Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Speculative Spotlight: Knights of Pen & Paper

Welcome to another installment of the Speculative Spotlight, in which I scour the multiverse for hefty chunks of speculative fiction awesomeness. This month, the spotlight falls on a charming mobile game called Knights of Pen & Paper.


What Is It?


Knights of Pen & Paper comes from Brazilian developer Behold Studios, and it's garnered a lot of attention for a small indie game in the crowded mobile space. Upon its release in October last year, the game found its way into the hands of the popular gaming press, earning a few prominent feature articles. From there word of mouth propelled it toward success and acclaim, earning a nomination for the "Student Showcase" award at the 2013 Independent Games Festival awards.

Essentially, Knights of Pen & Paper is a roleplaying game about playing roleplaying games. Rather than imagining that you're a mighty warrior saving the world, this game asks you to imagine that you're part of a group of tabletop gamers pretending they are mighty warriors saving the world. Very meta, yes? You control both the party and the dungeon master as the game progresses, and you get to watch as the humble living room they've gathered in comes to life around them, transforming to reflect the imaginary creatures and quests from their game, most of which are pulled straight out of the classic fantasy tropes at play in books and RPGs. If you're anything like me, you're already sold. If not, read on.

What's So Awesome About It?


This game is made of pure nostalgia. But unlike other retro games that aim to rekindle fond memories of your gaming past, Knights of Pen & Paper manages to hit you from two angles at once. It does a great job conveying the atmosphere of a group of friends nerding out around a tabletop, while also capturing the look and feel of a classic console RPG. At every turn, the game hits you with awesome chiptunes and pixel art straight out of the 8-bit era. If someone had showed me footage of this game and told me it was running on an old NES, I probably would have believed them. More than anything, the epic battles that you lead your party of adventurers through hark back to games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior.

Speaking of those battles, if you're an old-school RPG fan, the gameplay itself will hit your nostalgia buttons as well. The battle sequences are turn-based affairs, with your party gaining experience points as you progress through the game, allowing you to increase the attributes of each character as they level up and grow more powerful. There's a huge world map to explore, towns and castles to visit, multistage quests to follow, and item vendors to spend your loot on. In the middle of all this goodness, you also get surprisingly clever writing, with little nods to gamers and fantasy fans sprinkled throughout.

And while you're managing the armor and inventory of your party's characters, you can also upgrade various aspects of the "real world" side of the game. For instance, you can buy accessories and eye candy for your gaming table, or even a brand new table altogether. You can also keep your party members well fed with snacks and beverages. Don't like your dungeon master? Hire a new one that looks like Yoda! And these items aren't just ornamental; they come with all kinds of effects and buffers that will boost your dungeon-clearing abilities in the game.

As of right now, I'd say that Knights of Pen & Paper is easily my favorite mobile game. If it sounds like your cup of tea as well, you can grab it in the Apple app store for iOS devices or on Google Play for Android devices. If you're not a fan of playing games on your tablet or phone, don't worry. Behold Studios recently announced they're working on a "+1" edition of the game for Windows, Mac, and Linux that will be here soon.

10 comments:

  1. Neat. I met a game developer at the Houston Indie Book Fest who is looking for authors to write stories about his characters. Interesting overlap.

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    1. Doesn't surprise me! There's a lot of overlap between the game industry and the publishing industry, from the top to the bottom.

      Thanks for reading, luciesmoker!

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  2. Funny! An RPG inside an RPG.
    Sad to say I am an old time gamer. I go all the way back to Pong.

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    1. Nothing sad about that, Alex. Pong was a hell of a game. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. What a crazy idea, to play a gamer that plays a game. :D

    I'm not a fan of fantasy games (except for God of War, if that even fits the definition). I prefer third person adventure games, but I can definitely see the fascination with interactive fantasy settings.

    Have fun playing!

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  4. An RPG about an RPG? How can that NOT be fun? I'm a huge fan of mobile games. I'm almost sad to find a game I love that I can't get a mobile equivalent of. If I'm on my computer I feel like I should be writing. Playing mobile games is a much deserved break!

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    1. Mobile games definitely have their appeal, though it can be tough to wade through the sheer volume of them to find the good ones. This is one of those diamonds in the rough!

      Thanks for the comment, Krystal!

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  5. I am a SUPER geek when it comes to old turn-based rpgs. When I have my pc I must have downloaded every old school rom I could find and played them out every weekend (soft spot for Chrono Trigger) I will def. be on the lookout for this. Thanks for passing it along!!

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    1. I'm with you on that front, Randi, and the more retro the better. In fact, for some reason when it comes to modern games, I lean more toward real-time, Western-style RPGs now. I'm not a fan of modern JRPGs. But throw some retro pixel-art and chiptunes on that thing and I'm game. Give me old-school!

      Thanks for reading, Randi!

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Thanks for reading!