I’ve been playing a lot of mobile games lately, for a couple of reasons. The big one is that it’s a hugely underappreciated segment of games that’s increasingly the most relevant part of the industry, and the other is that I spend a lot of time away from my computer, and lightweight mobile games are increasingly my go-to.
At the recommendation of a few people, I picked up Knights of Pen and Paper, a turn-based RPG in which you play as a bunch of people sitting around a D&D game with a DM. It does the whole pixel art thing, trying to evoke a classic feel in its characters and monsters. It’s hearkening back to NES-era graphics and gives the vibe that it’s a DM running a game with some rough edges while itself being a polished, solid experience.
It takes a lot to pull off what they’re trying to do, and I think it works really well. The DM sprite narrates quests and adventures to me, and my party is made up of five other characters, all playing particular classes. I get to pick who’s playing, and different people have different special strengths for me to choose– I’ve got the pretty, popular girl who gets discounts at shops, I’ve got the studious, top-of-the-class girl who’s pretty good at everything, I’ve got a guy in a band, I’ve got the pizza guy who dropped in to play a game, and I’ve got an artist girl who’s lucky. Each of these characters is playing a particular class, which I also get to pick– I’ve got the choice of Paladin, Warrior, Cleric, Druid, Rogue, Wizard, and there are other classes I can unlock with quests.
The setup is entirely charming, and the writing is often really funny. I can have random encounters as I travel from place to place, and the DM always sounds vaguely surprised or disappointed when nothing awful happens to me. When I get into an encounter, various players make outraged comments or jokes about cheating. The writing is lighthearted and fun, but still moves things forward. It hits a sweet spot in between telling a coherent story and making nods to the kinds of ad-libbed nonsense that happens in real pen-and-paper games.
Gameplay is split into two pieces– quests and the overworld. In the overworld, I can choose to go shopping, travel around, take on a new quest, swap my party around, rest, etc, all by talking to the DM. When I take a quest, I have to travel to wherever the quest is located and then fight encounters there, which is where things get interesting. First off, I get to pick how challenging the encounter is. I can customize most quest battles to be as easy or hard as I want, selecting appropriate enemies and adding them to the encounter. More challenging encounters are more rewarding, and certain boss fights and random encounters have a set difficulty. Quests will often ask me to fight a certain number of enemies of a particular type, and I can fight them all at once or take them on more slowly, depending on how my health and mana are doing.
Recovering health and mana is done by resting, or through spells. My choice of classes determines what abilities I have to work with, and building a balanced party is important, but the means with which you go about it is entirely up to you– there are a lot of combinations that work, and if you have one that will be strong later but is weak to start, you can still make it work by lowering the difficulty of your encounters early on.
In combat, every character gets a turn, and you can see initiative order (determined semi-randomly, of course), so you can prepare in advance. Each character gets an action, which can be a basic attack or one of their special abilities, which cost mana. The effect is that I feel like I’m playing a D&D party, each person reacting to the situation at hand and lending their unique skills to the group.
After finishing Hero Emblems, I wanted another fun RPG-style game, and Knights of Pen and Paper absolutely fits the bill. It’s definitely worth your time, and I look forward to playing more of it and exploring what it’s got to offer. It’s got a lot of systems that I haven’t really talked about because I don’t know much about them, but suffice it to say you can equip your characters, you have a party inventory, and you can upgrade your gear and abilities as you level up and get more money, all of which change how you play. There’s a ton of optional content and (apparently) a lot of hidden unlocks, so exploring random quests is entirely worthwhile (and levels up your characters!).
I’m enjoying it a lot, hopefully you will too. There’s even a sequel!
Source: Digital Initiative
Tam Suggests: Knights of Pen and Paper