When Galaxy of Pen and Paper works as intended it’s quite the experience. It simultaneously captures the magic of classic role-playing videogames, and that of gathering a group of friends for a tabletop adventure. The battles are strategic, the music and graphics are lovely, and the humour is on point, culminating in a game that I would readily recommend to anyone looking for an RPG. However, the game is plagued by bugs -some benign, some game breaking- that hurt an otherwise excellent game.
The first time I encountered an unloadable save was 12 hours in. When I attempted to load that save I found my breakfast-themed team of Pancakes, Coffee, Bacon, and Grapefruit stuck in darkness, never to pilot the General Mills again. My second unloadable save came about four hours into my next playthrough, with the only difference being that I could see the inside of my ship. So, Propaghandi, Tragically Hip, Eric’s Trip, and Rheostatics remain stranded in their ship the 13 Engines. My third playthrough, where I’ve given up on theme naming and just call everyone and everything Bob, has been going quite smoothly for 16 hours now. I also encountered several occurrences where a main objective would disappear from the map, necessitating a complete restart of the software. Despite these difficulties, I have a good reason I keep coming back to Galaxy of Pen and Paper, aside from wanting to review the game: there’s an awful lot to like about it.
In space, the weakest part of the gameplay, you pilot your ship from planet to planet, with dice rolls determining if something interesting happens or not. There’s little exploration, and combat encounters are extremely simplistic. You only have control of one character, your ship, and your only moves are shoot and heal, with a few other options opening up 10 hours or so into the game. There are some single-use items that let you reroll your dice and what not, but even then space combat is nowhere near as engaging as the ground combat.
Once on a planet, where you’ll spend the majority of your time, things start to open up. Your party of adventurers can mine for resources, talk to locals, shop, and even discover hidden vendors or events. Combat is also more strategic with your feet on the ground. Up to four party members, each with their own unique moveset, can participate in battle, and the way the different classes work off one another is superb. Depending on who I had in my party and what skills were attached to them I was either a damage and healing powerhouse, or utilising status ailments to cripple the enemy team. Battles are challenging, but never something that a small amount of grinding or some strategic use of skills can’t overcome.
The smooth difficulty curve means you never have to wait too long for the next story beat, or solar system to open up, which is good because the moment-to-moment dialogue is extremely well written. The characters were charming, if somewhat interchangeable, and everything felt authentically roleplay-ish. Many of the jokes and quips felt like things my friends and I would say in a D&D session.
As for the game within the game, it’s absolutely hedonistic in its references to classic science fiction. Nearly every planet and solar system is a reference to a famous book or movie, and if not that an author or a scholar. There were a handful of planets that weren’t references and those may well have simply been going over my head. It’s a cute shtick, but the downside is that jokes can be overly referential at points. Most of the references are one-off planet names, but some of the more drawn out references to Akira or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fall flat. Luckily these shallow call-outs are relatively few and far between, and the game is packed with more natural character-based jokes that more than make up for these instances.
Despite enjoying my time with Galaxy of Pen and Paper I can’t really recommend a game that corroded my save file twice in under 20 hours. Every time I load a save I have to cross my fingers and hope it works, and while I typically enjoy rolling dice, loading a game is definitely an exception.
Galaxy of Pen & Paper (Reviewed on Windows)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
Hopefully this game will be patched to the extent that people don't need to worry about losing hours of progress, but you should probably avoid purchasing until then.