Boy, I think we have found one of the few games that went through a little bit of development hell, but actually ended up being okay and not total garbage! You see the title of this review and you know this review will be all about South Park: The Stick of Truth! For those not in the know about this game’s development history, here is a quick CliffNotes-style version. This game was originally announced a few years ago and was going to be released in March of 2013. However, due to a multitude of delays and THQ going bankrupt, this game almost never saw the light of day. Fortunately, the good people at Ubisoft picked up the game, and made sure the game was going to get made and not be a total disaster at launch like so many games were last year. This was my fourth most anticipated game of this year, and it was finally released last week on March 4th for us here in the States and a day or more later for other places around the world. As you have all probably heard, this game is fantastic, and if you haven’t already bought this game, you really should. Let’s dive into this world of larping and underpants gnomes: this is South Park: The Stick of Truth.
The main set-up for the story is that you are the new kid, and you just moved into the little town of South Park. After making your own character, your parents tell you to go outside and make some new friends. As you walk around, you meet Butters who takes you to see the grand wizard, Cartman. Cartman enrolls you into the Kingdom of Kuppa Keep, or as it’s also known, his backyard. He decides to see how great of a hero you are, and lets you choose your class, get a weapon, and then beat up Clyde. After all that happens, the elves attack the stronghold, and even though you fight them off, they end up stealing the all-powerful Stick of Truth. Cartman then sends you out on a quest to retrieve the stick. I will not go any farther than that for the people who haven’t played this game yet. All you need to know is that the story for the game is one of the best things about it. It’s clever, witty, hilarious, and just kept me guessing as to what was going to happen next. It definitely helps that they got the creators of the show to write the script, and you can tell they put all of their best jokes and writing skills into this game’s story. Sure, if you are not a fan of the show’s jokes and style of humor, you won’t care for it, but if you just gave it a chance, I bet you that at least one joke will get you to laugh.
If you have played Paper Mario, Lost Odyssey, Costume Quest, or have seen the footage shown of this game, you know this is a turn-based RPG. You will explore the small town of South Park with one ally with you at all times, but you will gain more allies as you play through the game’s story. When you go into battle, you and your one ally will take turns pulverizing the opponents, either using your normal attacks, long-range attacks, or special attacks. You will also have an assortment of items to use, like potions to recover your health, power points, mana, and etc. The main mechanic to the game’s combat is the timed hits. You will need to press a button when you see a flash on the screen. If you do this, you will do more damage each time you hit the enemy. You can either do a multiple-attack move, a single powerful blow, or even an attack using your own farts. The magic or special ability system works basically the same way. You press a button or do a gesture with the control stick, and you will be able to do more damage or cause different side effects. In combat, depending on which ally you have, they will be able to perform a special move instead of using an item to either buff up your characters or hurt the enemy.You can also use one item during the same turn, which means you can use an item or special skill, and then use an attack.
The final mechanics that you can use in combat and in the overworld are these “fart” skills. You can pull off four different “fart” skills. They each have their own unique feel. The first spell is a “Dragon Shout” which is used for doing a good deal of damage to the opponent, the second spell is used for long range attacks, the third spell helps you distract and get behind the enemy, and the fourth spell is basically one giant powerful fart. It’s a little immature, but you will definitely use these “fart” spells to explore the overworld and dungeons more so than in combat. So, with all of these moves and spells, you would think the enemies would be pushovers. Well, they aren’t. The enemies you face will have their own unique moves and stances that will deflect ranged attacks and melee attacks. You definitely need to make sure you have the right moves planned out for the situation. Luckily, you can use time-blocks and even counterattacks when possible. Outside of combat, you can pull off an instant win if you use the environment, and knock the enemies out, or at least make battles with multiple enemies easier. It makes battles that could take a long time go by quickly, and that’s a good thing. I love my turn-based RPG battles as much as the next guy, but when a battle is taking too long, then it becomes tedious and boring.
