Nothing like a D&D simulator on a Saturday night.
If you began a conversation with “I just played this D&D simulation” you’d likely be tuned out by the majority of your friends. Dungeon and Dragons has a stigma attached to it that if you understand and enjoy the culture you belong to a hardcore subset of geekdom. That stigma has been transcended before, a season two episode of Community comes to mind, and Knights of Pen and Paper: +1 Deluxier Edition aims to do the same by providing a Dungeons and Dragons experience that can be enjoyed by veterans and newbies alike.
At its core, Knights of Pen and Paper models itself after old school JPRGs in the vein of Final Fantasy. An empty table with a dungeon master awaits and you’ll determine the number of guests and the classes they’ll play as. The presentation comes off as a group of friends playing D&D however the battle system is your standard retro-inspired, turn-based combat with limited options: attack, class-based special attack, items, guard, or flee (which is hilariously represented by a chicken icon). The table with your party stays static while the environment around it changes with the setting. Enemies appear behind the dungeon master and the turn-based combat you’d expect plays out. The graphics and music invoke a pleasant sense of nostalgia however some of the text was annoying to read and the music didn’t take long to feel stale. It would be real easy to simply play for an hour and write it off as a generic rpg hoping to bank off of the popularity of the Switch, but with time the whole is revealed to be greater than the sum of its parts.
The dichotomy between the real and fantasy worlds become much more entertaining the longer you play. Currency is collected throughout by defeating enemies and completing quests but can be used in both worlds. Permanent buffs to your party come in form of upgrades to the real world such as new furniture, decorations, upgraded dungeon table, or even by hiring different dungeon masters. If you feel like your party is too weak, purchase a bear skin rug that provides a permanent HP increase. Even temporary buffs to party members can be purchased by buying a cup coffee for the real world guest who is playing as your mage.
Another interesting feature is that guests can be swapped out at the table whenever the need arises. Simply take a stroll over to the fantasy world pub and drop of party members to free up your table for new guests. It’s a clever feature that helps to keep the gameplay fresh by allowing you to experiment with different classes without having to start over and lose the progress you’ve earned with existing party members.
Knights of Pen and Paper is a title where the enjoyment comes from the experience of the journey and not the destination. The quests and battle were fairly standard, the majority of my enjoyment came from the onslaught of ‘80s and ‘90s culture that blended perfectly within the game. From the ability to hire Master Splinter as the dungeon master, to purchasing Johnny 6 as a pet, there’s plenty to keep a smile on your face. While some of the humor went over my head, there’s enough chemistry to keep you entertained regardless of the amount of Dungeons and Dragons experience you have.