By Tyler Trosper / October 11th, 2017
|Title||Galaxy of Pen and Paper
|Release Date||July 27th, 2017|
When I originally previewed Galaxy of Pen and Paper, I wasn’t aware of its predecessors, the Knights of Pen and Paper games. Stylistically, I’ve heard that those games are quite similar to this game. However, instead of going down the fantasy route, Galaxy of Pen and Paper embraces its sci-fi influences and wears that passion on its sleeve.
As previously mentioned, I wrote a preview for Galaxy of Pen and Paper a few months ago, so I’ll try not to reiterate things too much. The game is set in 1999. The dungeon master, a character of your choosing, is playing a tabletop game with some friends in an online message board. Besides the DM, you start off with two “players” to create. You choose their race, class, and the type of players they are. As the game progresses, you get two more characters with the ability to swap out for more with the cryosleep option. Swapping characters doesn’t really affect the story, which is unfortunate, but with how silly the game is, it didn’t really bother me too much. However, the game doesn’t really tell you about the ability to create more characters using cryosleep; it just becomes an option once you reach your four character limit. I pretty much stumbled upon it.
Anyway, these four heroes, along with their spaceship, roam the galaxy helping those in need and making as many sci-fi references as possible. Seriously, Galaxy of Pen and Paper throws so many references at the player that it’s hard to take the plot seriously. But honestly, the game doesn’t want to be treated seriously, and that’s the whole fun of it. From Firefly and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to Akira and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, the game revels in its nerdiness.
Besides its quirks, is Galaxy of Pen and Paper a good representation of tabletop roleplaying? As both the GM and the players, your choices shape how the game unfolds. The GM’s choices, for the most part, impact on how difficult the game can be. In one instance, I had the option to choose whether a quirky AI named DOGS (which was just the floating head of a lifelike cat) either made a robot enemy stronger or weaker. Other choices impact the game further, such as determining whether an NPC lives or dies. Player choices are the most frequent though. Depending on which attribute your characters are the best with, such as strength or intelligence, they will have their own choice to make during decisions. Once you acquire four party members, you are given four decisions, each corresponding to one party member.
The only downside to the decision making is how repetitive it can get. While either traveling around a planet or a solar system, each movement invokes a dice roll. Depending on the dice roll, an event can happen. This spices things up while traveling, except when you’ve seen the same event occur for the nth time. The choices you make during these events are the same every time, so once you know the perfect way to handle an event, you’ll always make the same decision. Sure, you do get bonuses for these events, but the repetition can get frustrating.
The mission structure of the game also tries to imitate the tabletop experience. For sidequests, you choose the type of mission you want, such as an escort mission or a bounty request. You then choose which NPC you will be reporting to along with the planet the quest is located on. From there, the game ties all three pieces of information together to provide a story for your mission. It’s a different approach of having to go out and find side quests: the side quests come to you.
Another perk to side quests and main quests alike is reputation. As you venture throughout the galaxy, you start to make a name for yourself through your reputation. Each mission you take on gives you a certain amount and the more you earn unlocks perks and different missions. In the 18 hours it took me to beat Galaxy of Pen and Paper, I reached a little under half of the reputation bar. Depending on if you partake in side quests at all, you can beat the game in less time or more if you try to achieve the highest reputation.
As mentioned in my preview, the game allows you to choose the type of player a character is (do they like story telling or pure fighting?), the class of their character, and their race. Doing so well give various perks, stats, and skills that affect how they are played. You even get access to more classes by performing class specific side quests. Taking these characters into battle isn’t too bad. The game’s turned-based battle system is as difficult as you want it to be, mostly. Most quests need you to defeat a certain amount of enemies. You can either take these all on at once, break it up into smaller battles, or defeat more than required to earn extra experience points. Every once in awhile, you will take on some challenging boss battles, but the difficulty overall isn’t bad. Space battles aren’t so bad either, since they are a bit more simplified than the on foot battles. Each turn, you roll a die which determines how many AP you can spend on various moves. I did die a few times in the beginning because the ships were way stronger than me, but that’s about it.
Some of my biggest complaints about the game initially was the amount of bugs present. From freezes during battle to not even being able to launch the game, the bugs were pretty bad. To the developer’s credit, Behold Studios has been implementing several patches since the game’s release, fixing many bugs pointed out by the community. The only issue I had this go around was that the die in space battles would sometimes take a long time to appear in order to roll it. Also, the game locked up after I beat it, only solved by relaunching. However, with how frequently Behold Studios is cleaning up bugs, I wouldn’t be surprised if those were addressed by the time this review is released.
The sound and visuals of Galaxy of Pen and Paper go hand in hand. The 16-bit look of the game translates into some appropriate tunes. Since the emphasis is on sci-fi is the 90’s, you will hear tracks that give off that techno feel, especially the space traveling music. The title theme alone sounds so upbeat and guitar heavy, it makes me think of opening music from shows from the 80’s or early 90’s.
Galaxy of Pen and Paper is an interesting experience that fully embraces breaking the fourth wall. The story, though not earth shattering, is enjoyable by poking fun at science fiction tropes. Using a tabletop experience as the setup allowed for really cool and interesting design choices, such as making decisions as both the players playing the game and as the Game Master. The combat is challenging, but mostly as challenging as you want to make it. The game is slightly flawed, but I say it is still a worthwhile experience. Galaxy of Pen and Paper is available on Steam for for $14.99. If you enjoy being barraged by science fiction references and tabletop RPGs, Galaxy of Pen and Paper is the right game for you.
A copy of the game was provided by the developer.
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