Another indie bundle was bought and another half a dozen games were added to my backlog. The good part? I actually managed to eliminate one quickly – Knights of Pen and Paper. I got it on Steam as well as for Android, so I decided to play it on my brand new Galaxy Tab 3. It’s a simple game. Instead of making up stories and logging my play, I’ll just give an overview, so the potential reader can know what it’s about and decide on buying it or not.
What is Knights of Pen and Paper?
Basically, Knights of Pen and Paper is a simple, a little grindy, but overall quite fun RPG game, with the premise of you controlling a group of friends playing through a Pen and Paper RPG campaign, led by their Dungeon Master.
You go from location to location, fight monsters and clear quests and that’s about it.
Probably the best way to explain it is by describing a typical play session.
Typical play session in Knights of Pen and Paper
For this, I’ve recently completed a game and just started a new party. Since there are global unlockables, unlike my original game, I had some brand new things available this time. In my first session, I unlocked extra characters and all the bonus character classes, so I was able to make a custom party.
I started with Saulo playing as a paladin. In Knights of Pen and Paper, you pick a player and a character class. The player you decide on grants some bonus to the class you pick. In this case, Saulo adds +5 to to the initiative of the paladin, as well as 30% bonus to all experience gains of that character. I can’t remember, but I’m pretty sure Saulo was an unlockable player, while the Paladin is a starter class.
Knights of Pen and Paper uses the Holy Trinity of MMO’s approach to how you should build your party. This means you need a tank. I’m sure you can get far without one, possibly even beat the game, but it will be a lot harder that way.
A paladin is one of the options for a tank in this game. The other three are the warrior, the knight and the barbarian. The warrior is another starting class, but you do need to unlock the knight.
Each class get’s four abilities. These can be offensive attacks, deffensive buffs, offensive debuffs, healing or passive skills. The paladin’s abilities are visible on the picture above. The small one, currently selected, is the passive ability Saulo provides as a player. The other four are, in order:
- Devotion – Passive. Extra HP and threat per level.
- Flash Heal – The paladin heals himself, amount and MP cost increases with level.
- Holy Shield – The paladin halves all taken damage. Duration and cost increases with level.
- Leader Strike – The paladin strikes for bonus damage and gains increased threat. Threat increase, damage and cost grow with level.
For the classes I’ve played, all abilities were useful to some degree, but I did notice I liked some more than others. There’s plenty of variation, though. With some classes, you’ll end up with balanced advancing, while with some others, it will be a focus on one or more of the four available abilities.
At the start of the game, you get to create two characters. The other one was the bard, one of the classes you unlock during a regular playthrough. His player is Ronaldo. He doubles potion effects for the character and adds a 5% life steal with each damaging attack. Since the bard can do a lot of damage by targeting all enemies at once with one of his abilities, this can really add up.
So you start with two characters, but you get to have up to five. To use the other three, you need to buy in seats for them with the gold you collect from quests solving and monster slaying.
Here’s what the main screen of the game looks like.
The actions at the top center are visible only if you tap somewhere in the empty space, so you just see a nice picture by default.
In order, from left to right, top to bottom, the available actions are…
- Fight monsters – you can fight against 1 to 5 (or later, up to 7) of any of the monsters that appear on this location. This gives you gold, items and experience.
- World map – you can go to the world map and travel to some other location this way
- Sleep – this heals your party. If you’re not in a safe location, there’s a chance you’ll get attacked. In that case, the icon changes to a tent.
- Quest – view your current quest or the list of quests available on this location. If there are no quests available and you’re not currently on a quest, this icon won’t be visible. In this case, the party is on a quest.
- Shop (cauldron) – Buy consumable items or equipment.
- Inventory – Sort through items you have, equip your characters or drop/sell the items.
- Options – Save and exit the game, audio options, language and the ability to redeem a promo code.
Two screens are missing here. An anvil icon takes you to the blacksmith, who is able to upgrade any character’s weapon or armor. A mug of ale icon takes you to the inn, where you can drop of characters in order to create new ones. While you can only have a party of 5 at a time, nothing stops you from creating additional characters.
I’ll show each screen in order.
On the battle screen, you can add monsters you intend to fight. You can fight up to 5 monsters at a time at first, but once you buy a special item in the shop, this maximum increases to 7. A larger group grants bonus experience and gold, so it’s best to fight as many monsters as you can handle.
