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terça-feira, 28 de janeiro de 2014

Knights of Pen and Paper

Not so many years ago, “play RPG” meant a bunch of friends, who liked to pretend to be other people, getting together to live adventures in imaginary worlds.

Ignoring the fact it may sound like crazy talk, in these games, from the all the descriptions, the wit, and comedy talent of the involved, a unique and interactive story could always happen.

One of the friends assumed the role of the Master and it was up to him to control the world and give the main direction of the story, describing what was happening to lead the directions of the other players to an adventure, planned or not. The other players assumed the roles of warriors, wizards, androids, spirits, dwarfs, thieves and many others, depending of the universe of the game.

If the heroes had to save a princess and to do that they had to fight, let’s say, ahn... a dragon, and the Master had said that the terrible lizardian beast was attacking one of them, the combination of a value drawn from the dices throw by the Master and the player being attacked, plus the particular characteristics of the character attacked and the dragon, would define if the attack was perfect, or just good, or maybe completely missed.

When games to computer and video games systems came to be, this type of game was used as inspiration. The computer replaced the Master. Graphics, sound and, later, CGI movies, replaced the descriptions. The experience was then limited inside a script and only one player had the control of all the heroes, or a single hero, depending of the game. Even if many things have changed, many others remained, including the name RPG, since it was still a game of role playing, although, unlike the “tabletop RPGs”, it was no longer possible to do all that could possibly come to your mind.

Knights of Pen and Paper is a indie RPG, with turn-based battles, in a retro/16 bits/90's style. Produced by Behold Studios, from Brazil, the game also adapts the tabletop RPGs to a digital form, however, taking this concept to a more explicit level. The result is a game that is fun, well done and which can impresses by the amount it delivers, despite its simplicity.

Knights of what?

In Knights of Pen and Paper, you control a group of characters, that are sitting at a table, before a Master, controlled by the computer, who literally describes the adventure. As the story is told, the environment changes and only the table, the master and the players remain. Enemies and characters of the story, like kings, wizards, merchants and others, also appear as the story rolls.

Each character controlled by you have its own personality, advantages, and a class that you can chose. The character list includes things like a grandma, a pizza delivery guy, and even a ET. The classes are the classic ones from medieval tabletop RPGs, like paladin, warrior, rogue, mage, druid and cleric, but other classes are unlocked as you progress through the game.

Each class has unique abilities that are evolved as the characters gain experience points by winning battles. The fight system is turn based and designed in a more video game style, with the addition of the possibility of you deciding how many enemies you wanna fight per battle. Things that are more dependent on lucky, like the chance of being attacked while traveling, are decided on a roll of a dice of 20 sides, or a D20, if you prefer.

Still talking about characters evolution, it is possible to buy and equip items and accessories, and also forge weapons and armor.

Outside the game’s map is a store to buy things to the room where the RPG session is happening. An old armor to garnish the room, as an example, not only gives to the place a medieval feel, it rises the HP of all your heroes. There are also rugs to boost the amount of experience or gold gained per battle, miniatures and pets to put on the table and even snacks and drinks which have temporary effects, after all, snacks and drinks in any good RPG session won’t last for long anyway.

Story, references, graphics and sound

The plot goes by the idea of simulate a adventure of a tabletop RPG. The story is simple, but charismatic, well written and with sense of humor, playing whenever is possible with the reality and the fact the game is a game inside a game. Aside of the main story, there are a great number of side quests to each place of the world map, which includes forests, deserts, temples, caves, towns and more.

On the name of the towns, on the speech of the characters, in moments of the story and in many other forms that is easy to say that many will go unnoticed, Knights of Pen and Paper does many references to things of pop culture, to things of the world of tabletop RPGs and even animes, cartoons from the 80’s and, of course, other games.

These references may make the player more "at home" with the game, but they also fit very well to with the idea of simulating a tabletop RPG session, as if the world and the adventure were created by an friend of yours, or someone that is not really concerned in creating a super story, with a million plot twists and critics to the human psyche and the terrible society bla bla bla, but instead a fun adventure, that knows how to play with things that will be fun to the people that are playing.

The graphics, despite trying to emulate the visuals of RPGs of the 16 bits era, or something like that, have their own personality. It may look retro, mas is a “more contemporaneous retro”, we can say.

The sounds and soundtracks also follow the idea of remind the RPGs of the 90's. The soundtracks are competent, succeeding in sounding as something that could be in a game from that era and at the same time complementing the tone set by the story. After playing, you will be able to remember some of the songs, even knowing that this is not one of best soundtracks of your game life.

Closing thoughts

This game is not perfect, however the main problem is related to the fact that this game, maybe unintentionally, focuses in a specific public. If you are not a fan, or have never played the RPGs from the 16 bit era, or if you never watched that cartoons of the 80’s, it is possible that the game will be fun to you at the start, but after some time it will be repetitive, too simple and all that references, that are a big part of the experience, will mean nothing.

Speaking as someone who liked the game, I believe some things could be changed, like some classes being better than others, or the forge system very much based on lucky, or the amount of character development possibilities the game could have if it was possible to combine abilities from different classes in a single hero. It is also greatly missed the possibility to make choices that would change the way the story develops, specially considering a game with all this tabletop RPG vibe. In fact, as a side note, this same Behold Studios have a game called The Story of Choices (which is free), that is purely based on the fun of creating different stories, as you are confronted with situations and options. I wonder what they could do in future games, combining these two.

If you are a fan of the RPGs of the 16 bit era and, plus to that, have already lost/invested some good amount of hours throwing dices with friends in imaginary worlds, you must know that Knights of Pen and Paper is available through Steam and other ways to PC, Mac and Linux, to Android, via Google Play and iOS, via AppStore and it is highly recommended to you.

--- Links
Behold Studios
Knights of Pen and Paper