Minimal but Deep
I don’t play many mobile games. Most mobile games I’ve come across never resonate with me beyond the moment and are often superficial. With its meta style Knights of Pen & Paper overcomes superficial moments with humor and style. Pen & Paper is a bare bones video game take on a classic game of Dungeon and Dragons. You are part Dungeon Master, creating quests, and the Party, defeating your quests. All which is wrapped in pop culture references,the most stereotypical of RPG stories, and dressed up in pixel art.
Being a metagame Pen & Paper operates on two distinct levels. There is the “real” world environment and then the imagined world of the game. In the real world you are able to furnish your room with various items providing buffs. Consumable snacks like pizza give you +2% to critical hits for 15 minutes. Wall and floor mounts provide permanent buffs when equipped. Short on cash? Buy the Golden Table, made literally from gold, and receive +10% Gold found. another replacable item is the dungeon master, each master comes with their own buffs. The buffs found in this level of the game are not over powering on their own, early on adding maybe an extra point or two to health and mana recovery. But as you level your party up and gear them you begin to become quiet powerful. Often I would just go and set up the hardest battle possible to test things out and kill a couple of minutes.
The majority of Pen & Paper is played in the visualized RPG being played out on the table. Which is beautiful in a way. This is a game reduced down to the generic base of role playing games and it revels in it. You have the typical RPG class selection of Paladin, Warrior, Mage, Rogue, and Hunter along with a couple of other unlockable classes. These classes are can be complemented by the characters playing them each with their own unique stat buffs. E.T., my mage, came with a constant +1 mana regen making him perfect for the role. It provides just enough reason to go and replace party members with others, for little charge, or start a new game.
Combat is typical turn based RPG fair. Rolls determine the turn order but other than that it isn’t thing you haven’t played recently. Combat has some depth to it if you wish to invest in stuns and moves that change turn order. But after it was discovered stuns don’t work on every monster I just switched to muscling my way through everything in the quickest time possible.
Pen & Paper is minimalist in its quest design with 4 basic types: escort,collect,wave defense, and kill X monster. All of which is based around putting you in quick and constant combat. In longer play sessions the quests really begin to bleed together with sameness. This is alleviated with quest dialog that is often a humors riff on some trope or pop culture reference. But no amount of references makes you enjoy doing yet another escort mission across the map and see it will take you 5 minutes and have 7 battles that will all be the same. It might not be the best in long play sessions but it can at least be played for longer sessions.
The biggest issues Pen & Paper has is a lack of explanation about some aspects of the game. Dungeons and Dragons was never really my thing so I’d never really come across initiative as a stat. I misinterpreted what it was used for and spec'd in a completely wrong direction. Respeccing isn’t hard or costly but with a game that is conveys all of its information in text it wouldn’t have been that hard to add some text bubbles for statistics.
The game retails for $3 on the Google Play Store and $1.99 on the iOS App Store. It does come with in app purchases of gold, the only currency in the game. Everything in this game costs gold but the little things like travel are not overly expensive. I did buy $2 worth of gold to just buy a bunch of gear. Farming isn’t hard and is an easy way to just kill a couple minutes in line or waiting.
The core of Knights of Pen & Paper is a solid bare bones RPG that feels unique in the mobile space. Wrapping this skeleton in plenty of pop culture and video game references gave this game real character and a sense of fun. Allowing me to over look some of the few areas this game is lacking.