The bar at the top of this window shows how difficult the fight will be. It grows with each monster you add, but it also takes your party’s strength into account.
The world map is straightforward, really.
Our current location is at the center, in Default Village. The location description is below. The percentage in the name indicates the progress for this location. If it’s at less than 100%, it means there are unresolved quests there.
The location to the east has a small star next to it. It means that either our current quest is taking us there, or if we’re not on a quest, that a story quest can be taken there. Our case is the former.
Traveling from location to location is a chance for a random encounter with monsters.
This one is a bit simple, not really a screen.
If the location is safe, you simply get a button to wake up when ready. Time passes as you rest, so you can end the break early, before completely healing, if you want to.
If there’s danger, there will be a random dice roll on the right side. If it fails, you get attacked.
This is where you get a list of available quests, or you can view and take action for your current quest. The button is also used to trigger events related to your current quests, if that applies to the situation.
The start icon on the start button indicates this is a story quest. This is the one I will be playing through once I’m done with listing the menus.
You buy items and equipment here. While there are equipment drops in the game, most of the stuff is underwhelming, so later on, you will be spending a lot of money here.
This is where you look at what you have in your party’s bags and equip your characters.
The top bar is the current character and his equipment. The first two slots are the character’s weapon and armor. These cannot be removed, but can be upgraded at the blacksmith’s. The other four slots is where you place additional items. Currently, I have one of these items I’m able to equip. It’s the one with the snowflake icon.
The big area in the middle is the party inventory. Characters do not have separate inventories, so you do sometimes run out of room.
The first of the three icons at the bottom is used to sell an item. If you’re not in a city, you instead get an icon to drop the item. The second icon takes you to this character’s character sheet and back. The third icon gives you the option to use consumable items.
The options menu isn’t really game related, and should be self explanatory.
The button to Save and Quit the game is redundant- the game constantly auto-saves so leaving it in any other way doesn’t destroy progress. The only time you lose progress is if you exit the game during a battle, in which case you wouldn’t be able to save anyway and you start at the moment before the fight.
The blacksmith can upgrade any character’s weapon and armor, for a price. The thing is, there’s a good chance the upgrade will fail and your gold will be wasted. The chance of success is displayed at the top part of the screen.
In order to boost the chance of success and to unlock higher upgrade levels, you need to upgrade the blacksmith first, by giving him the very descriptively named grindstones. Grindstones can be mined in caves, or bought at the shop for 25 gold each.
You don’t do a lot of upgrades throughout the game really. I’ve completed the game with most of my characters having the level 2 or 3 upgrades on them.
At the inn, you can drop off your characters or add new one. If you drop off a character and click on the empty slot, you can create a new character as well.
For the cheap price of 50 gold, you can also reset any character’s skill points – very useful if you like to experiment.
There are two more options on the main screen.
The global shop
The global shop gives the option to buy drinks and snacks for gold, which provides temporary bonuses for the party, such as increased gold, or skill duration, or a lot of other things.
It also gives the option to purchase permanent upgrades to the game room, such as special loaded dice, a different dungeon master, wallpapers, table, rug, etc. All of these make the party stronger, or at least differently strong in one way or another.
More importantly, all of these upgrades also work across campaigns, so once you do buy the permanent stuff, it stays with you forever.
The in-app purchases menu
Yes, this game does have in-app purchases, as a lot of mobile games do.
The good thing about it is that I can for the first time, with full confidence say that it was just an afterthought. You can buy gold for real money, but at no point in the game did I feel like I didn’t have enough gold or like I have to buy it.
In fact, considering the speed at which you can collect gold, and the fact that collecting it the proper way – through fighting, also gives you experience, I see no reason to ever buy it, ever.
I had to mention the in-app purchases menu for the sake of completeness, but I don’t really consider it a part of Knights of Pen and Paper. It’s just something that was added for the hell of it.
Playing through a quest
The best way to show what Knights of Pen and Paper actually is is to play through one of the game’s many quests.
We start by selecting it from the quest menu. Our job is to slay Bats, which are level 2 monsters. You can see this quest at the screenshot above.
We need to go to the Den of Devil, east of the village, and slay those bats.
We go to the world map and select the location we need to get to. Luckily, we didn’t get attacked on the way there. We did, however, spend money. Traveling takes time and gold – two gold in this case.
