A string of midi beeps greets me as I start up Knights of Pen & Paper. The simplistic sounds remind me of just how far not only graphics but also audio has evolved over the years. It seemed like such a short time ago that midi was the standard for music in games but if compared to audio tracks found in games today, it seems downright barbaric. Barbaric it may be, the midi music would prove to fit Knights of Pen & Paper perfectly, as I was about to embark on a long, fun filled trip through memory lane.
Knights of Pen & Paper is a creative take on the Role-Playing genre. For decades, the gaming industry has sought to reinvent the offline pen & paper Role-Playing experience as a digital one and now Knights of Pen & Paper turns the table around, attempting to do the complete opposite.
A dungeon master sitting on the other side of a large table in a rather mundane looking room welcomes you to the game. Before you can start, you need to create a party so you click on one of the five chairs on your side of the table to find an assortment of odd looking people (and one dog) who are willing to join up. As you select the first members of your party and assign them a class, you will notice that once a class is assigned, it is no longer available to the others. It seems a somewhat unintuitive choice that the developers made there, but one I learned to appreciate later on.
Then the room changes on you and you find yourself in the middle of a fantasy setting rather than someone’s living room. Yet... something weird is going on. Your party is still sitting at the table and the dungeon master is still sitting on the opposite side. You get the sense that new worlds are being draped around you, rather than you leaving one and entering another. It is a difficult to explain sensation but once you realize what is going on, you see the brilliant creativity that lies behind this choice. You really feel like you are part of a group of regular Joe’s that have gathered at someone’s home for a night of pen & paper role-playing, guided by a dungeon master that is so gifted that your group becomes immersed enough to actually be able to picture the scenery that he describes. All that is missing is the pizza and beer!
The midi music and pixilated art only serve to strengthen this feeling. You are back in the 80’s, or there for the first time for that matter, and your imagination is being triggered to fill in blanks that in any other game would have been filled in for you by a state of the art graphics engine. The game only gives the outlines of the setting that your party is in, your mind does the rest.
Old-school fun all around
Buying in-game gold for real money in what is advertised as a "full game" feels wrong