Published on November 16th, 2012 | by Meg Stivison2
Knights of Pen and Paper Review
A Game with a Hilarious and Engaging Story Takes a Hit for its Bugs
Knights of Pen & Paper, from indie Behold Studios, simulates a D&D tabletop campaign, in which players encounter campy tabletop monsters and running dramatic rescues. From the beginning, the game tells a hilarious and engaging story. Players first select their players, blending a collection of personalities like Little Brother, pink-haired Flowers, a Hipster, and an Extraterrestrial with individual special powers and the usual character classes.
Players — that’s you, not the eight-bit Hipster Mage and Little Brother Warrior party members — then determine the campaign’s plot and plan battles for the players. Knights of Pen & Paper presents two interlocking and participatory narratives, with a campy fantasy adventure and a nerd gaming session.
Throughout the game, layered narratives and layered motivations keep players engaged. At any time, you’re working to complete your current mission, whether that’s rescuing a prisoner or gathering blood gems. Acting as the DM, you choose the difficulty and the storyline for this mission. Then, as one of the players, you work to earn money, resources and experience, in order to improve the player party. You’re motivated to plan battles at the top of your players’ abilities, because as a DM, you want to give your players the best game possible, and as a player, you want to spend the least amount of time clobbering rats so you can move on and explore a delightful, engaging work of fantasy kingdom clichés and tabletop jokes. This is a perfect blend of small story arcs and long-term goals, reminiscent of a really good comic series or TV serial, and it’s equally hard to put down.
The actual text, unfortunately, feels like a first draft. There are snappy lines and references to a developed overall game world, but there are also subject-verb disagreements, confusion between singular and plural, and some really awkward phrasing. The developer, Behold Studio, is based inBrazil, so I imagine these are just translation errors. Still, Knights of Pen & Paper has so much hilarious story and so much clever dialogue, it would only be improved by a little proofreading.
Player characters have the standard health and mana stats, which can be recharged by sleeping or using a magical item. Combat is balanced and quite clear. Players have basic attacks, and then special abilities based on class. Players level with experience points, and can add more attacks to their repertoire at higher levels. Attacks are retro eight-bit animations, and combat offers all the strategic fun of balancing the cost and benefit of spending mana on an impressive meteor strike. It’s like a great D&D battle without waiting for that one friend who always takes forever to decide on his turn or gets in arguments about the line-of-sight. Controls are quite clear: players can attack, use special abilities, hide, or even retreat from combat with the chicken icon. My only nitpick is that sometimes there is no visual clue as to which enemy NPC is suffering from an ongoing effect, a small complaint in an otherwise smooth system.
The bugs in this game are showstoppers, even to someone who plays a lot of indie games and isn’t usually bothered by a screen freeze or two. The game froze and crashed frequently. Attempting to go to the shop shut down and rebooted my phone three times. Three times! After the third time, I figured that hey, there’s probably nothing I really need to buy, right? I wasn’t able to install the game on my tablet, and while I was playing it on my phone, I discovered I was unable to get phone calls. Your experience may vary, of course, but a quick Google of this game turns up players encountering similar bugs on different Android devices.
Knights of Pen & Paper is a charming and engaging story, with clear and solid combat and nostalgic eight-bit art. Once Behold Studios pushes an update with fixes to the game-breaking issues, this game will be hard to put down.
Is it Hardcore?
Summary: Showstopping crash bugs detract from all the praise I have for this delightful, campy fantasy quest with solid combat mechanics and story arcs.