Despite starting life as mobile titles, the Knights of Pen and Paper series is definitely a success in console form. Stripping away in-game purchases has opened up these wonderful RPGs, and despite a few shortcomings, they serve as beautiful pixellated call backs to tabletop gaming; all whilst being solid adventures in their own right. If you’ve ever been interested in the board gaming world, then Knights is a fantastic light introduction, and there’s never been a better place (or time) to start your adventure in this fast growing medium.
If you’ve ever played a round of Dungeons and Dragons then you’ll know how this is going to go down. Your Dungeon Master has sent you and your fellow adventurers on a string of quests that usually involve grabbing loot and slaying monsters. While quests are loosely planned, you can go about them any way you please. For example, if you’re tasked with taking out a group of Invisible Men, you can pick to take on anywhere up to seven at a time, depending how brave you’re feeling. Of course the bigger the bet, the higher the reward, so if you want to reap the best loot, you’ll want to go all in.
A simple map shows various locations for you to traverse, with each location offering quests and usually spots to buy goods and upgrade your gear. Gold is the currency of choice and it’s used for pretty much everything; resurrecting your fallen heroes and purchasing new characters. You pay to travel to different locations too, so keeping an eye on your income is paramount. Luckily gold is easier to come by when compared to Knights mobile counterpart, removing the pay to win element that the latter demonstrated.
Turn based battles take up much of your time, with the order you fight randomly dished out between you and your foes. Obviously if you feel intimidated you can roll to escape, but doing so and failing puts you at the mercy of your enemies. Of course, stats play a big part in both character development and enemy rankings, so knowing your HP from your MP is a necessity, but while it’s an entirely competent system it’s never intimidating or too complex for newbies to the genre to understand.
You can flesh out your roster with trinkets and equipment to give you an edge, as well as being able to decorate your room with all sorts of eighties memorabilia which allows you to personalise your adventure, as well as boost your parties stats. New table tops, dungeon masters and game room must-haves such as arcade machines and movie posters are all available to purchase with in-game currency.
The titles do a good job of putting you in charge of your character development, so you can live out your fantasies as a hipster cleric or even a jock warrior. Each character (and race in Knights 2) gives you different attributes and abilities that can be unlocked and levelled up as you progress through the game. There’s a decent amount of variation between the different characters, and you can tailor your team to suit you and some of the DLC heroes that come in this complete package boast some really interest abilities that are genuinely fun to play around with.
But while your characters have a great selection of spells and powers enemy attacks are less interesting and there isn’t much variation between bad guys abilities. It doesn’t really matter whether your fighting a giant Dragon or an army of rats, the attacks usually just leave you with less HP and occasionally a negative status effect that clears off at the end of a battle. It would have been nice if more of the enemies would have received the same fleshing out that your characters have, perhaps with more spells and attack animations of their own. That being said the variation in creature design is fantastic and keeps to the games genuinely funny riffs on popular culture. There’s classic D&D-esc ghouls and goblins in abundance but the likes of very familiar looking ninja turtles and other budget knock offs are the most fun to fight, and its hard to stay frustrated for long at a game so intent on having fun at its own expense.
There’s obviously an element of luck involved with dice rolls dictating the outcome of certain situations, although an element of skill still remains with tactical decision making. It can sometimes be aggravating when attempting to escape a situation to have to keep rolling to leave a fight, especially as you’re thrown into the deep end quite quickly and find yourself fighting much higher level bad guys than you‘ve had time to prepare for. This for me is where my biggest gripe with both titles rears its ugly head; quests are just too similar. It doesn’t matter if you’re escorting a stranger, clearing a dungeon or completing a fetch quest, it all leads to the same outcome, and because it can be so hard to complete story missions you’re left to grind against low-level bad guys until you’ve reached a point you can continue. It’s also hard to build up a decent amount of gold to purchase new equipment and stuff for your room when you have to keep reviving characters because the game pits you against ridiculously strong enemies at inappropriate times.
Thankfully the titles have survived the jump from small screen to console and it looks great in both handheld mode as well as docked. A sumptuous colour palette makes the pixelated adventure a genuine pleasure to look at and fantastic character design keeps encounters fresh and engaging. Knights 2 in particular is aplomb with whimsy, a charming callback to gaming past with gorgeous backgrounds and great variation between enemies.
But while it’s great to have the complete experience bundled together there’s an argument that you only really need one of the titles. Apart from being aesthetically the superior, Knights 2 isn’t as challenging nor as satisfying as its predecessor. That being said as far as getting bang for your buck goes the package is absolutely worth it. All DLC including new characters and quests are included giving you a bounty of entertainment which warrants paying the Switch Tax if you want the complete package. The mobile versions muddy the water with in-app purchases and dastardly adverts that hinder progression and overall quality and this is something the console release completely avoids. That being said both games are very similar and your better playing in short bursts to dispel any repetition.
The Knights of Pen and Paper and its sequel are both solid RPGs but for me the main victory is that they serve as a love letter to tabletop gaming; a once dying genre that in recent years has made an exciting revival. The riffing on popular culture doesn’t squander this addictive RPG but repetitive missions and an emphasis on grinding take the shine off an otherwise solid adventure. If you want a taste of The Knights of Pen and Paper then you’ll find plenty of entertainment in the first title, but for those looking for almost endless tabletop adventures then this is the package for you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Knights of Pen and Paper Bundle Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
A beautiful love letter to both tabletop gaming and old school RPGs alike with enough content to keep you looting for days.