Review: Galaxy of Pen & Paper16 Aug 2017 2
Review: Galaxy of Pen & Paper
Released 27 Jul 2017
Continuing on from the original Knights of Pen and Paper, Behold Studios return with Galaxy of Pen & Paper. Available on PC, iOS, and Android, the game presents itself as a space-exploring table-top adventure but channels it through a traditional turn-based combat system. It wasn’t too long ago we were looking at another release from the Brazilian based studio with the Super Sentai inspired Chroma Squad, which had a ton of charm in its presentation and brought a unique mechanic in audience participation, but it ultimately lacked enough depth in its combat to keep things interesting and to label it as a truly great game.
GoP&P doesn’t have the inventiveness of Chroma Squad, but it’s still a decent concept that will sometimes break the fourth wall for humour and/or story telling. You start off by picking your team of two, selecting between class, gender, race, etc. all with their strengths and weaknesses, before joining the game master around the table in their bedroom. Throughout the game you’ll go back and forth through the world the game master describes, plus dropping back into the bedroom every now and again when their mother interrupts. It’s a nice touch and no doubt a similar scenario for anyone who played D&D as a teenager.
Once you settle into the meat of the game, you’ll find yourself setting off for distant planets and systems, doing fetch quests, hunting space pirates and so on. Locations and characters all play heavily on the galaxy theme, and you’ll no doubt see influences from Star Wars to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Though with most video games, the references are very much on the nose. It’s all “oh look, here is a quote from a film we have referenced”, instead of any attempt to subtly weave it into the narrative.
As the game plays on the idea of sitting around the table role-playing, a lot of GoP&P is what you make of it. Though there is a main quest that takes you on space-exploring adventure, at any time you can open up the menu and create your own procedurally generated quest. And you’ll need to as the game throws numerous walls of difficulty at you - and it doesn’t hang about in doing it. As you’d expect, levelling up increases your HP and SP, as well as giving you the chance to unlock individual skills for each character. There’s a wide range per character to choose from, meaning you can spend some time to craft together the team that suits your own personal tastes, and having multiple skills per character allows a decent level of flexibility. Dependent on the classes you choose will change how you react to different scenarios, whether it be from a random ambush or an interaction with a NPC.
The combat is by the books for an RPG, which ultimately feels like a disappointment considering the creativity in other aspects of the game. That being said, the setup does at least add a level of depth. Instead of random encounters, you jump from area to area with the option to engage in a fight, and you can add as many enemies as you like (well, up to the end of the difficulty meter). There’s a risk/reward system in place, where the more enemies you tackle at once, the more coins and XP you can grab. There’s definitely a difficulty curve to begin with though, as barrelling headfirst into an army will probably lead to your demise without the assistance of health packs - not until you’ve gained a few levels at least.
A useful addition is the shield meter, giving you a chance to take a beating without losing any HP. It recharges after each fight, so you can plan your team around their offensive and defensive capabilities, what moves they use, and whether they’re placed at the front or the back during combat. To patch up your team you’ll need to head back to your spaceship and heal up in the medbay. With the lack of random encounters the pressure to go back and heal is a simple inconvenience, but once locked into a battle, dying is always a possibility and costs money to be revived.
Under the hood the game has a few issues going on. I’ve experienced a few crashes, which would be fine, except booting up the game to the moment you start playing can take anywhere up to ninety seconds. Thankfully the game autosaves after every room you enter, so you’re not going to lose much time. The spaceship battles - which are not particularly interesting to begin with - grind to a halt with the shoddy frame rate. Nothing that is game breaking, but it still needs work. When it does run as normal the game's great and in general is appealing to look at, with a wide variety of character and enemy designs, detailed backgrounds and environments, and the occasional use of 3D models to keep things interesting. The attention to detail really helps add a level of immersion even within the game when going back and forth between the kids sitting in their bedroom and the role-playing fantasy aspect.
Galaxy of Pen & Paper is a rather dense package that has an obvious replay factor. Being able to go back over and pick different characters for different outcomes, plus the procedural quest mechanic means that even with the core quest being the same, the journey getting there will differ each time. It’s a complete package as well, with no in-app purchases to be seen anywhere. There’s a genuine charm that carries over from the work done on Chroma Squad, but where that shows its hand after a few hours, here, a steady pace and numerous scenarios with a decent (but not great) script means there’s enough to keep you engaged throughout its campaign.