Outside of combat, you can use your weapons and farts to interact with the environment, and find secrets aplenty around the town of South Park. You can use your bow and arrows, an ally, gnome magic to shrink down in size, or an anal probe to teleport you to areas you can’t reach. You even get to go to Canada later on, and I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but it is quite funny and creative with what they do with Canada. Including the main story and side quests, you will get about 12 to 15 hours to gameplay, and while some people have complained that it’s short for RPG standards, I think it’s the right length for a game like this. I loved the world of South Park, but like with anything that overstays their welcome, you would get pretty tired of it after a while. Anyway, let us move onto the graphics.
The look of this game is perfect. It recreates the show, and like many people have said, it feels like you are in an interactive season of the show. The voice work by the main cast is fantastic and I didn’t really feel like any line or part of the show felt out of place. I was surprised by the music though. I was humming the tunes and just stood around in the game’s world to listen to it. It’s probably the best musical score Obsidian has ever gotten for their games. The humor is top-notch. Its offensive, but it’s well written, so it isn’t just shock value. It’s like they took their best jokes and satire and put it into this game’s world and story. I know not everyone is a fan of South Park’s humor, like I said above, but if you just sit down and hopefully listen to a lot of the jokes being thrown at the player, you might find one or two, or heck, maybe all of them funny.
I was really tempted to give this game a perfect score, but there are some slight issues that need to be brought up. The biggest issue I have is that while it isn’t tremendously buggy, I did run into a few bugs that annoyed me. The first update I got for the game corrupted it, and I had to get rid of that patch to play the game. I ran into a few minor graphical glitches and one bug that crashed my game. I hate to say this since Obsidian is well known for having buggy launches when they have released games like Alpha Protocol and Fallout: New Vegas, but that is the problem right there—we shouldn’t be “expecting” their games to be buggy at launch. If this game was extremely buggy at launch, I would be very upset about it. I would lower the score of the game because it felt like Obsidian had a poor excuse of a quality assurance team. We should be expecting games at launch to be released with very few to no major bugs. Luckily, this game wasn’t terribly buggy, and it ran smoothly for 99% of my experience. I also disagree with the criticism that the enemy and ally characters making fun of the whole turn-based combat is annoying. That is the joke, people. I’m surprised so many people complained about it. I also heard that players thought the game was too easy, and to an extent, it is. Sometimes, I can use just two attacks and be done with the entire battle. You could even argue that the summons you gain don’t really need to be there since you have a lot of strong multi-hitting attacks. You have different difficulties, and you can play as different classes that will give you a different game plan over the other classes. I would rather the game be easy and fun than difficult and unfair. Like I said, I really couldn’t find a whole lot to gripe about with this game.
Final Verdict: One of the best licensed games in years
With the release of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones and hopefully with the upcoming release of Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation, and Avalanche Studio’s Mad Max, licensed games are slowly starting to become better, and South Park: The Stick of Truth is a testament to this little observation. Why? Because the developers actually gave a hoot, putting their blood, sweat, and tears into making a satisfying experience using said license. I would highly recommend you pick up this game. It is easily the best South Park game, and is one of my top 5 favorite games based off of a license. I know we will probably still see terrible games based off of licenses, but hopefully publishers and developers will take their time with the product and not just think of dollar signs when they make games based off of said licenses.
I know different areas around the world got a version of this game with censored scenes, and while censorship rules can be understandable, they are also a huge mess of rules that don’t make a whole lot of sense when you look at specific situations. However, I won’t get into the flaws of censorship and the point of having a rating system, since that can be a train wreck of contradictions when you get into it. I hope we can see some expansions and add-ons made, since I recognized a lot of content from the trailers that never made it into the actual game. Hopefully, Obsidian can deliver, and Ubisoft will allow it. This small town in Colorado might be infested with underpants gnomes, hippies, and aliens that want to probe you, but like Randy says, at least you don’t have to deal with traffic.