I quite like myself a good RPG. Though, there needs to be a fine balance struck when it comes to the gameplay of any given title that aims to deliver a worthwhile experience. It’s fair to say that this gen has had its ups and downs as far as RPGs are concerned. We’ve had some stellar additions to the genre, such as Earthlock. Then, we’ve had some pretty damn forgettable ones, I’m looking at you Asdivine Hearts. Equally as such, we’ve had some fairly interesting ones, including World of Final Fantasy Maxima. So, where does this game sit?
Actually, Knights of Pen & Paper 2 Deluxiest Edition dances across the entire aforementioned spectrum. There’s moments of genuine brilliance within, and the game certainly has a unique spin going for it, but some minor issues hold it back in the long run. Following in the same footsteps as its predecessor, the entirety of the adventure at hand takes place on a tabletop. You’re given the immediate choice of selecting from a healthy serving of characters and classes, each with their own distinct damage outputs and abilities.
You’re only able to select from two to begin with, but as you make your way through the journey, you’ll have the ability to purchase three more players to fill-up the five seats positioned around the table. The Game Master sits opposite and fills the role of the narrator. Much like in the first game, you’re able to purchase items and objects to place in the game room, with the interesting twist being that these additions will aid your party via permanent buffs; increased drop rates, added health, more enemies per-fight, and so on.
It’s an interesting route that feeds well into the adventure. There’s also the ability to purchase even more goodies from your magazine area; new character classes, for one. Knights of Pen & Paper 2 Deluxiest Edition brings with it some extra bonus items, expansions, and a grinding farm location. Taking the generous price tag into account, it’s a fair exchange in return for what you’re getting. I should also point out that if you never got the chance to play the first game, you can indeed start with the sequel and not miss much.
Knights of Pen & Paper 2 is a turn-based RPG in every traditional sense imaginable. You’ll assemble your party; spanning knights, mages, and so forth, to then take a seat in front of the Game Master and kick-start your adventure. The Game Master will constantly drive your trek forward, holding all of your quests and religiously suggesting places of interest that you should visit. The world map is relatively simple to understand, consisting of tiles that represent specific environments and locations. Many of these you’ll visit throughout natural play.
It helps, of course, that most of the environments within are distinct and diverse. Rarely did I bump into two locations that took too many assets from another location elsewhere, giving the game a very fresh feel. You see, whilst you’re always situated in your game room playing a tabletop RPG, the enemies and environments will transition in at all times. This means that whilst your party, your table, and the Game Master will be present at the lower screen throughout the entirety of play, your immediate surroundings will frequently alter.
For instance, if you visit the local town, your surroundings will reflect that. If the Game Master discusses NPCs and enemies, they too will transition in. On this front alone, Knights of Pen & Paper 2 stands out. The concept is both unique and interesting, consistently relaying the idea that you’re playing a game in a game, but the combined imagination of your party is projecting the events as they unfold. Through this foundation, players will take on a range of main quests, side quests, dungeon diving, and heaps (and heaps) of combat.
The majority of your interactions will go through the Game Master, and your options here tend to vary depending on your location. If, for example, you wish to spend a night at the local Inn to regain your HP/MP, you’ll need to ensure that you’re situated at a town or hub. You can indeed camp in a tent, but this comes at the RNG-risk of being attacked in your sleep. The ability to craft items, buy equipment and purchase consumable goods is all reliably present, and laid out in a very easy-to-understand fashion. It’s very simple to grasp.
Much as to be expected, you’ll slowly gain XP and coins for each quest completed or battle won. Increased XP will level you up and allow you to spend points on bettering specific abilities that typically come tied to a class. These vary quite nicely and enable you to build a party that suits your style of play. The fact that you can focus your points to a single ability further lends the game a degree of accessibility, together with deeper customization. These abilities range from (per-class) healing, heavy attacks, inflicting status, and other tidbits.
Your coins, on the other hand, will be used to purchase goods, both in and out of the game world. You’re free to spend these coins as you see fit. Whether you’re buying new equipment or kitting out your game room, you’re always in full control of expenditure. This, sadly, is where my first gripe comes into view. There’s one hell of a grind to endure when it comes to accumulating coins and leveling up later in. Sure, you can scrap at the farm whenever, but even so, there’s nothing fun about needlessly fighting to make progress.
Several times did I find myself at a dead-end, either because a troll demanded too much money, or a dungeon proved to be far too powerful for me to proceed. Travelling from location to location costs coins, as does resurrecting a party member that’s bitten the dust – unless you’ve purchased a consumable. There’s just too much weight resting on the currency system here, given that almost every aspect of play wants in on your purse. I daresay I spent one third of my time in the game just grinding to get on-par with necessity.
That said, if you can overlook that, there’s a lot to like about Knights of Pen & Paper 2. There’s not a great deal of depth to the combat, but for me, I quite like the simplicity. Throughout the course of the game, players will take on a wide range of varying enemies. Combat is turn-based, and the game does a good job at telling you the order in which attacks are given by a sequence of numbers that are situated next to both enemy and player. You’ll take turns trading blows and casting spells until one party is left standing.
Depending on your level and your equipment, your attacks and your endurance to enemy attacks will alter. The UI is very clean and well laid out, giving you swift access to your commands. On top of your standard attack, you’re able to utilize your character-specific abilities, as well as take a turn defending, or opting to chicken out and run away from the fight. Once a fight has ended, your XP and your coins will be tallied up, and any additional rewards will be handed out thereafter. Again, it’s all a relatively straightforward affair.
If, as alluded to above, a character falls in battle, you can use a phoenix feather to bring them back – or else wait until the fight is over and purchase them a life with coins. There’s some useful items that can aid you in a pinch too, such as items that will remove status effects or items that will inflict damage and status effects on your foes. Though, I managed to run through the game’s main serving with little more than a mixture of standard attacks and special abilities, with HP/MP vials used to replenish my health and magic, respectively.
When you’re not engaged in battle, you’ll likely be uncovering more of the game’s world through travel. There’s a lot of RNG running through Knights of Pen & Paper 2. Moving from one location to the next, for instance, sees a quick automatic dice roll that will determine whether or not you’ll get lost or ambushed. The same can be said about the game’s multi-tiered dungeons. Here, you’ll manually move from room to room until you clear it out, with encounters being largely chance-based. These are challenging, but often dish up decent rewards for your time and effort.
You can also investigate most of the areas in the game to uncover useful items, though once again, investigation tends to take quite a chunk from your purse, so it pays off to utilize this later in the game. That’s really all there is to it. Players will hand-pick their chosen quest, move around the map to meet it, take on some battles, and then rinse and repeat. The Game Master will frequently narrate, adding some hit and miss humor as well as some references to other franchises at every turn. If you liked the first game, you’ll like this.
I say that because there really isn’t that much to distinguish them from one another. Sure, the sequel has some better refinements and feels more well rounded, but it’s hardly a stride away from the original concept. The game’s visual do little to excite. There’s some decent detail on show, but it does far too little to build upon what came before it. It’s your generic 16-bit affair; giving off vibrant, distinct presentations, but a lack of character. On the flip-side, the game soundtrack is on point, setting the fantastical mood of the game up quite well.
Knights of Pen & Paper 2 feels more like an extension to Knights of Pen & Paper than that of a true sequel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing when we take into account that the first game is a lot of fun, but, poor design choices from the first game do indeed creep into its follow up. By and large, this is a very safely constructed sequel. That is to say that if you enjoyed the first game, you’ll enjoy this. If not, this is highly unlikely to sway you.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.