South Park: The Stick of Truth is a “fantasy” RPG game with a turn-based battle system.
The game was developed Obsidian Entertainment known for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and in more recent years Fallout: New Vegas.
The creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker approached the developers directly and provided creative consultancy as well as the full cast of voice acting.
Announced mid-2012 for a 2013 release the game was delayed several times, a main cause being the bankruptcy of its original publisher THQ, the licence being picked up by Ubisoft.
Available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC this review is based on PS3.
Being a fan of the animated series since the late 90s when it started I was more than intrigued by the prospects of a “good” South Park game, the previous lacklustre attempts being an “FPS” on Nintendo 64 and a racing game on PlayStation to name a few.
Sufficed to say, this has been a long time coming and technology has finally advanced enough to successfully recreate the style of the series in the form of a playable game set in a rich, interactive world.
I’d like you to note that I won’t divulge too much detail on the story, weapons and references as all of them are part of the fun of playing so I’ll leave the spoilers to a minimum.
So I decided to head on down to South Park and have myself a time…
The game takes place in the titular town and from what I can only assume, shortly after the events of the “Black Friday” trilogy of episodes in the end of season 17.
You play as the “New Kid”, a new arrival in town, recently moved there with his parents, completely oblivious to the insane happenings of the mountain town.
Your character is a fully customisable creation, when you first start you’re prompted to build your very own “new kid” from scratch, you get a wide variety of clothes and hair to craft an in-game you, with many more to discover as you play on.
Ordered by your parents to go out, play and make friends you soon find yourself in the middle of of a “war” between the humans (a gang led by Cartman and Kenny) and the Elves (led by Kyle and Stan)
You choose one of four classes to play as, each with different advantages and attacks in battle and are set on your way to win the war of the Stick of Truth.
But not is all as it seems…
You are led to believe this is going to be a simple “quest” played out by the kids in the town but more sinister things start to happen, all escalating out of hand, as South Park story lines tend to do.
The plot is great and feels just like an epic version of a typical animated episode with writing to match.
It slowly introduces more of the well-established character as time goes on and your eased into the bizarre goings on until eventually its full-blown insanity.
It’s wacky and is well aware it’s a video game, often breaking the fourth wall and referencing video game culture as well as general pop-culture and satire.
It feels like it could have easily been an episode, even another movie.
You roam around the town of South Park, all the neighbourhoods, landmarks, school, farm, surrounding forest and even the very excellent Canada.
The entire town has been mapped, for years fans wondered about the layout of the buildings but now with input from the show’s creators, the town is now fully explorable and I recommend you do; it’s a joy to just walk around the town, talk to its wacky denizens, see the famous sights.
The map is of a decent size and has quick-travel or “Timmy” points which allow you to travel instantly to other areas in town.
Quick-travel is appreciated but unlike in RPGs such as Fallout, which allow you to quick-travel at almost any time from the map screen, here you have to make your way to a Timmy point to access the feature.
I found it a little cumbersome having to travel to a point in order to then travel quicker but not a huge deal as the town isn’t too big and the points are generously scattered about.
The main gameplay is the turn-based battles. You’re partnered up with a buddy who helps you in battle, depending on the story determines who is with you but by halfway you’ll have a choice of several buddies to choose from, each with their own special abilities that can be used both in and outside of battle such as healing or elemental.
You’ll encounter many enemies, roaming the streets, during missions and epic boss fights with some of the series’ most memorable characters.
It’s reminds me of the Pokemon games in terms of simplicity in battles and navigating.
Whilst fighting you can choose from a wheel of options during your turn and deal hit points based upon your level, class, weapon and special perks.
You battle with weapons that you find or acquire throughout the game, usually junk or household objects like baseball bats or toy swords but with fantasy names.
You also have a collection of “potions” to aid you in battle, which are basically cans of Red Bull energy drink and Mexican burritos that you use to give you can edge in battle.
You eat them to power up your magic, mana or temporarily boost your attack, defence and/or special abilities.
Enemies come in different varieties, often called different things but boil down to “Melee”, “Ranged” and “Wizards”
Melees attack and defend with shields, Ranged snipe you from distances and the Wizards use magic to increase their team’s abilities as well as attack you.
You are taught in the initial tutorial how to use different tactics on each to dispatch them efficiently.
Each victory earns you experience points which help you level up, by doing so you unlock better weapons, armour and abilities.
If like me, you like to play all the side-missions first before advancing the story, you’ll find that you’ll level up nicely when it comes to playing story quests and make short work of enemies and bosses. As I said earlier, I encourage you to explore as you’ll likely find more powerful weapons that’ll make your battles easier
One interesting feature is your “Facebook”, as you roam around town, completing missions and meeting people they “add” you on your social network, they send funny messages to you during the game but they actually provide you with perks. The more friends you acquire, the more battle perks you unlock, giving true meaning to the term “friends with benefits”
Also certain friends you make can be called upon in battle to aid you in your time of need, once you complete specific side-quests you’re awarded their service to be called in to battle, however they have limited use.
At this point I’d like to mention that I played the game on its “Casual” setting, as it has no trophies for difficulty and I think was a smart choice by the developers to create a game that was just fun rather than challenging, however there are higher difficulties to try but I’d recommend just having fun on its easiest setting.
Like any RPG, most likened to the Zelda games, parts of the world and environments are blocked off until you have acquired abilities to overcome blocking obstacles.
Farts or “magic” are a selection of the abilities you come to use outside of battle, a variety of types allow you to explode barriers that block your way or even distract enemies to sneak by and avoid battle.
