You’re in a room. In this room is a table and six chairs, one on the opposite side of the table facing the others. Upon the table you notice some sheets of paper. Examining closer you notice that the title on the paper states it is a preview of the incoming meta-RPG Knights of Pen and Paper + 1. Do you wish to sit on the chair and read further?
Using your reader’s + 3 memory power, you recall seeing a game of the same name released on mobile platforms the previous year. You remember that that it was a fairly inventive spin on the classic Dungeons and Dragons adventure style filled with wonderfully retro pixelated graphics, where your avatar is in fact all the players pretending to be heroes as well as the crafty Dungeon Master at the same time. Your mind boggles at the meta-ness of it all and you suffer a -1 confusion penalty.
Reading yet further into the preview you discover that this ‘+ 1’ release of Knights of Pen and Paper contains lots of new content as well as being available on PC for the first time. The production house Paradox Interactive have got behind the original team at Behold Studios to add some of their magic to it.
You cannot remember the specific gameplay of the original mobile game so you summon a wisp into the room who explains all. Translating its strange wispy beepings, you learn that Knights of Pen and Paper is a cunning parody of all the elements of tabletop roleplaying filled with fantasy (and many other niche genre) references, each bringing a wry smile to the face as you play along. You may play as up to five heroes (each extra costing exponentially more gold to enlist), sadly not in a multiplayer way, who gather around the onscreen table with the Dungeon Master sitting opposite. These elements remain static while the room around changes according to the location your characters are in within the game. The confusion penalty you are suffering causes you to be completely bamboozled by the words of the wisp.
Finally you calm down and the wisp regales with you stories of how, for example, when you play as the Granma character you get a loudness bonus which adds + 2 to your threat level, or taking the Jock character gives you + 1 attack. Each character type must also select a class that contain all the typical fantasy roleplaying archetypes. You laugh at its Americanism despite, as you recall, the team at Behold Interactive being from Brazil. The wisp fizzles out of existence.
Suddenly a creepy imp appears in the corner of the room and pokes you with his puny sword. You suffer one damage, but will live to finish the preview. You retaliate in a traditional turn based manner that reminds you of the early Final Fantasy games or Pokemon. Coincidentally the preview states that fighting in Knights of Pen and Paper is of a similar style: incredibly basic, with simple commands such as attack, defend or use one of the class’ abilities. You are not blown away by the originality of this format, however you feel that as a tribute to classic RPGs it makes sense. The imp dies.
Skim reading quickly through the preview, for fear of another attack, you discover that the most interesting and perhaps confusing part of Knights of Pen and Paper is that, since you control the Dungeon Master, you are in complete command of your destiny. You choose where to head, what to fight and which quests to valiantly embark upon. In your mind this system seems rather odd, as it means you can choose to always fight simple battles and easily win. Yet at the same time, the preview warns, taking this route means your adventurers will gain very little experience and little gold will be collected.
Your mouth begins to drool at the mention of gold and you skip through the preview to the section that mentions more about the economics of Knights of Pen and Paper. Salivating further you discover that gold is the most vital resource in the game which is dropped after killing monsters and given for completing quests. Gold has many uses and can be spent on not just items within the game but also on upgrades to your roleplaying station, such as a new table or a better looking Dungeon Master. Rather ingeniously these upgrades have an in-game effect on your players (you recall the time you spent your hard earned gold on a snooker table, giving you bizarrely a + 5 to your lifesteal ability). You begin to feel woozy with confusion again, but fortunately you pass a roll check against your comprehension score.
However your saliva turns bitter when you discover that there is a system of microtransactions involved in the shop, where in-game gold can be bought with money from the real world. You get even more confused that the real world is not the world with the players playing a Dungeons and Dragons style game but one beyond that. Gold can however be earned naturally in-game if the player chooses to grind continually.
You hear a noise coming from the corner of the room. Looking up you notice a small set of speakers blurting out some crazy pixel tunes and remember the preview mentioning this. You do a little dance and gain a +1 groovy bonus. Another imp spawns in the room and tries to stab you. You do a groovy dodge and dispatch him with ease. However now the music is stuck in your head and you realise that its incessant repetition is actually harming your mind. You feel sick and scream for it to stop. Despite suffering from a -7 delirious penalty, you manage to raise your mighty hand of justice and hit the mute button.
Now silent you realise that there are barely a few lines left on the preview, you sit down and concentrate so as to fully understand what the pages impart. Knights of Pen and Paper + 1, contains many new features including a tavern where you can swap your in-game heroes around, a quick travel button and a daring NG+ mode. You remember that many people complained that the original was rather easy and you smile in hope that this new mode may remedy that.
It is quite clear that this preview thinks that Knights of Pen and Paper + 1 could be a fun little time waster for those that enjoy the slog of an RPG, but also wish for an ample filling of humour. It clearly does not have the depth of many other stalwarts of the genre, but then it never pretends to. This does raise some issues for the more hardcore PC audience and you begin to wonder whether it can really impress those who are used to the likes of Final Fantasy or Skyrim. Indeed the game as a whole, at least in the current build that the writer experienced, seems to be a rather clunky port to PC with strange mentions of ‘tapping on buttons’ and no shortcut keys or controls tailored to mouse and keyboard. You raise a suspicious eyebrow and hope that the final build will feel more at home on the PC.
Hearing a cackle from behind, you spin around to see a most frightening harpy has flown in through an open window. You reel at her disturbingly wrinkled skin and fetid breath. Her mutated beaked mouth opens and you prepare to defend yourself. Instead however words are formed, she seems to be speaking. “You will have to wait until the release of Knights of Pen and Paper + 1 in summer and subsequent review to learn more”. You are shocked by her impressive grasp of the English language and relax slightly. Suddenly the harpy launches a devastating + 9 pecking attack. Nothing in the preview could have prepared you for such an onslaught. You die horribly. Do you wish to pay gold to resurrect yourself?
You are out of gold.