Galaxy of Pen and Paper is a very Meta Space RPG about an RPG set in space. You heard me. It’s an RPG where you play as players in a tabletop RPG set in space. Players who are familiar with Knights of Pen and Paper will get that, but for people like me, it was a new and exciting experience. You control the DM and the players [well, the characters they are playing] and pick their destinations and battles. There’s an overarching story, but you decide in what place most of the battles are held, how many enemies the players endure, and what race/class the characters are. One of the criticisms I heard about the series is that it becomes very tedious and very difficult, but I had zero issues leveling and playing in Galaxy of Pen and Paper. Some of the boss fights and character-class quests are incredibly frustrating, but if you come back a bit stronger, no problem. You start off with just two characters, and build a party of four and deal with real-world problems: Internet trolls, hackers, metagaming. You know, the important things in life. You start off with these two characters, built however you’d like, on a desert planet as someone’s slave. Why does that sound so familiar …?
Galaxy of Pen and Paper straddles that line between Chroma Squad and Knights of Pen and Paper. It maintains that clever, wry pop-culture humor, but in a different direction than either of the other games. It’s not too hard, not too easy. In fact, one of the things I really love about it is that you make the difficulty as you play. Are fights getting too easy? Ramp up the challenge with harder/more enemies for a greater payoff. You gain stats, skill points, can equip passive or active abilities as you see fit, to build your characters the way you want. Most of the abilities are built around this status or that status [Poison, Burning, Stun, et al], and give some kind of benefit versus that enemy who is afflicted. One of the things I noticed is that it is very wise to build your team around status effects, as they are incredibly powerful. Guaranteed crits for fiery damage? No brainer. However, one of the things I want to point out as a definite negative is that every boss in the game seems to be immune to Stun. Don’t build your team around Stuns! They’re nice to have around but swap them out before a Boss Battle. You’ll be better for it.
Your party will be four members of characters that you build, so you don’t have to worry about not having something you feel you’ll need in the long run. After you get your fourth party member, you’ll eventually unlock a Cryogenic Freezer in the bowels of your starship. What this means is you can freeze a character, make a new one, and have whatever you need for any situation. Got bored of a character or didn’t like how it played? Put them in cold storage and tell them to chill out! There are only a small handful of races [Human, Simian, Green], and each has their own unique passive/base stats. Each character must also represent a standard Tabletop Player Trope: Achiever [Gonna be the MVP!], Buddy [I brought the chips and drinks!], Showoff [Badass in the making!], Slayer [I’ll hack the machine … with my fists!], Socializer [Sure, I’ll be the healer!], Thinker [AKA: Rules Lawyer], Romantic [Shipping those two bosses together! <3]. After that, you pick Race, and then the Character Class: Bounty Hunter, Engineer, Gadgeteer, Heavy, Trooper. It’s important to note that you can only have one of each of these.
You can’t run a squad of four Slayer Troopers and just mow things down with its powerful Heal Passive and tons of damage. But you want a balanced party, and each character class/race/trope has its own benefits, such as the Slayer’s +2 Power/Heal after getting a killing blow, and Humans starting with +2 in all stats, starts with 3 SP [Skill Points] and can equip an extra gadget. Each class has a style of skill it uses, from Bounty Hunter using Traps and Tricks to the Trooper using lots [and lots] of Heavy Guns to bullet things into submission. As far as skills go, you have Neutral Skills [skills that pretty much everyone has access to] and Class Skills. There are actives and passives, but passives have to be equipped in order to be used, just like active abilities. You can have four abilities on your bar at once, ranging from attacks [Piercing Attack, Charged Attack, Multi-Shot], to passives [Mind Master: Your attacks do not remove ‘Confusion’, Burning Sense: Your attacks on burning targets are automatically critical hits].
Each level your stats will go up and you will gain a few skill points in order to learn new abilities. I found myself with a wealth of SP and nothing to use them on after a while because I found the major way I wanted to approach the game. The positive side to this is that if you decide you need something else, it’s a very simple matter to get another ability to equip. You also start with a few “strategy” abilities in the neutral kit, where you can swap to the back row, etc, but I didn’t find myself using them all that much. This game holds true to standard tabletop/MMO ideas as well: you have Threat/Aggro, which is reduced in the back row. You also have a shield which regenerates over time [unless a status effect that nullifies shield regen hits you].
