Knights of Pen and Paper 2:

Intro: In the days of constant internet connection one often longs for the old days, wehre groups of people could sit down over a wooden table, and roll dice and talk about dragons while two people are on their phones and another one is busy drawing their character. No, im not talking about the days of the 80’s, im talking about fall last year. Covid has wiped out all hope for these sorts of things at least until the vaccine is made. Fortunatley, there are alternatives to those activities. Such as Knights of Pen and Paper 2, an old school rpg that combines the turn based action of final fantasy with the humor of a DND session where the DM is one of the interns for a writer of The Big Bang Theory.

Story/ Narrative:

I’d be lying if I said that I can remember much of the story, as there is none to really mention. It feels as if im filling in a fantasy/ rpg MadLib. Think of a generic rpg story and there ya go, thats KOPAP 2 for you. That’s not to say that the narrative and the writing aren’t good (sometimes), its more just that the story is meant to give explanation as to the who’s, what’s, where’s, and why’s of marching along short linear paths to the next objective. There aren’t any real factions, or groups that you’ll grow attached to, no villains to grow contempt and hatred of, no party members that will sadden you with their deaths. The only real meaningful parts of the story are the narrative, and the dialogue spoken between characters. It tends to have decent comedic timing, and charming, if limited, pop culture references. But that’s the only real string to the games bow, and after a while that charm wears itself thin as a Kleenex. Towards the halfway point theres plenty of dead humor that doesn’t land and brings the pacing to grinding halt, as the important dialogue needed for questlines tends to be sandwiched between “jokes” and people explaining parts of the story to you. I was tempted to just start skipping dialogue because I was tired of reading pure drivel with no point to it. For all the aspiring RPG makers of the world heres my two pieces of advice for this type of narrative: A. when it comes to humor and jokes, having a little bit less is better than having a little bit too much and B. if at any point you or your test audience gets bored and attempts to skip dialogue to get it over with, its time to go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong.

I did, however, truly like how the game was willing to just go wild with its ideas, as you start fighting up enemies made of hectagons, and letters. I feel as if the wackiness could lead to a potentially more engaging game overall, but ultimately it was only a few sections and then tossed out in favor of more dead jokes.

In short, KOPAP is a game where the jokes acts as airplanes, and the story structure acts an aircraft carrier: at first the planes land normally and smoothly, but as the deck fills up and storage is limited, the other planes panic and begin to kamikaze the ships hull, destroying the whole ship in the process.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is similar to that of any turn based strategy rpg games. While there are a few instances of breaking the mold and trying something new, KOPAP prefers to stick on well- trodden ground. You’ve got healers, barbarians, mages, and thieves. While there are other class roles, they all essentially revolve around the same 3 basic types of classes: Tank, DPS, and Healer.  With these well know, and somewhat generic, classes the gameplay is about as standard as possible. With not much changing to the core basics, the gameplay soon becomes mind numblingly repetitive, as there is near constant backtracking to get anywhere, and the game requires you to stop every once in a while, as the game also has this obssession with these dice roll chance minigames for doing practically anything, from traveling to searching the area around it, to even resting around a campfire to recover health. If you make a bad roll, (and believe me youll make many) either you fight enemies that are so low level to you theres no point, or enemies that will straight up kill you in a two hits, though that last one is gracefully rare.

 In my opinion the class system is not necessarily bad as it is simplistic. Some of the classes do have different attacks from each other, and different styles to adapt,  such as the ninja class applying bleeding on a crit, while a thief has bonus damage on undamaged enemies. There are also different abilities that I would straight up ignore, such as the ranger having a grapple hook attack that pulls enemies to the front of the line.

Speaking of the line system, which is one of the few wrinkles the game has, it doesn’t add anything to the game, and seems to only be there because the fights would be ridiculously easy, as any AOE attack, such as the Barbarians side swipe, would make the game go by so fast you could turn the game back in on Steam to get a refund. With the games lackluster upgrade system, basically railroading your progress to one or two abilities, and limited to a group of five, I always felt claustrophobic playing it, like I was making a mistake regardless and missing a key feature.

Some characters are so ridiculously overpowered that it makes the game far too easy near the end. The Ranger, for example has a bow attack that at level ten deals more power than my barbarian with an enchanted war axe that cost me hundreds of gold. This attack also has a random chance of a status effect that can wipe out enemies 2-4 levels higher than her in one hit.

The character class customization is also far too linear and railroaded. You choose a race (elf, dwarf, and human) a class, and most interestingly, the type of player playoing, be it a jock, geek, cheerleader etc. Its sad then that you will always just pick the class that gives you the desired stats, as the passive effects each player type has are insignificant.

Overall, the gameplay works fine, but adds little to differentiate it from RPGS that have done much more in terms of graphics and storytelling, causing it to be stale and forgettable.

Graphics/Artstyle

The artstyle is very hit or miss, and tends to land on the miss side of the die, ironic for a pen and paper rpg. While the game has ts fair share of well-designed items, and the menus are laid out well, the rest of the game lacks much character, or atmosphere. When the players attack, the animation often lacks impact and feels hollow, or has very little artistic flair beyond the bare minimum. The enemies too lack motion, as many are just images plastered on, and simply move from side to side, every single time regardless of size, enemy type, or biome. The color palette also suffers as the look of the game looks quite flat, and lifeless. Some of the designs can look rather excellent, for the example the giant chicken men near the huge city, or undead maids from an early quest in the game. There are also absolutely bafflingly lazy designs such as one enemy literally being a square.

In a type of genre known for creating epic monster designs, and the beauty of nature, it’s a shame KOPAP 2 falls short

Conclusion

Overall, KOPAP 2 has the building blocks necessary for a good game, potentially even great game, but is mired by increasingly repetitive combat and humor that often misses the intended mark. While it can be fun for a bit, it tends to bury itself in the ground due to too much backtracking and grinding, and the artstyle can be bland and straight up lazy at times.

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