Knights Of Pen & Paper was an extremely addictive meta role-playing game that came out in 2013 that featured retro-inspired graphics and turn-based combat as your RPG party plays through their campaign. The sequel keeps everything that made the first game fantastic, and adds a new layer of polish as well as some new mechanics, but the sequel doesn’t venture much further than that into new territory.
For those who haven’t played the original game, Knights Of Pen & Paper is a very lighthearted take on tabletop gaming and various video/role-playing game tropes. If you are familiar with Final Fantasy-style combat and character development then you will feel right at home here.
You start by creating two characters that draw from your typical John Hughes-style stereotypes. The Jock has high strength, the Surfer has some strength and agility, and the Goth can resurrect for free, among others. You can choose Human, Dwarf Or Elf for each race, and then you pick the classes from the generic pool of RPG-type options: Warrior, Ninja, Thief, Cleric, Paladin, Mage, and Hunter.
This is where things get sticky a bit. The game clearly is encouraging you to max out your characters for the maximum bonuses, with these “logical choice” class/race combos and it shows even further when there are only one or two really solid abilities that help you clear the screen of enemies for each character. Why would you spend your lone skill point when you level on increasing an ability by +6% damage to one enemy, when you can spend that point on an ability that does +2 damage to all enemies in a line and makes them do a tango while you recharge mana?
Ok that was a bit of an exaggeration, but the differences in powers are so obvious, I kept feeling that I was making a wrong choice trying to break out of the ideal build. Then when I had trouble in a dungeon (one of the game’s new features) I realized I really should have put those two points in the better of the choices rather than the “creative” choices I made.
Controls are easy enough and mostly self-explanatory, simply tap one of your characters and select the command you want to have them enact when it is their turn. When it isn’t their turn, watch them get pummeled by the NPC enemies until you can kill them horribly with your spell of “Kill stuff quickly +1” or whatever you chose.
The game isn’t really hard, but I continually got the impression that no matter how much I leveled up, most quests would be very close to my level, so I just kept pushing through the story.
The game does have a learning curve if you are not a turn-based RPG player or don’t really follow the tropes and habits of the tabletop RPG player. For example, you likely won’t chuckle at the enemies that are obsessed with having an older edition rather than the new one if you don’t keep up with D&D or similar games. That means a good part of the humor and references will be lost. I think the first game did a much better job at making the jokes and references broad enough for the casual player.
From friends I have been told the game is very intimidating to people that aren’t familiar with the game’s style, as it really doesn’t have much of a tutorial or way to test the functions before dumping you into the main game. This could be fixed with a “practice mode” that explains WHY you are choosing certain abilities and why you want to upgrade X over Y. Once you get into the equipment, it feels shallow. Tons of gear is available right away and it doesn’t feel like you ever really NEED to upgrade once you have a full set of gear on each of your characters. Crafting is also a thing that just doesn’t hit the mark. It is there, and really is completely optional from what I played. If these features were fleshed out, with tertiary effects or special unique items that took extended questing, I could see them being a massively exciting addition, but for now it seems they are there to check off a features list.
Overall, the game is enjoyable. I like the art style a lot more than the first game, and the new search mechanics that are optional at each location are a nice touch. The game can get grindy (doing the same thing over and over and over) but for some that is a positive as it extends the value of the game beyond the normal story-line.
If the game looks clever to you, I’d say the price tag ($4.99 at time of writing with no ads, but does have optional gold IAP to speed purchases up) give it a shot or at least watch a few gameplay videos on YouTube, as it is a unique enough experience that fits mobile devices just right, even with the skill flaws and occasional tedium.