You can taunt, use items, and there is an Initiative System [which you can increase with items/abilities]. When it’s your character’s turn, you can attack [which ends their turn], or use an item. Items don’t end your turn, so if you need to spam them to heal/resurrect someone, feel free. You aren’t being penalized. You also have battles in space! Your spaceship will have to fight occasionally, but they have a different pattern, akin to the Giant Robot battles in Chroma Squad. You roll a die [which is basically your ship’s PC, it grows in power as the game goes on, more on that in a bit] which gives you AP towards abilities. The enemy gets one too so beware! Theirs might be better than yours as well. Your attack/heal cost AP and you can upgrade your attack for some AP later down the line. There are also items for the ship like a “Re-Roll” to redo your AP roll, and a Battery to add AP. You can choose to do nothing and stock AP for a big hit later in the battle.
Before most of the battles, you set the parameters for the fight, which is handy. It lets you control how easy/hard it is. Boss fights are different, but most quest battles the game tells you “Kill X of these enemies,” and you can fight them in the amount you desire. The downside to this it can feel incredibly repetitive and grindy because most of the quest missions will be the same. However in the nature of this game is that you can also create quests! If you’re in need of reputation and XP or move the story along, you create Missions. If you don’t know what to do in the game, it’s likely that you have to “Create” the next story mission. You can do Hunting Missions [Kill these bad guys], Escort Missions [Escort a jerk from planet A to planet B, you pick both], Salvage/Item Missions [get some items from a planet] and more. There are also Class Quests/Supplemental Quests. At some point in the game, the GM will ask if you want to try a new Quest/Mission, sort of like an expansion pack. Completing it will give you a new character type to play as.
However, this leads me to a bug, which was pretty useful for me. If you start one of those missions you unlock a character that’s a part of said mission. If you abandon the mission, they don’t despawn, and they will continue to fight with you. You can’t target them with items/heals, and they do whatever they want, but they are another body that hit incredibly hard and there are fights that are ruthlessly hard and another body is handy. The positive side of this system is that if you’re in need of exp, you can get it this way. You also gain exp from successfully rolling skill checks, like for searching for materials. You get generic-named resources from various planets if you go searching for them. If you sell them on other planets, like other star systems far far away, you can make more money off of them, as that’s their only real purpose. Oh, or trading them to shady traders for potential useful items. The downside to these created missions is that they feel like they have no real purpose other than to grind. The dialogue for them is funny, but they don’t really tie into the game and are kind of boring to do over and over.
There are also Random Events! As you travel across a planet, from point to point, a d20 is rolled. There’s a chance on every roll that an event will happen, from meeting someone that gives you an item, to an ambush (random encounter), or a host of other things. There’s no telling how or when they’ll happen though. You see the number that comes up on the die, but the game does not adequately explain this system at all. You will never know what’s going to come, or if one even will. They seem pretty rare to me though.This is a very frustrating system though because they in no way tell you how it works. I landed a 20, 19, 20, 18, and nothing happened. And then on a 16, I got ambushed. In most of these, you have a choice on how you want to react. Each type of character has a different response, from giving them money to go away, or to leap boldly into combat. It’s all down to how you want to approach it. In fact, most situations in this game change due to how the player characters respond to it. Each time you stop on a zone on a planet you can enter it to search for materials, or try and talk to people, get an item, etc. There are also Docking Bays to get back to space [where the Med Station is also], and typically a town to buy equipment for your character, items, or starship items.
A Long, Long Time Ago . . . 4/5
Galaxy of Pen and Paper is incredibly enjoyable if you just look at it from a story perspective. It’s incredibly well-written, funny, dramatic, and overall tells a very entertaining, engaging story. It’s really just excellently done. However, the encounters become very tedious and annoying. I love the game and the combat is good, but it becomes very annoying. At least you can fight as often or rarely as you’d like in most cases. It’s broken up into chapters that neatly progress the story, but I do feel like there’s not enough variety in combat. Most of the game isn’t explained very well, so if you aren’t paying attention/not familiar with this style of game, it can become vexing to try and learn on your own.
The presentation of this game is magical though from both music, story and the jokes. It has tons of story to go through and is put forth in such a way that you might be annoyed with the combat after a while, the story is so wonderful that it will definitely make up for that. And it’s not that combat’s bad, it just gets tedious when things have high HP and you do so little damage that you must rely on status ailments to make fights go faster. Behold Studios are masters of their craft for making clever, snarky RPGs that parody the genre they are working with and it shows. Every subtle pun or joke is well-delivered, far better than Knights of Pen & Paper. The skill system and the various items offer a lot of strategy choices, and there are so many ways to play the game. With the custom battle/mission system, the choices are infinite. There is no wrong way to play Galaxy of Pen and Paper, much to its credit.