Review by Bkstunt_31
The definitive South Park experience.
South Park is pretty much a household name in America (and likely many other countries), having run for nearly 17 years now. It's also a landmine of controversies. You probably don't need me to tell you that this show isn't exactly for the close-minded, so if you are reading this chances are that you know exactly what the show (and this game) are like. If not, well... you really need to go watch yourself some South Park (which you can do for free online on their webpage).
What is surprising though, is that in nearly 17 years of production, South Park really doesn't have that many video game titles. There were a couple of titles on the original PlayStation (that weren't that good), a Dreamcast title, and a handful of digital releases over the years. No real GOOD console releases. And then comes South Park: The Stick of Truth which also happens to be a RPG and made by Obsidian, who is probably best known for developing Fallout: New Vegas. Can it break the mold? Let's get into it down below!
It's tough being the new kid in town.
You start off the game (after customizing a character) as the "New Kid" in town, having just moved into South Park with your Mom and Dad. After being told to go make friends, you quickly meet up with Butters outside and gain your first South Park friend. Butters is dressed up as a paladin and will soon whisk you off to Cartman's backyard fort (aptly named the "KKK") to meet "Grand Wizard" Cartman and join his army in the war against the elves, who are after The Stick of Truth: a magical item (read: ordinary stick) that allows the bearer to control the universe. And so starts your adventures in South Park. You will not only battle over the stick of truth with multiple factions, but will also meet and interact with dozens of the towns residents and groups.
What makes the Stick of Truth really special (especially in comparison to all of the other South Park games), is that the game itself FEELS like South Park. The creators of the series (Matt Stone and Trey Parker) worked on the script and game with Obsidian and it really does show. This script fits in perfectly with the series and established lore and really comes off like an interactive episode, which makes the game special in its own right as it captures what a true South Park title should feel like.
The story itself is well-paced and chock full of humor. The game it absolutely FULL of references to South Park history, whether it is items from the children's past exploits that you can find in their garages or closets or a catchy tune from familiar episodes playing in the town's photo shop - there is always something to remind you of some random South Park episode. That being said, it is only natural to state that maximum enjoyment of this game (and all those references) will come from the established South Park fan. Fan or not though, the game's story is absolutely solid and should be known as the game that that South Park (finally) deserves.
We're waiting on you!
Making the game an RPG was an excellent decision as it fits in with the boy's fantasy play and allows the player to interact with the town's many residents through side quests. Being an RPG, you'll encounter many tried-and-true RPG customs such as equipping armor, gaining levels and of course turn-based combat!
Early in the game you'll choose a class to play as, ranging from such fantasy staples as Warrior, Wizard, Thief and... Jew (I can't make this stuff up). In most battles you'll face off against your opponent with a buddy. For example, in the beginning of the game you'll have Butters as your buddy and will fight alongside him. Battles themselves are fairly standard. You can either use a melee or ranged attack, a skill, or later in the game some magic. You can ALSO choose to use an item or even a buddies special ability without losing your turn to attack. Attacking and defending in the game borrow a page from the Paper Mario series as you can time your button presses to add extra damage on attacks and mitigate damage on defense. Timing these attacks perfectly will often grant you bonuses based on your weapon.
Throughout the game you'll find dozens of equipment sets to wear with all sorts of bonuses attached to them. You'll also find dozens of weapons to wield (including, um... toys of pleasure...). Equipping and using items is easy, but you can also customize most items with patches and strap-ons that imbue your weapons with bonuses. Many of these bonuses allow you to inflict status ailments on your enemies. Since this is South Park, the status effects include such things as bleeding, being on fire and being "grossed-out" and barfing every round.
Leveling up in the game let's you equip stronger weapons and armor as well as upgrade abilities based on your chosen class. You can also earn "perks" by befriending various South Park characters, which lets you pick a special ability (like increased HP) after gaining a predetermined number on new friends. The whole "making friends" aspect of the game is notably not just for the powerful perks you can unlock, but also due to the fact that new friends are added to your status menu like it was a Facebook page, letting you see your friend's posts and status (which are often hilarious).
