Knights of Pen & Paper +1 (Mac, PC [previewed])
Developer: Behold Studios
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Released: Q2 2013
Everything that happens in Knights of Pen & Paper +1 takes place around a table, with the dungeon master on one side, and the intrepid heroes on the other. The background, however, is altogether more fantastical, fueled by the power of imagination.
When my party of two, a noble paladin played by a "rocker," and a rogue played by his kid brother, started playing, the living room turned into a dark and dank dungeon, because where else would a D&D game begin?
They were immediately beset by guards, though how many guards was up to me. You see, players don't just control the tabletop group, they also control the dungeon master. During scraps, the inventory may be clicked on, potions make be gulped down, and attacks or special abilities can be employed to dispatch unpleasant foes.
After escaping the dungeon, the adventurers found themselves in "Default Village" -- it may be a bit on the nose, but I confess that I chuckled. From that first area, the whole world can be accessed, though it's obviously not a good idea to go off trekking into the great unknown, with all of its much higher-level monsters.
By selecting the quest icon above the dungeon master, players can choose a variety of missions to throw at the adventurers, from escorting people to caves, finding lost objects, and simple "slay" quests. The slay quests were, appropriately at this level, focused on killing rats and bats. Because screw rodents.
Leveling up provides opportunities for choosing and upgrading four set class abilities, which isn't all that much, admittedly, but as one's group grows, there are more than enough options spread across the different adventurers. I was also able to add a third player, at this point, so I opted for ET, a stand-offish green alien, whom I appropriately made a mage.
Each character comes with their own unique passive perk, and in the alien's case, it made him a stronger spellcaster. I could have also selected a granny, who gets more aggro and thus would make for a splendid tank, or the nerd, who can resurrected for less gold than other characters. Damn nerds, always dying.
The world is filled with both playful mockery and reverence for the subject matter, as well as no small amount of pop culture references. During the presentation, when the Paradox chaps were showing off some of the new features, I couldn't help but notice the pixelated likenesses of The IT Crowd's Moss and Roy plastered on an arcade cabinet.
The +1 edition promises to have new content such as the aforementioned arcade area, and more D&D questing, but the core of the original game appears to be completely intact. Well, a lot more than the core, it's utterly identical at this point. The game even hinted that I should "touch" enemies to attack them, which prompted me to slap the monitor and thoroughly embarrass myself.
Obviously it's still a work in progress, and the build I played was more of a direct port than anything else. The troublesome little micro-transaction button was still sitting on the screen, as well. The mobile version is dirt cheap, and is supported by micro-transactions which nets you more money to spend on junk. Paradox was keeping schtum about pricing and the existence of these extra, optional costs in regards to the PC version.
The money that one can buy or scrounge in-game can be put towards a plethora of items, both for use in the fantasy realm and the real one. New armor and weapons can be commissioned at the blacksmiths, and snacks can be purchased for the role-playing group to enjoy as they play. Obviously this is some transdimensional currency, which doesn't seem particularly out of place.
New dungeon masters and tables can also be splashed out on, so if you want Yoda to run your game while sitting at a primitive stone table, then you can totally do that. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some Paradox crossover stuff here, like a Magicka wizard dungeon master, for instance.
As with the mobile version, Knights of Pen & Paper +1 isn't the sort of game that will swallow up countless hours of your life -- it's a dip in and out sort of experience. Such a title might not be as perfect a fit for static gaming, though I do find myself becoming increasingly partial to simpler fare after sitting at my desk for hours on end reviewing the sorts of consuming titles that are, as they say, my bag.
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