Thursday, May 31

Review: Knights of Pen and Paper [Nintendo Switch eShop]

As the Switch has rolled along and its library has grown variety of choice has continued to improve. Rather than be focused on whether certain genres are represented we’ve now shifted into a space where you can find some nice variations in flavors within them. When it comes to turn-based RPGs the majority of them have been on the more traditional end of the spectrum, but Knights of Pen and Paper is looking to bust that up a bit. With a pretty lightweight battle system, a sense of humor, and a load of pop culture references hidden throughout it has its charms and should have an audience who’ll find it fun.

Starting out on your quest you’ll need to begin by choosing the members of your party, and this is where it almost immediately does things a bit differently. Each character will need to have their archetype (jock, nerd, pizza guy, etc) and class assigned, with each archetype not only defining what buff or affinity for certain classes they have but also the sort of comments they’ll make as you make your way through the game. As you progress you’ll have an opportunity to fill all 5 seats at your gaming table and don’t worry, if you have someone who isn’t quite working for you there’s an option to drop them off at the pub to free up a spot for someone else. As you progress you’ll not only have choices for managing your party but also the environment you play in by buying furniture and even the dungeon master as well.

Of course, in order to make those improvements you’ll need to get out there and quest so you can earn gold. Moving from location to location you’ll have a variety of question choices presented to you, each with a rough indication of the appropriate character level. Combat isn’t terribly complex, you’ll have simple attacks as well as specials that consume some of your character’s mana. With each new level you’ll have an option to throw a point into one of up to 4 different spells or standing buffs, you’ll most likely want to concentrate on one or two in order to keep them from all being weak though. Once you’ve chosen your quest you may stay put, or it may require moving to another location, with a 20-sided dice roll determining whether you may be ambushed along the way. In general you’ll start out fighting the customary rats and bats but will slowly progress into battling with more interesting foes… like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It seems the dungeon masters in the game have a weakness for the pop culture of the 80s and 90s so if you grew up in those eras there’s a fair amount of fan service tapped to help elevate the fun.

For the most part it’s this sense of fun and discovery that is meant to prop the game up, since having gone a less traditional route there’s not a compelling overarching story, your characters are intentionally simple and lack story arcs, and the combat system is pretty bare bones. What helps drive you is the desire to try out some of the fun choices for changing things up, find out what weird things you may be fighting next, and to explore new places to see what surprises there may be. That said, if this lighter style and lack of a meaty story aren’t what you typically would look for, or if the pop culture references don’t connect for you, what’s left is a pretty bare bones RPG experience beneath it all so it is vital you’re sure this is an experience for you.

Score: 7

  • A consistent sense of humor between commentary from your party members and dialogue tied to some of the quests
  • Your party is malleable so you’re free to experiment pretty easily
  • Pop culture references and silliness help hook you to see what happens next

  • A lack of a compelling story or character development makes it hard to really connect with
  • If the pop culture references go over your head it immediately loses steam
  • Ultimately a pretty bare bones experience beneath it all so either the humor or pop culture aspects likely need to work for you to make it worthwhile