Good Times with Weapons.
Few games with development turmoil on the level of The Stick of Truth turn out well; if they are even released at all. After what seems like forever, Obsidian’s South Park RPG is finally out, and rips through both of those conventions. The Stick of Truth is one of the best licensed games I have played, right up there with the Arkham series. Most of that comes from the excellent writing from series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. This game feels like an epic episode of the show, complete with enough offensive content that should be lighting up plenty of articles over the next few weeks. Regardless of how anyone feels about its content, South Park fans are in for a special treat with The Stick of Truth.
The entire game was written by Parker and Stone and plays out like an extended episode of the show. Players assume the role of the new kid in South Park who has just moved in. The game starts off with the new kid running into Butters and saving him in a battle the kids are playing. The plot revolves around a war between the kids over The Stick of Truth; it’s a game but like any South Park episode things go completely insane.
Fans of the show will be in for a treat as almost everything defining about the show is here. Crab People lurk in the sewers, Mr. Hat makes a cameo and of course Visitors play a role. The fan service is unmatched. Being a huge fan of the show it was incredible to see how they injected so much of the show’s history into the game. There is so much to see and do, and Obsidian has done an amazing job of crafting it into interesting game play. Even after finishing the game I wanted to go back and explore to see what I could find.
At its core this is a turn-based RPG with action elements not unlike Paper Mario. Players can choose from a series of traditional classes like warrior, thief etc, but also a class specific to South Park called Jew. Like I said before the game pulls no punches with its humor. Anyone who has seen the show likely knows that South Park is highly offensive with its content, and The Stick of Truth is no different. There are sequences in the game that will likely cause a stir, including one deemed so controversial it was banned overseas.
The game play itself involves battles that play out like traditional RPGs. Players select an attack, and oftentimes have to perform timed button presses to make them more effective. For example, Butters has an attack that required me to spin the analog stick until his hammer flashed, then tap the button to attack. It keeps battles interesting, especially considering I had to block incoming attacks to minimize damage.
Leveling up unlocks new abilities, all of which are themed from the show. For example the Jew class has a special attack that delivers plagues to enemies such as locusts and raining frogs. Sure it is offensive, but that is South Park. Combat also has buffs such as grossing out opponents (essentially poisoning them) as well as other traditional types such as burning and bleeding. It is a novel battle system, and one that kept me on my toes more often than not.
There are also various mini-games spread throughout the game. These can be frustrating at times due to obscurity or lack of a good explanation. The most frustrating ones revolve around the magic. Magic in this game is farting…yes farting. Early on Cartman will teach the player the magic of farting. The first attack is called the Dragonshout, a clear reference to Skyrim. There are four magic attacks in total, with the Sneaky Squeaker being the most convoluted. I must have done that tutorial ten times before comprehending it.
Magic joins special abilities in things that can be performed outside of combat. They are mapped to the left and right bumpers respectively. Other actions include a teleport, being able to shoot down environmental objects, shrink in size and use a buddy companion’s special move, a feature that is criminally underused throughout the game. Parties always consist of two players, but as I earned new party members, I could swap them on-the-fly, or even during battle. I favored Butters most of the game, mostly because of his healing abilities and his Professor Chaos special attack. It deals massive damage almost every time.
There are plenty of customization options throughout the game, both cosmetic and otherwise. I could dress up my character with hair styles and specific features from the show such as Evil Cartman’s goatee, or goth makeup. The equipment is where stats are buffed. There are complete costume sets as well as specific costumes for each class. Weapons fall into melee and ranged, and all items can be modified with stickers and strap-ons that enhance abilities. This system is a bit flawed as the game rarely notifies players when new, better items are available. So it was best to constantly check my inventory to see what was new. I also hated having to manually remove and replace stickers on new equipment. It was also a pain when a cut scene or quest forced me to change equipment, because I had to manually put my old pieces back on afterwards.
In addition to abilities and magic, there are also perks that can be earned based on how many Facebook friends I collected. For every so many friends I earned a new perk. These are pretty standard, adding damage to melee weapons, or extra health. The friends also serve as one of the collectibles in the game. Finding and collecting them all takes time, but is worth it for the perks. There are also 30 Chinpokomon to collect throughout the game; I admit I nerded out when I finally found Shoe. He is my favorite.
There is a hefty game here, but players should note this is not an epic 30-hour RPG. The main play-through took me around 13 hours, but with all the side content and exploration, I spent around 17 hours in the world of South Park. It actually feels like the perfect length. Any longer would have felt padded, and I imagine regardless of how much I enjoy Trey and Matt’s work, any more would have simply felt forced. What is here is entertaining from beginning to end, and I think it was perfectly paced.
One of the most impressive things about The Stick of Truth is how it looks. Obsidian has nailed the look and feel of the show. The animation is identical to the show, and it doesn’t matter what system it is played on. I loved the subtle touches such as seeing the characters bloody and bruised during combat. All of the signature animations are here, and seeing little nuances such as Kyle’s Chewbacca mask and Cartman’s Awesome-O costume in their closets is fantastic.
The audio is just as great, featuring tons of songs from the show’s history and of course the vocal work of Trey and Matt, as well as all the other series regulars. The production values are identical to the show. Obsidian has nailed that signature crappiness that the team at South Park Studios has perfected over the years. Fans of South Park will be thrilled with almost everything here.
The Stick of Truth is the epitome of South Park games. It may have taken far too long and suffered more development issues than any one game deserves, but it came out the other side exactly as I hoped it would. Fans of the show need not hesitate, this is a must own experience. For those that find South Park offensive or juvenile, this game was never intended for you, and there is likely nothing that will change that. I loved every minute of this title, but it requires knowing what you are signing up for before diving in.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.