by Tom Mackey
previewed on PC
One Table to Rule Them All
Like its predecessor, Knights of Pen and Paper 2 is an interesting concept that is built around some classic RPG/turn based mechanics. It essentially takes the setting of a group of friends playing something reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragons and turns it into a video game. I hear you think "many games have been based on Dungeons & Dragons style board games", which is true, but not all of them link themselves so ‘practically’ to their real world setting.
Knights of Pen and Paper 2 actually places a table at the centre of the screen and never gets rid of it. You take the role of the game's players who sit facing the ‘game master’ on the opposite side of the table. You choose your starting character's race, class and appearance, each of which grants different attributes. Next you roll the dice and ask the game master to perform different actions. As you progress you gain experience points that can be used to level up your character's abilities which are, of course, dependent on your class. You also earn gold from various in-game actions such as battles and exploring the environment.
Once you’ve earned enough gold you have the option of adding a new player to your side of the table, up to a total of five. If adding new players isn't the route you want to go down straight away you can also spend your gold on various upgrades, consumables and crafting materials. These don’t grant you massive improvements right away though. They will cost you a fair bit before they seem worthwhile and you will need to strike a balance between team building and focusing on upgrades.
The actual combat of Knights of Pen and Paper 2, which is what you will spend the majority of your time doing, can be pretty satisfying. Battling is turn-based and starts off relatively easy, with the combination of low-level enemies and fairly generous xp resulting in some quite one sided battles. Still, the variety of powers and attacks that are available to each race and class keep things entertaining enough until the level of challenge starts to rise. There’s a decent mixture of enemies to face off against, with the game utilising some classic RPG enemy types as well as some novel mash-ups.
Tongue in Cheek
What really keeps things interesting is the unique setting of the game. I’ve already touched upon how you will spend your time looking at the table at which the game is being played. Clearly aware that watching a table is boring, the developers added a neat visual element. As you travel across the map on the roll of a dice, the game master describes your new environment which then appears around the table. This leads to some truly weird and wonderful settings for the table to appear in. From spooky forests to caves and dungeons, Knights of Pen and Paper 2 takes you to all of the classic fantasy environments. The retro art style and design of these environments and characters adds a real charm to the atmosphere and fits well with the tongue in cheek nature of the story and dialogue. This is also where the self-aware tone really shines through. As you progress through the main quest line there is a constant back and forth between the players and the game master. The dialogue here is full of a confident sarcasm which pulls no punches when it comes to poking fun at its own genre. Some of the humour may fall a little flat or become tiresome if you aren't one for RPG’s or turn-based strategy, but if you are there’s plenty to keep you entertained.
Much of that humour is also contained within the optional side quests of which there are a fair few. These serve to boost your experience and gold and from my time with the game I’m sure I would have found the end game far harder had I not branched away from the main campaign. As far as the central quest line is concerned, the beginning already looks quite promising but the later stages could still use additional focus to really bring it together as it tails off a little.
A good sign
An epic fantasy is clearly not what Knights of Pen and Paper 2 is supposed to be though and as a simple RPG to jump in and out of it works particularly well. I still find myself with the urge to jump back in for a few random battles here and there, or to try out a few different class combinations. That's a good sign that this will be a fun little RPG that does what it says on the tin with a little bit of charm thrown into the mix. You won’t find an adventure of epic proportions but it is more about poking fun at those than trying to be one itself. Knights of Pen and Paper 2 is shaping up to be a solid upgrade on the original.