Feb 27, 2013

[Games] Knights of Pen & Paper (Android)

We always talk about how today's games all reference older games in one way or another. And then you get the games that blatantly reference older games in order to somehow capture that nostalgia factor among longer-term gamers.

Too many game designers mistake that using pixel sprites for art is enough to appeal to the older gaming market. But it goes well beyond that - the core concept of your game has to somehow capture the feeling of that gaming period. Many have managed this by creating platform games that remind many of the likes of original Super Mario games. But for this game, well, the creators tapped into a completely different market entirely.

Knights of Pen & Paper is a role-playing game that aims to capture the classic tabletop gaming feel. It was released by Behold Studios and is available for both iOS and Android. Naturally, I've only played the Android version.

This is a turn-based role-playing game where the player gets to control both the game players and the dungeon master, in a manner of speaking. For the game players, you can control up to five different characters who each have their own innate bonuses (such as reduced blacksmith costs) and can be assigned a particular player type (such as a Paladin). On the dungeon master side, you get to dictate the types of monsters that the players will fight and how many of them will appear. Naturally handling more monsters means potentially more money and experience for your player characters.

The game isn't random encounter after random encounter either. There's actually a central plot that you all get to discover as you accomplish the various quests and this includes actual narration done by the dungeon master. It nicely captures the geek of a tabletop RPG session down to the snide remarks made by the players themselves. And of course most actions are helpfully decided by a 20-sided die (D20) that you "roll" and gets modified by your luck or other stats.

Beyond the combat and the quests and all that good stuff, there's also the "real world" to consider. You can affect the game based on how you decide to decorate the room in which your player characters are gaming including bonuses to critical hits and such. And you can more immediately affect your dungeon master by, well, buying him food. Seriously.

And in this facet, the game truly feels like real life. After all, keeping your dungeon master well fed and hydrated in a game is one of the key strategies in actual tabletop gaming. And this really helps push the gameplay to a new level.

For the most part the game is nicely rewarding as you fight wave after wave of monsters, travel around the virtual world and even challenge other player characters put in your path by the dungeon master. You get to upgrade your items, learn new skills and grind away to your heart's content to continue to level your characters.

The game is immensely fun and the only problem that I have with the game involves how short the core plot is. While allowing you to unlock additional character types throughout the game does provide for some replay value, it still doesn't quite replace the lack of story once you've played through the narrative a few times. I really hope they add additional story arcs to the game to keep things interesting.

Knights of Pen & Paper is definitely one of the more novel games to come along for the mobile market that nicely captures the feel of tabletop gaming while keeping things casual enough to make it easy to leave and return to when you have time. Thus the game rates a healthy 4.5 geeky pop culture references woven into the game out of a possible 5.

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