
If there is one good thing about the quests, which no one can deny, is the accompanying dialogue. Sometimes players will talk to each other or NPCs while in character and other times they will talk as though they are just a group of friends playing a game together. Either way, the dialogue is often hilarious, even more so if you're a bit familiar with Dungeons and Dragons.
Thankfully, combat is not nearly as dull as the side quests. If you haven't already guessed, combat is handled in the simple yet satisfying turn based manner. We're given the choice of a standard attack, magic or skill attacks, using an item, fortifying or running away. Some enemies are vulnerable to certain attacks, such as the undead's weakness to Holy attacks, but beyond that there is very little complexity to combat. Assuming that your characters are properly leveled, equipped, and you know how to use the various abilities properly; most encounters with enemies can be finished quickly and easily.
All of this may make the combat sound dull or boring, but that is simply not the case. Everything about combat, from the sound one hears when an attack lands to the feeling of power one obtains when a battle is won, contributes to the fun of the combat experience. One must also take into consideration that since there is no concrete difficulty setting; players can choose how difficult combat is in most cases. Quests which require killing enemies in an area to obtain items can choose to fight off 2 bears or 7 giant spiders, for example. It is always a plus when a game can successfully cater to the needs and wants of both the casual and hardcore player bases, and better yet, keep it fun for each.
One not so fun process, however, is what we must go through to upgrade our equipment. While visiting certain areas, you'll notice that there are a number of rock formations which seem a bit out of place. Clicking on these triggers a roll of your D20 and if you're successful a grindstone is acquired. Grindstones are given to Blacksmiths which in turn increases their level, allowing you to further upgrade your equipment.
So, one way or the other, there is going to be quite a bit of grinding involved to completely level up the Blacksmith. It involves simply traveling from a town to a cave where the ore can be found in varying amounts, and then doing that over and over again. It would be a difficult task to find something more boring, to be honest. Thankfully, grindstones are available at the marketplace for a small price, while this will still require some grinding, it's a hell of a lot more entertaining farming gold than it is simply traveling back and forth between two locations.
Artistically speaking, you couldn't ask for a much better looking game that uses this style. The sprites are all beautifully done, an obviously great amount of effort was put into them, which is something immediately noticeable. Not to mention that most sprites in the game are unique to others. Very rarely do you come across a non item sprite that is merely a re-skin.
No matter how well done the art is, however, the music can always be a different story. In this case, it's like black and white. It seems as though nearly every track, while noticeably different from others, is little more than a looping 10 - 15 second bit which changes very little. The music does a fine job of emulating older titles, but you'd think that the heart put into the retro art style would carry into the music. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.
When all is said and done, Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition will give players over 30 hours worth of simple, entertaining gameplay with plenty of replay-ability. Sure, you'll have to do some grinding here and there but, as stated before, the combat is enjoyable enough and the overall game is just so entertaining that you can simply look past that. If you're looking for a retro style RPG, you need look no further.