Avoiding battles is a strange, you can use environmental dangers to defeat enemies without actually engaging them. You’re still awarded the XP but feels weird that you can get around playing the core game at times. It doesn’t occur often but sometimes feels it’s a choice made to break up monotonous battling.
My only really complaint with the gameplay is your battle partners.
To make things clear they’re not AI, you control them when it’s your turn, that’s fine, I really enjoyed playing as some of the famous characters however my gripe with them is that they feel very underpowered compared to your New Kid.
Unlike New Kid, you can’t choose any type of customisation for them, you have to use what they have. They get stronger as you level up but you really feel like you’re carrying them all the way through battle, often reviving them two or three times in later fights.
Some partners are better than others due to their class, it’s up to you to experiment and find your style in battle.
Fantastic. The game perfectly captures the looks and feel of the show. The way the characters are animated, even the way they walk, or should I say hobble around the screen. As I said, technology has advanced enough for developers to build a game that is uncanny from its source material. I was most impressed by the textures of the characters, the craft paper that was used to make the show when it first started all those years ago.
The town is just as you’d expect, identical to the show but what lies within the town is a treat for any South Park fan. References galore!
This game has 17 years of material to call upon and it does perfectly.
Around the town, in the houses you’ll find items relating directly to episodes, even the smallest most obscure reference that only a hardcore fan would understand and I love it.
Items such as the “Sword of a Thousand Truths” USB stick, “Backdoor Sluts 9” VHS and the Shake-Weight. All references to individual episodes, all found in the possessions of their related character.
If you’re not a big fan or haven’t seen too much of the show then I’m afraid you’d be a quite a loss to all these fantastic in-jokes.
Not only visual but audible references play in the shops in town such as song from episodes like “Taco-flavoured Kisses” and the Japanese theme song from “Good Times with Weapons”, even old episodes with Chef songs.
Even some of your battle items such as potions are jokes; chipotle burritos, Weight Gain 4000 and Cheesy Poofs.
I can’t fault the amount of time and detail put in to this game in order to flesh out the world already crafted by the TV show, it’s a delight to look around and find everything.
I couldn’t help but go in every building I could and seek out everything to satisfy my inner geek.
The game provides deep immersion in to the fiction, you feel like a kid playing an awesome pretend game with his friends.
The only thing that hinders the experience is load times.
As you move around the town, from area to area you are greeted with loading screens, many loading screens, whether that be a slight pause with “loading” in the corner or a full-on still picture while it works away to render the next environment.
I found it a bit annoying to b constantly greeted by them, broke the immersion a little and considering we’re now into next-gen, a game running on old, well-established hardware, a game that’s not exactly pushing photo-realism, should be able to run a bit quicker.
And speaking of running, the game suffers from lag and slow-down from time to time, especially when exiting one screen to another such as from a house out in to the street.
Other than minor technical niggles, the game looks and feels outstanding.
You can really tell the show’s creators were present during development, it feel like a genuine product rather than just a licensed game loosely based off a franchise.
The game has a main story and several side-missions that are scattered around town.
I managed to finish everything the game offered in well under 15 hours, making it relatively short for an RPG however I felt it to be an acceptable length.
Any longer and I felt it would have begun to wear on me.
On my first play through I accidentally missed a single collectable item, if I hadn’t missed it I would have obtained all trophies and the platinum trophy in one go (with help from a guide as not all items are easily or obviously obtainable)
My second game was a speedy one at around 6 hours to collect everything again.
Unlike most games, collectables in this all have to be found in one play through, there’s no chapter-selecting, if like me, you missed a “missable” item (one that appears during one-time story missions) then you won’t have another chance to get it.
There are a few story-based choices that give you slightly different events but all lead to the same outcome in the end.
I found saving just before choosing one option then reloading save and choosing the other yielded pretty much no difference except unlocking a trophy.
All this being said, if you’re careful, save often and collect anything you should only really need to play the game through once. There’s very little reason to play it again, unless of course like me, you’re a trophy/achievement-hunter who happened to mess up their otherwise perfect run.
I really had a blast playing Stick of Truth. I was laughing the whole way through, a testament to the fine writing from the show and to Parker and Stone’s ability to still be able to write fantastically warped comedy.
I haven’t felt so immersed the fiction of a game for a while, even though the world isn’t a massive open one, it still provided enough to make it go beyond an episode and make it into an experience.
The battle system is simple and fun with a whole range of hilarious attacks.
I enjoy the “epicness” of the story and how it typically falls into chaos and lunacy like that of a decent episode of South Park; a seemingly simple premise made into a huge ordeal undertaken by the characters.
Long time fans should relish in all the references and nods to parodies found all around the game like I did.
In conclusion South Park: The Stick of Truth is a fantastic play and has been a long time coming.
A bumpy start and delays has not effected the finial quality of the game.
I was surprised at how good it really is, a few technical hitches here and there but nothing that detracts from the overall fun.
Someone like me who rarely plays RPGs, I found it easy to pick up and play and has a steady learning curve. If played on casual, which I recommend, you should have a great time.
This is a must play for anyone who’s been watching the show as long as I have but I can’t help feel that people who haven’t watched all or most of the episodes may find a lot of the jokes and references go over their heads. If you’ve never seen a single episode, it’s still a good game and could perhaps encourage someone to start watching it but I’d feel one would be at a loss and not enjoy it as much as a fan would.
This goes to show that movie/TV-licensed games can be done very well with the right care and attention. It was a joy to play from start to finish.