Knights of Pen & Paper — A Review

The game is full of popular culture references which make it so fun to play

In a bid to hit a decent work/life balance I’ve decided to give myself a couple of hours a week to play video games.

In the past I’ve normally picked up a game and played it sporadically for a few weeks, then not touched it for two months and then completely lost my place and restarted the game only for the same to happen.

However with my new time allocation I seem to have been able to finally get my claws into a game (although not a ‘triple A’ title) and I’ve decided to write a review of said game.

That game is Knights of Pen & Paper for the Nintendo Switch— a video game about playing a tabletop RPG.

Make a nostalgia save — Oof, natural one

When doing certain tasks you’re in control of the number of monsters you spawn

One of the main reasons I picked up Knights of Pen & Paper was the fact that you play a group of people playing a tabletop RPG and this hit me right in the nostalgia feels.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons and while through the years I’ve had various one-off sessions I’ve never really been able to have a full campaign, so any game that offers this is going to appeal to me (On a side note I cannot wait to play Icewind Dale again when it’s released on Switch — that was my game of choice when I was 12).

It’s simple things that the game does that gives you a warm feeling of past RPG adventures such as the rolls associated with whether the group successfully make it through the night in a dungeon without being attacked in their sleep or the fact you have the Dungeon Master from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon as the DM.

The dialog in the game is also full of the type of banter you’d expect from a tabletop RPG playing group which adds to the charm of the game, although I think they could have taken things a step further and had certain players unavailable due to that person being unable to attend the session or grabbing a drink.

Make another nostalgia save of 19 — Sweet 18 + my constitution bonus makes 23

One of the quests has you save a Gizmo like creature who falls overboard and turns into a Gremlin

This may be me but one of things I’m started to get tired of is this 8/16-bit art direction that seems to be slapped on all manner of games these days.

As someone who grew up with a NES and pined for a SNES much to my parents annoyance I should be the prime target for this art & music style but I don’t associate 8/16 bit sprites with tabletop RPGs.

For me, tabletop RPGs are where the artwork is epic and makes the world you’re playing in seem more alive and if there’s been graphical limitations in D&D games such as those in Icewind Dale (due to it being released in 2000) these were countered by pre-rendered videos and lush background imagery.

This ‘epic’ art direction is something that I feel World of Warcraft does really well as when you’re flying from one city to another on the back of a Bat or Wyvern and you look down to see the players below it gives you sense of how epic the scale of the world is.

I’d personally have liked Knights of Pen & Paper to have worked this angle in it’s art direction by having the backgrounds static, the enemies as poorly painted miniatures and the background music be that special kind of MIDI orchestral music you got in late 90s games on the N64.

This is however not to say that the existing sprite work and music in the game is not impressive, there are little in-jokes in all the backgrounds such as a hand poking out of a lava pit clutching a ring or a crab with wads of cash on the beach which has a certain level of charm in itself.

Performance

The game runs pretty well on the Switch in docked mode but I have noticed one issue with when the party sleeps.

When generating the dice roll and responding to button presses to end the resting period the game grinds to a halt, taking a good 5 seconds to respond to you pressing anything all the time playing the same half second loop of crickets chirping.

This lag along with the fact it can take some time for your party to heal when resting results in long sessions on the game becoming tedious, especially when you’re resting a lot due to facing higher level enemies in the higher dungeons.

The important question — Is it worth picking up?

If you’re looking to scratch that RPG playing itch for about 10 hours then I’d highly recommend Knights of Pen & Paper.

While I think they missed an opportunity with the art direction I definitely think they succeeded with the general execution of the idea and I’ve already got Knights of Pen & Paper 2 ready to go now I’ve completed the first one.

The game is available on the Switch for about £14 although I got it in on sale. I believe there’s a bundle of both games also for £20.

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Colin Wren

Colin Wren

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Currently building reciprocal.dev. Interested in building shared understanding, Automated Testing, Dev practises, Metal, Chiptune. All views my own.