Monday , March 4 2024
This meta game of a sci-fi RPG inside a simulated tabletop RPG session is charming and full of great humor and pop culture references.

PC Game Review: ‘Galaxy of Pen and Paper’

Galaxy of Pen and Paper from Behold Studios is the developer’s followup to Knights of Pen and Paper. Superimposing a pen and paper roleplaying session on CRPG mechanics, it delivers a very unique experience.

Galaxy of Pen and Paper, as the name implies, is a scifi scenario that mixes in very healthy doses of humor and pop culture references, resulting in a game with some flaws, but quite enjoyable to play.

The game started by letting me design my Dungeon Master persona, complete with choosing an outfit from a whole slew of pop-culture-rich references. I was torn between Marty McFly’s Back to the Future look and the 11th Doctor Who’s bowtie ensemble but ultimately went with Mal Reynolds’ brown coat look from Firefly. This simple character creation process really set the tone for me: This game was going to be chock full of roleplaying and pop culture tropes and I was absolutely OK with that.

Once my DM was established the first two players were created, also chosen by me with humans sitting (via VR) at the DM table and sci-fi themed characters being created for the game world.

The scenario in Galaxy of Pen and Paper starts with a very Star Wars the Phantom Menace-style forced servitude of the two starting characters by a junk dealer on a dessert planet. Even though it was an easy joke I laughed when one of my characters said, ‘Why do these stories always start on desert planets anyway?’ I had to agree that was a good point.

After a series of intro missions the team got its own ship and the game opened up as the story progressed. With the ship I was able to explore different planets and systems engaging in campaign and side missions. In a neat twist, as new characters are added (the party eventually caps out at four) the DM is able to add new story modules that introduce class-specific side missions.

The story is not told in the most coherent of ways, as I was able to divert into side missions which sometimes confused the narrative, but the overall arc was interesting and kept me surprised from time to time as new elements were added.

In the end the story of Galaxy of Pen and Paper follows all the traditional beats I hoped for in a sci-fi session: new unexpected enemies, surprising histories, twists and turns, and of course a galaxy-wide danger. The characters I encountered were often very humorous and added a funny depth to the game. The best was a towel-wearing human named Kent who always seemed to fall into trouble and never wanted to change out of his towel.

The game’s mechanics are a little difficult to explain, but essentially, once I had a spaceship I was able to create missions that fell into campaign, side, or class-specific types. Once the missions were generated I was able to travel to stations, systems, or planets to explore what the missions offered. Sometimes it involved basic ship-to-ship combat, other times it was chasing down an enemy or collecting some items.  Combat scenarios are encountered as missions or initiated ad-hoc on specific map points, which allowed me to grind or gain funds as needed, and in a neat twist I could choose how many enemies to face when generating combat, letting me scale the challenge in some cases.

Combat is turn-based with skills playing an important part of the strategy, skills that were obtained as I progressed upwards in level. There are a number of character variations, and some unlock as the campaign progresses, giving some variety to the characters I was playing with. Combat is quick, with some strategy required to maximize the effectiveness of the party’s skills. Have a look at some of the mechanics and scenarios of the game in this Let’s Play I recorded.

Galaxy of Pen and Paper is a fun title with some great humor, but there are some bugs and balancing issues that are continuing to be tweaked. In some cases text glitched in dialogue sequences, and a mission randomly completed while I was on a side quest. I also found that some of the boss encounters were unreasonably hard while the main combat sequences were actually very easy.

In one unintentionally humorous moment in the video above, I had an NPC character with me (and they are invincible for story reasons I guess). My entire party died as we battled an enemy who was too powerful, and all that was left was the invulnerable NPC who could not damage him fast enough. This was an unending cycle so I had to quit the game, reload, and grind up my characters before I tried again. These bugs are not deal breakers, but definitely break the flow of action from time to time.

Aside from some of those foibles the game is actually very enjoyable and charming, with a pixelated graphic style that is easy on the eyes and lends a look that fits the theme and structure of the experience. By far the best parts of Galaxy of Pen and Paper are the tongue-in-cheek humor, the self-awareness, and the pop-culture references. The developer in many ways nails how tabletop gamers chat when playing a session and how much our experiences with movies, TV shows, and other games influence our campaigns and conversations.

Galaxy of Pen and Paper is well worth checking out and is a fun experience, especially for those like me who are fans of all things sci-fi, pop culture, and playing tabletop RPGs with friends. It’s out now on PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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