Review by RamblingFox
This is the game that South Park fans have been waiting for
The crude, provocative satire of South Park has been changing the shape of animated adult entertainment since the late 90s and now, its changing the shape of RPG video games. If youre unfamiliar with South Park then a lot of the content of The Stick of Truth will likely be lost on you as this is a game of nostalgia; revisiting the best jokes and moments from the TV series but thats not to say you wont enjoy it. For newcomers, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a healthy introduction into the surreal and exaggerated world of South Park and is a great lesson in just how far their famously unsettling humour can venture. Despite its comical, innocuous cut out paper style appearance South Park has always been something aimed at a mature audience and its refreshing to see that the Stick of Truth has pulled no punches (except for the Europe edition of the game) in delivering shocking scenes but vastly enjoyable gameplay. This is the game that South Park fans have been waiting for and not only does it stay true to its roots but it stands as an innovative, enjoyable and brilliantly funny game in and of its own rights. Welcome to Colorado.
Gameplay and plot
South Park: The Stick of Truth is quite recognizably an RPG game with character classes, turn based combat and plenty of quests and side quests to complete. You start by creating your character where you can choose your outfit, skin colour, hair and accessories like freckles or glasses. The customizability options here are pleasantly varied so I had no trouble getting my perfect looking new kid in order. There is no option for a female character, though you can put them in ponytails and buns if you want to, though this is probably down to the male dominated friendship group youll be spending time with. Later on in the game you can change your characters appearance by finding wigs, dyes and accessories which is useful if you change your mind later on.
You play a new kid who has just arrived in South Park with your parents. Theres some indication that youre an extremely special, chosen child who has forgotten what their special power or nature is. You dont ever actually talk but youre quickly initiated into a make-believe game by Butters, Cartman and Kenny which vaguely involves a humans versus elves type scenario that parodys a variety of cultural bits and pieces like Game of Thrones, Skyrim and Lord of the Rings. In a typical South Park fashion the plotline then spirals completely out of control and falls into a deep, dark hole of surreal adventuring and government conspiracies. The game isnt very long and is around about 20 hours of gameplay if you do all the side quests and take care to grab collectibles and search each area thoroughly. I imagine if you just went through the main storyline as quickly as possible youd be very disappointed in how quickly it was over.
Gameplay consists of a liberal mix of fighting and exploring and, if you dont want to continue the main quest straight away, you can just mill around the world and see whats going on. You can pick up side quests by talking to characters, collect Chinpokemon toys that are hidden throughout the game and smash bits of scenery to reveal bags of loot. By looking for containers with gold handles you can also enjoy the many, many in-jokes about things found in episodes like the Shake Weight in Stans parents room and the Boy sized leash found in the back of the church. Most of this stuff is junk, and theres plenty of it in-game, which you can sell for money meaning youre never short of cash to buy all the new equipment, items and strap-ons that the game has. The shops dont generate any new equipment however so youll mostly get new equipment by carefully searching areas.
The map area of the game is fairly large and almost everywhere is explorable. Some buildings do require keys that can be found by questing, progressing through the storyline or by searching through peoples drawers to find say, the key to the garage. To make travel easier theres a variation of a fast travel service (Timmy with a trailer hooked to the back of his wheelchair) that is restricted to 12 locations and which can only be used if youre at one of the flags at these locations. The menu system is based as though youre on the internet and theres an odd Facebook friends system where you make friends by finding and talking to people or completing quests for them. Theres then a Facebook style messaging bar where theyll post up status updates for you to read. The menu is where youll find your journal and party members who can be changed depending on what point youre at in the story.
The environments are surprisingly puzzle based if youre looking to explore everywhere and you can interact quite readily with things around you. As you progress through the storyline you gain access to abilities that will help you get to special areas but youre initially restricted to a bow and unlimited arrows that you can use to hit gleaming objects in the environment, which makes stuff happen. Quite often you do this to open up a pathway or to kill an enemy before engaging it in the standard turn based combat youll grow familiar with. This is a handy feature and requires some degree of thought as potential traps in the environment are not always apparent and can be passed over if youre not looking carefully. Merely hitting an enemy with an arrow will not kill them and will instead stun them. If you then chose to engage them youd have them stunned at the beginning but only temporarily so. Environmental traps will kill them outright and tends to include doing things like bursting a water pipe then breaking an electrical wire or setting something on fire and then igniting it using magic which is a crude take on Dragon Shouts from Bethesdas Skyrim.
