Galaxy of Pen and Paper is the third in Behold Studios’ franchise which has become an indie favorite. There are tens of thousands around the world that adore it. Picture a traditional tabletop pen and paper RPG and digitize it into a video game. It’s a simple concept that works very well.
The opening two games in the franchise are the Knights games. This time, however, the developers have changed their tact. This is classic 1980’s-1990’s science fiction. Despite it being out for six months, the timing is perfect to play this now because of the popularity of The Last Jedi. Furthermore, it has a generous 40% discount on the Steam winter sale.
Galaxy of Pen and Paper: Gameplay
To begin, the player creates a few characters. The first character that you create is your Game Master. Secondly, you create his friends who are the players who make up the party. The Game Master controls the game with the individual characters choosing their moves in a traditional turn-based fashion.
In the previous games in the series, mid-journey fights were of great annoyance. Although most of the time I found these combat rounds to be trivial it was needless. It is clear to me that the developers thought long and hard about this. Their resolution is a personal highlight of the game. As such it is a remarkable turnaround. Instead of similar combat, the game introduces space combat. Instead of the players being in jeopardy it is your spacecraft. It makes for a well thought out addition.
Where I do have a legitimate gripe with the game is in the skill trees. Players only have four options at any one time. Once you learn what skills you will use throughout the game remaining skill points are worthless. This is because you can unlock them relatively early and never need to worry about them again. This is an area where the developers can improve the game in future updates.
The 80’s – 90’s Pop Culture
Have you had the opportunity to see Stranger Things? If you have then you know the scenes where the kids are sitting around, eating pizza, and playing Dungeons & Dragons. The presentation of Galaxy reminds me of that. It truly captures the essence of what makes a real tabletop experience so enjoyable. The characters are exceptionally well written, the humor hits the spot, and it successfully navigates its setting. Furthermore, Galaxy does a good job of breaking the fourth wall and picks the right moments to do so.
The developers did a superb job in inserting a lot of 1980’s and 1990’s science fiction pop culture references. As a huge Bill and Ted fan, it was a treat to see Rufus so early in the game. Be excellent to each other! I won’t spoil any of the others only that to suggest that they occur often enough that you’ll be in geek heaven! The references extend to cosmetics, tools, etc. It’s all a very nice touch that allows the player to create their ideal 1990’s sci-fi setting over the course of the game.
The audio-visual presentation is also superb. In fact, it is arguably the highlight of the game. From the retro stylings of both the graphics to the audio presentation, everything fits like a glove. The first thing that hit me in the game was the booming 1990’s science fiction music and color palette. It grab’s the player’s attention and sinks you into its world very quickly. This shouldn’t be a game that you struggle sinking your teeth into.
The biggest limitations of the game, as it stands, are budgetary. An example is the aforementioned lack of voiceover work. Furthermore, the actual sounds are stock standard. Additionally, from a visual perspective, the game doesn’t offer the player many options. However, I argue that these criticisms are minor and don’t take away from the overall experience.
As big a fan of the writing I am I need to point out that there is a lot of it. If you’re not the type to read a lot of content then this game may be a turn-off. Therefore, my advice to you is to be prepared. This is something that will always make the franchise niche. Unfortunately, the costs of professional – and well done – voice acting make it unviable. I’d also suggest that it would take away a substantial part of the charm.
Galaxy of Pen and Paper: Extrinsic Value
First, Behold Studios have done the right thing in releasing the game’s official soundtrack for purchase. It’s a wonderful album and one of the few that I will definitely listen to beyond the game. Secondly, they have awarded Steam players with a set of trading cards and 34 Steam achievements. Subsequently, the devs have already built a lot of extrinsic value into the game.
As of writing, I am uncertain as to whether or not there are plans to release DLC. However, I believe that the game opens itself up to at least one expansion which would be keeping with franchise tradition.
Galaxy of Pen and Paper: Final Verdict
I didn’t anticipate that I would be such a fan of the Knights games. However, they are full of charm and just outstanding indie games. It is therefore with great delight that I write that Galaxy is a huge step up from those. If you were a fan of the original two titles, you will thoroughly enjoy this. That is unless space sci-fi isn’t for you. If you’re new to the franchise, then this is a great starting point.
Galaxy of Pen and Paper is a definite indie game of the year contender. However, games with larger budgets and more fanfare will make this one fall into the category of a hidden gem.