We’re in a hostile location now, so there’s no bed icon. It was replaced with the tent, indicating we might get attacked if we rest.
Clicking on the quest icon gives us our objective and the option to fight monsters.
We only need to kill 6 bats, but since we’re strong enough, we decide to fight 7. The battle starts and it’s the first turn.
Our shaman goes first, but only after four of the bats already acted. His job is to increase the Magic attribute of all other characters and restore their MP, both of which is done with the same ability – Static Field. His other useful ability is Hurricane, which damages all enemies, and then does additional damage the next turn.
We cast Static Field and target our Hipster Mage. The ability also affects adjacent enemies, so it hits the Bard and the Shaman as well. The shaman will keep on using Static Field throughout the battle.
Next up is the Mage. His job is to keep casting Meteor. This ability hits all of the monsters for a very nice amount of damage.
In fact, the damage is so nice, all of the bats die instantly.
In a slightly longer battle, you’d see the paladin alternating between Leader Strike and Holy Shield to take on and absorb more enemy hits. The bard would cast Dissonance to also damage all enemies, or possibly Harmonic Movement to heal the entire party at once, in case the enemy uses a lot of multi-target attacks. The Cleric would use Weakening to reduce incoming damage and sometimes Restoration (a strong single-target heal) if needed or Smite (a damaging attack with self-healing) if there’s time for it.
The fight is over, but the quest is not. There’s more to it, and it happens when we click the quest icon again.
This time, the paladin acts first, so we use Leader Strike on the big bat in the middle. Since his threat is high, the monsters focus on attacking the paladin now, making everyone else safer, and potential healing easier.
Next up is the shaman, who casts Static Filed again, followed by the bard and his Dissonance, which kills two of the weaker bats.
Next up, the cleric casts Smite, but it’s still not enough. We don’t want to waste MP, so the Mage casts Fireball instead of Meteor. This kills the bat king, finally, and completes the objectives for the quest.
The last thing to do is to get back to Default Village and get the reward, again, by clicking on the quest icon.
The experience from the battle and for completing the quest is enough for 4 of our characters to get a level and reach level 7. The paladin was already there, due to the 30% passive bonus his player adds to the table.
Leveling up increases the base stats and gives an extra point to invest into any ability. I already decided upon a build, so the Mage gets another point into Meteor, the Bard goes with Dissonance, the Cleric with Weakening and the Shaman with Static Field.
The next quest has a traveling objective – we need to get to Sunset Castle, to the north. This is a simple objective that serves to push us further along, but it still gives experience and gold for completing it.
Sunset Castle has a blacksmith and an inn, and it opens up a lot of other traveling and questing options, but there’s no need to go further than this. I think I’ve show most of what Knights of Pen and Paper is about already.
So is it a fun game?
Yes, for the most part.
Time to focus on the very small amount of not so good things about Knights of Pen and Paper, I’m afraid.
Parts of it are tedious and seem pointless.
There are escort quests where you go to some distant location and get attack between each node on the map. In theory, that could work, except the monsters are regular monsters that appear on those nodes, meaning you just waste time killing monsters that can’t hurt you and don’t reward you with any useful amount of experience or gold.
Also, the game is all about the meta. It basically abuses references to everything that was hip at the time of release, or it falls back to nostalgia when it doesn’t do the first thing.
That’s cool, but we quickly reach a point of over-saturation.
Ignoring that, though, and it is relatively easy to ignore, it’s a fun and simple RPG with a good amount of replayability.
Your global shop upgrades transfer between games, as does your gold. Any class and player unlocks are also available in new games, and you can start a New Game+ with your old party, leaving there stats, but resetting the story.
The game also tracks time in the form of in-game days, so you can compete against yourself on how long it takes to complete, which can be interesting for some.
There aren’t many, but I did notice somethings, so I’m listing them here for the heck of it…
Put your tank way to the left, or way to the right. Why? Because some enemies use abilities that also hit characters to the left and to the right of the target. Since the tank is the one being hit most often, placing him to the side means you avoid one third of the damage for such an attack.
Stuff you buy in the shop, as well as any gold you accumulate works across all of your campaigns, so it certainly isn’t a waste of gold to buy something, nor a waste of time to collect gold.
Out of MP? Use a Shaman. His Static Field doesn’t just increase Magic. It also recharges MP for the same amount.