Remember the days when you and all your friends sat around the dining room table on a Saturday night rolling dice with more sides than dates you had ever been on? (Hey, they make hundred-sided die, don’t get all defensive.) Dwell on the memory for a moment and the nostalgia begins to fade away, replaced with memories of crappy DMs, the guy who wanted to kill every NPC, and the girl who would have been kind of cute if she wasn’t so insistent she was actually raised by wolves. Knights of Pen and Paper + 1 Edition solves all those problems by allowing you to experience roleplaying the way it was invented: alone, in a dark room. (It’s a three-sided die for Gary.)
Doing away with the pesky portability of iOS versions, this edition brings its style of referential humor to your living room, giving you the opportunity to create characters and participate in a world that pokes fun at all those other past, successful RPGs. The game does a good job initially of requiring little buy-in, while still giving the opportunity to sink real dollars into the in-game gold currency to speed up things like leveling. But after awhile it becomes evident that if you want to save money, you’re going to have to do a lot of grinding.
The way the gameplay works is that the further along you get down every road (whether that’s the number of player characters at your table, or the number of times you’ve upgraded a weapon or piece of armor) the more coin progress is going to cost you. It’s not too bad at the start of the adventure, when dying doesn’t cost much to recover from and your losses can be recouped in a couple battles. But once you get a few hours into the game, one frustrating feature rears its ugly head: the blacksmith.
Each character has one starting weapon and armor, which can later be upgraded at the cost of gold. The trouble is that the upgrade system relies on an in-game die roll to determine success, which means that theoretically you could be plunking down real-life change for only the possibility of improving your character. If that doesn’t constitute the legal definition of gambling, then in the very least it feels exactly the same.
You can spend an exorbitant amount of time purchasing other, smaller items that pad out your chances by increasing your luck or providing weighted dice, but it’s hard not to feel in those moments that the game is really dragging on. And that’s really a shame too, because apart from what must be the occasional translation hiccup (surely the writers know how to make complete sentences?) the story and the way it’s told is actually quite worthwhile.
Humor in this game abounds, from NPCs whose quests and motivations are clearly “made up on the spot,” to the lampooning of the Wizards of the East Coast (who live on the West side of the map, and are known for mercilessly killing any person who attempts to use any of their creations). Heck, even Mill Burray (that’s right) makes a cameo when fighting ghosts in a swamp, discussing with players exactly how bad total protonic reversal might be.
Knights really has a tremendous amount of charm, and for its ten dollar cost there’s a huge amount of game. It just unfortunately suffers from a pay model that can too easily feel like a huge waste of your time and money. If gold were a little easier to come by then it might not be such an issue, and if we as gamers still lived in the old school days of pointless level grinding endemic to games the pixilated art style is reminiscent of, it might be more bearable then as well. But as it stands, it’s enough to make you seriously consider calling up all those old friends whose quirks were probably what drove you apart in the first place. At least those guys would chip in for pizza every now and then.
SCORE: 6.5 out of 10
A code for Knights of Pen and Paper + 1 Edition was provided to Pixel Related for review.