If you have ever wanted to be teleported back to the 80's, where the times were simpler and you could just sit around a table to play your favorite tabletop RPG, then Behold Studios has the game for you. In Galaxy of Pen and Paper, you will run into many popular tropes and characterizations of the genre in those days. Build up your crew of adventurers and take on the galaxy's toughest criminals as you level up. Unlock new classes and power-ups, where Dungeons and Dragons was never meant to be played, in space!
You can find Galaxy of Pen and Paper on Steam for $14.99.
A group of adventurers tries to make their way off the planet Tanton, which they have been marooned on, in debt to the local crime lord for an ungodly amount of coin. You control their journey through the different solar systems on their quest to first find a working spaceship and subsequently find out the hidden mysteries it beholds. Along the way, you will align with the galactic police, or Nebula Command as they are called, to bring justice to anyone they deem needs it. Choose different paths based on your party's skills to obtain more items, coins, or XP to increase their power, granting new abilities and tougher enemies to bring down. What is in store once you learn about your ship's (which you can freely name) A.I. core? Well, I am not going to spoil that mystery any time soon, so get out there and play!
As the player, you will get to choose the look and name of your GM (Game Master), which is purely cosmetic, but the number of combinations is pretty high. Chair, Clothes, and Head each have about ten different choices so you should be able to find a suitable look. Once that is done, you will then start out with two characters; picking their archetype, race, and ability. The game will decide the clothes and gender, which is a bit sad since the GM had so many options.
After a few quests and obtaining enough coin, you will gain more characters to use to a max of four. Once you reach Episode III, you will have the option to have a few characters in cryo sleep so you can swap characters out as the situation dictates. However, you will need to unlock new classes by "buying" the related module, which is a choice you receive while progressing through the storyline quests. Eventually you will be able to unlock all the classes, even if it means getting overly geared and leveled. I personally stuck with the starting four classes as I morphed them to fit my style, but was able to unlock four additional ones once I hit level 18 or so.
Battle and Encounters
Your main source of XP will be battles, which there are three types: Ground, Space, and Spaceship. The first two are very reminiscent of early JRPG's such as Final Fantasy as they will pit your party (on the left side of the screen) against various types of enemies (on the right side of the screen). For most battles, you get to decide how many enemies you go up against, more granting increased coin, XP, and items. A preview of enemies lets you see what their special ability is, how much HP and SHD they have (health points and shields), their damage, and other stats.
Attack order is determined by Initiative, where the highest goes first and moves down the line. There is no actual roll that takes place that you can see, which would have been a nice addition. There is something satisfying about rolling initiative in a tabletop PnP (Pen and Paper) game, even if it is digital dice. Guess it makes you feel like you have control over the outcome. Regardless, everyone's turn comes and goes, with positions being swapped based on different status effects. The end result is either you win and get the goods, or you lose, which will bring you to the med bay fully healed, but costing XP and/or Reputation. One or two deaths won't affect you much but tally them up in close proximity, and you won't make much progress and could possibly lose any benefits from having a lot of Rep.
Once you have a ship, you can participate in spaceship battles. These occur either randomly when moving between planets and outposts, or when you approach an entity that has a ship patrolling the area. This will bring you into a diagonally split battle screen and you will then have to roll each turn to see how many action points you are allotted. Progressing through the main quest line will grant you bigger DICE, which will give you more AP, assuming you roll high enough. Each time you use an action like firing cannons or missiles, the cost increases by one. This is crucial since you keep any unused AP from previous turns, though if you go over your max, they will just be lost, so keep that in mind.
Random encounters will occasionally appear, visualized by a d20 die being rolled every time you move between nodes on either the planetary or space maps. These will always give you an option of what to do, and most of the time a fight can be avoided. Some events grant you items if you choose correctly, but most of the time I just chose to fight, valuing XP more than anything else I might find.
The bread and butter of any tabletop PnP game are how the RPG mechanics work. Here it is no different. When you create your characters, they will have different numbers associated with each choice, resulting in your final values for Power, Mind, Senses, and Body. These will determine your stats going forward, so choose wisely. My first playthrough I thought I picked two classes that worked well together, but instead, I was left struggling to get by what should have been easy battles. I like this because that is exactly how playing PnP games should be. Get the wrong party dynamics and you won't be able to defeat that level one dust mite.
Leveling up is satisfying, at first, since you will have to save some Skill Points for another level if what you are going after is more expensive. However, at later levels, it just seems useless to keep acquiring them, since you can only equip four abilities at once. With nearly twenty abilities to unlock per class, once you find the ones that work together well, the others just sit unused. On one of my characters, I have almost fifteen unused Skill Points because there is nothing else I need to train for. Perhaps down the line, you might be able to acquire more abilities, but as it stands, once you reach level twelve or so, levels just mean slight increases to your stats.
Quests were done great in my opinion, letting you choose your own side quests in their "Quest Maker" is a nice touch. While it did lend itself to repetitive tasks of "Go here and kill X many monsters" or "Escort X to this planet," letting you choose your preferred type is welcomed. However, once you find a well-synergized party, the side quests become burdensome and the replayability suffers since the story quests are the same each time.
If you were born in or experienced the 80's like I was, you will instantly fall in love with the look and sound of this game. From the pixel graphics style to the super cheesy synth-band music, what is not to love! There are tons of hidden gems that will bring a smile to anyone who has played or heard of Dungeons and Dragons, especially from that era. Stereotypes exist for a reason, even if everyone involved doesn't fit in it; from the GM living in his parent's house to being attacked by internet trolls. The Internet you say? Yes, this game does actually take place with all participants playing online in a chat room. I know this was only possible with BBS or IRC back then, but we can forgive that small detail. The way the devs make it feel like everyone in the party is actually in the same room is outstanding and the times where it is mentioned or shown that you aren't are nice little "Oh yeah!!" moments.
That being said, I do feel like the music does tend to get overbearing after playing more than ten minutes. Yes, you can turn it down or even off, but personally, I would have preferred if it wasn't so much a face-melting riff as a soft ballad. Everything else audio wise is a giant nostalgia trip through some of my favorite RPGs growing up, which I occasionally still play today. Graphically, I would have preferred a little more detail in my pixels. Even at 1920x1080p resolution, it felt like I was playing a 720x480p game. Lastly, the lack of continuity with the graphics was a little off-putting when most of the game is 2D pixel art, while the Planetary and Space maps are rendered in 3D, as well as space ship battles. Honestly, it felt like the 3D art was not up to par with its 2D counterpart.
At first glance, Galaxy of Pen and Paper will probably be written off as another game trying to capitalize on the whole "retro" craze. Dive past that initial judgment though and you will find a well-crafted RPG adventure that should be in any fan's library. Even with the often facepalm worthy puns or humor, seeing references to geek pop culture past and present shows you this game has no problem making fun of itself or the genre it represents. I surprisingly found myself in the "one more quest" loop and at $15, is well worth the price for a 15+ hour game.
|+ Nails the 80's theme perfect||– Music gets annoying in long sessions|
|+ Puns and humor include all era's of geekdom||– Sometimes humor seems forced|
|+ Surprisingly deep RPG||– Spaceship battles are too easy|
|+ Well thought out classes and skills|
– Very repetitive/low replayability
|+ Free-form questing||– 3D Art feels out of place in a mostly 2D pixel game.|