The regular turn based combat in this game is incredibly well done and has been decked out with enough features to not make the turn based fighting style boring. To begin with, your class dictates a number of special abilities you can unlock as you gain levels and experience which gives enough diversity to the classes to make your initial decision matter. These abilities often put a de-buff on the enemy such as gross out, where they throw up, bleeding which makes them bleed, and burning which sets them on fire. These de-buffs last a few turns and can stack up meaning for each turn the inflicted enemy will lose health until the de-buff wears off. These effects have very visual indicators such as a puddle of blood around their feet and, since they can also be applied to you, this is especially helpful for new players as it makes everything very apparent. Unfortunately by the time I had reached the end of the game I was sick of just how much focus has been placed on combat. By that point Id reached the maximum level, a mere level 15, and battles had become extremely simple and repetitive since only a couple of combination of attacks were truly effective.
You also have perks which you unlock by making lots of Facebook friends. Perks are passive abilities that do things like increase your health or give you additional damage to bleeding targets. Combat consists of a ranged weapon, melee weapon, special class based abilities and magic abilities and uses a form of quick time event which punishes the overzealous or distracted player since damage is severely reduced if youre too fast or too slow. Enemies can also take stances like deflect to hit back range attacks at you, riposte to negate your melee attacks or channelling which means theyre charging up a very powerful attack that needs to be interrupted. All weapons and armour can be changed at any time outside of combat and further enhanced using strap-ons that are either bought or found. Strap-ons are a type of augmentation that you put in slots on your weapons and armour which apply additional effects like shock damage, health regeneration or stronger melee attacks. These simple additions Ive mentioned make combat much more interesting than just hitting, waiting your turn, and hitting again as it means you have to apply some tactical grace to your battles. Its also great fun to attach a dead rat to the end of your weapon and smack people with it, making them throw up for a few turns and stopping them from healing because they cant stand the sight of food.
Graphics and audio
If anybody looked in on you playing this game they would surely think it was a new episode of South Park as the sound and appearance is utterly flawless. To an outsider it may look like a crude, half assed attempt at an animation as the iconic paper cut out style of the characters remains, but thats beside the point. Each area, character and object is identical to its predecessor, perfectly detailed, vibrantly coloured and beautifully shaded. Truly, this game is a seamless replica of the latest version of South Park and boasts flawless voice acting due to the presence of the shows original actors. The audio is partly what makes this game so brilliant as theres no strained attempts at recreating Cartmans maaamm whine or Jimmys relentless stuttering. Not only did the original actors from the show lend the game their voices but all of South Parks audio resources like music and sound effects have been fitted in too. Its clear that Parker and Stone really wanted this game to happen, compared to previous South Park games, as they had a direct hand in shaping every aspect of the Stick of Truth from armour designs to writing the game script. All in all, the game looks and sounds exactly as it should be and every asset from the show has been liberally used to make this game instantly recognizable and it really does feel like a continuation of the show.
I was surprised that this game was not only a great representation of South Park but also a fun and challenging RPG game. The storyline was incredibly short and after about 20 hours of play everything was starting to feel a little tame and cheesy so it was probably good it ended when it did. The combat in the game makes up a huge percentage of what youll be doing though it does remains continually challenging and interesting until youre at the games end. Luckily, theres no real need to grind your way up levels like a lot of RPGs so combat is mostly restricted to quests and the occasional encounter and youll reach the level cap quite naturally. I found the world environment to be a perfect replica of the show and the strong support from Parker and Stone really does set this game apart from its previous counterparts. There are so many great, memorable and hilarious features in this game that will keep you amused for hours as you travel from the quiet little mountain town, to the fantastically designed Canada and every weird place in between. If you love South Park then you wont be disappointed in this game and if youve never watched South Park then you can still enjoy it as an introduction into their strange and disturbing world. I highly rate this and recommend this game to everybody but for the love of God, please be over 18 and beware of highly offensive content on all topics.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: South Park: The Stick of Truth (EU, 03/07/14)
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