In the end, the game play in Stick of Truth is enjoyable enough. I've heard many claim that the game play is far too easy, which I can't really disagree with, but the game does have its difficulty spikes. The status effects are very overpowered (hint, hint). However, the single biggest complaint I have about the game is how laggy it is. Moving around town and transitioning screens will often hang you up for a few seconds. Loading into new areas will often take longer than you'd expect. It's not like the game's graphics here cutting-edge... I'm really not sure why the game is so laggy. For fairness's sake I checked online and I'm definitely not the only one making this complaint. I find it hard to believe that this issue was not noticed in testing. But then again, I don't find it hard to believe that releasing a title trumps any sort of technical clean-up in this day and age of gaming, either.
A look you are familiar with.
I mentioned earlier that the game really feels like a South Park game... a big reason for that is how faithfully the developers graphically recreate the town of South Park. This game seriously looks like it could be an episode. Granted, South Park's graphics aren't exactly cutting edge or anything, but they are re-created faithfully in the game and to be honest that is the best thing they could have done.
Still, the game isn't all cut-and-dry South Park environments. During battle you'll often see a wide variety of special animations. Characters on fire freak out. Bleeding characters wince in pain. Several character skills (especially buddy skills) will play short and sweet animations to accompany them (My favorite has to be Stan's "Way of the Sword"). There is a quality level of care given to every animation in the game that really shows.
While everything is, graphically, almost exactly what you would expect (minus Canada... but that's very tongue-in-cheek), the graphics do suffer from the game's general slow performance (or laginess... which my word editor keeps insisting is not a word). Just transitioning between screens will often cause the game to hang up a bit and the graphics on the screen of course suffer the consequences. We covered this a bit up above though, so no need to beat a dead horse (or Kenny...).
So I hear this Skyrim thing is a big deal...
Another big reason why this game feels so much like a South Park episode is the voice acting. Normally I talk about voice acting after a game's soundtrack, but with such a well-known franchise having the original voice actors participating is crucial, and participate they did! The voice acting in the game is fantastic and of course spot-on since Trey and Matt provide all of the voices they normally do.The main protagonist (the character you create) plays the role of the silent protagonist, but thanks to the superb voice acting throughout the game you'll hardly notice (and, of course, your silence is bound to be made fun of).
Now, onto that Skyrim comment! Since the boys are role-playing a fantasy setting, it's only right that the music reflects that, right?! Of course! Much of the music in the game HAS to be inspired by Skyrim. Has to be! Soft and subtle string pieces turning into epic-sounding overtones. Choral accompaniments... everything here sounds like it was inspired by Skyrim... which isn't exactly a BAD thing by any means. Still, it's odd to hear Cartman chanting in the background (especially when it sounds like he's saying something about cheese...).
Skyrim-inspired music aside, the game happily features much more than that music wise. Throughout South Park's history they've always had a short song here and there, which are often hilarious. Thankfully, the developers found a way to put these in by making them play on radios throughout town. You have to admit that hearing "Taco-Flavored Kisses" or "Something in my front pocket" after walking into a random shop is awesome.
Master of the side quests!
Being an RPG, South Park has its share of side quests that unlock after you get into the game. However, many of these require little more than walking around town finding things or going to a specific place and beating up a boss of some sort. In short, this isn't the longest game out there. Still, you can expect 3-4 good afternoons of playing if you try to do everything there is to do, and of course there's always the various trophies to go after (several of which are unfortunately outright missable).
You can also choose to replay the game as a different class if you wished, although I greatly suspect that only changes the abilities you have access to and nothing else. Not a very good reason to re-play a game, honestly, but its there if you want it.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is a solid RPG game and will undoubtedly go down as the greatest South Park game ever (not that the bar for that title was too high to begin with...). Still, what you are really getting here is an excellent South Park experience, accentuated by the humorous writing and story. Behind it all is a very average, Paper Mario-inspired RPG battle system that works well even if it isn't that remarkable. General laginess may rear its ugly head to torment you, but this is still an adventure worth undertaking. Have fun and keep playing!
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: South Park: The Stick of Truth (US, 03/04/14)
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.