Atomp Reviews: Knights of Pen and Paper [Behold Studios]

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Tom Hooper aka Atomp

Knights of Pen and Paper (KoPaP) sees me move ever slightly towards, inching closer to, venturing into mobile gaming and, in fact, Android was the first place I played it. A slightly retro take on a fourth wall breaking pen and paper RPG experience, KoPaP blends various game styles together to create a charming and entertaining experience. The concept of a meta element in having the player control a series of players who in turn play out their own fictional characters adds an interesting depth and introduces a huge amount of potential for fourth wall breaking humour.

As I said, I first played the game on Android and then got it for the PC.  As a mobile game it fantastic and is designed in a manner that allows for the drop-in-drop-out gameplay that mobile tends to revolve around. This same feature alters how the game plays on PC, with much of the play transiency elements lending the game a very casual nature compared to even lighter PC titles. This is not to say that it harms the game on PC at all; it’s just played as a sideline or an entertaining time sink during downtime.  Hell it’s the perfect game to throw on an underpowered laptop for playing during a short break.

Gameplay is split between a series of screens, the two most prominent being the battle screen and the map screen. The battle system operates along a Final Fantasy turn-based style with menu navigation. This system lends itself well to the mobile platform and I’d say it also remains very usable on the PC. Character customization is afforded through class choice, standard leveling, weapon and gear leveling and items with modifiers. Seeing as a five person party can contain a wide variety of different classes and different builds of classes, the potential for unique party customization is huge and you’ll quickly find a setup that works for you. The game operates along the lines of traditional RPGs and in that sense you’re not likely to want to deviate too far from the tank-healer-DPS party build, but with these roles performed differently by different classes even that isn’t likely to be hugely restrictive.

The classes each have a handful of abilities which are leveled individually rather than any specific stat leveling.  This takes place through the natural leveling and through the use of items with stat modifiers. From what I’ve seen, the balance is appropriate and whilst I have my particular favourite tactic involving a priest and an AoE damage debuff, this is probably going to become fairly irrelevant as the difficulty climbs. Difficulty itself is managed by areas on the map and fights are actually decided by the player rather than the game. This little shift from the norm allows the player to pick a number of baddies from the various enemies available in their current area and then fight that chosen mix of creatures. I imagine that this was an intentional design decision focused around the drop-in-drop-out requirements of mobile play, as a random system could leave you with a random 5 minute encounter when you’ve only got 3 minutes left to play. Another interesting little modifier, that takes into account the meta element of the game, is the ability to spend in-game currency on objects and decorations for the room in which the pen and paper game is being played.  These items generally offer wide game spanning buffs and add yet another layer to the game.

The story element is present, however not so present that it’s going to deter a drop-in-drop-out player as is the risk with such a game style. The progression is pretty much optional, although you’re generally going to progress the story as you move to new areas to level anyway. The true area where the game shines in its writing is the well fulfilled potential offered by the fourth wall breaking nature of the design. This is humour that is going to be appreciated by those interested or immersed in the culture of gaming as there are jabs at common game tropes as well as a self-aware ability to not take itself too seriously. I’d describe this as a fun yet muted humour, not spewing humour as readily as the likes of Saints Row 3-4, but still managing to get a chuckle or sly smile at some of the dialogue.

In terms of compatibility, the game has things pretty much sorted and is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS. The platform adaptation has also been done well as the UX works well on all platforms.  The transition to PC also heralded the addition of new content including more quests. This shows a great attitude from the devs in supporting their game and the Steam integration is complete, showing yet further dedication. This has been a win for the publisher, Paradox Interactive. Price wise, the game comes in at £1.99 (approx $3.30) on the Play Store and £7.99 ($13.26) by default on Steam or £1.99 (approx $3.30) on sale at the moment. I’d say that it is easily worth the sale price and maybe worth the retail price on Steam, although I’d say try it on Android first and see how you like it.

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