Date Released: March 4th, 2014
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment & South Park Digital Studios
Platform: [Reviewed Xbox 360], PlayStation 3, PC
Rated: M for Mature
With an endless source of satirical gold, South Park is well into its 17th season and still going strong by taking anything currently trending in society and making it into a hilarious half hour of balls-to-the-wall situations with no censorship. This formula has made the show into a cultural phenomenon; however, the same can’t be said for any videogame adaptations out there. None of the past South Park titles have even come close to capturing the spirit of their source material, until now.
The boys of South Park are engaged in a LARPing (live action role-play) game that has them split into two factions fighting for the control of The Stick of Truth. A prophecy has been foretold that a mysterious figure will have the power to turn the tide of the war and that’s where the player comes in. Just moving in to the “quiet” mountain town, you, a seemingly mute kid with a strange past, must go out and make friends because your parents told you to. You will soon join Cartman, Kenny, Stan, and Kyle on the hunt for The Stick of Truth, and like clockwork, insanity ensues, attracting more attention than South Park kids bargained for.
South Park: The Stick of Truth plays like any traditional RPG: leveling, gaining XP, upgrading equipment, classes, and turn-based combat much like the older Final Fantasy games. Seeking The Stick of Truth will pit you against various others like elves, hobos, meth addicts, and hallway monitors. You can gain the upper hand in a fight by scoring a preemptive strike which allows you to attack first; striking them with an arrow, a fart, or both will add debuffs on your enemy before the actual fight begins. There are environmental hazards you can set off that will take out some or all of your enemies, saving you time and making combat much more manageable if one foe happens to avoid the trap.
Each turn can consist of two phases: using “potions” to heal and attacking; if you are low on health make sure to heal first before attacking as doing so will end your turn. Just before striking an enemy an indicator prompts players the opportunity to perform perfect attacks, adding extra damage to your target, as well as perfect blocks that reduces damage received and avoiding debuffs being placed on you. If a fight is more than you can handle you can call upon one of four potential summons to perform a devastating super move that pretty much wins the battle for you. But once you’ve summoned those characters you’ll have to wait till the next day to summon them again; they also refuse to aid in boss battles so they can’t win all your battles for you.
Players are accompanied by one of six buddies that join you on your quest: Butters, Kenny, Jimmy, Stan, Cartman, and Kyle. Some characters join your fellowship later on in the game and that presents a little nitpick; the game goes on for three in-game days and two friends are unlocked each day, so when the third day comes you really don’t get enough time with your newly enlisted compatriots. Another problem is with difficulty. Though the game plays very well, the overall experience diminishes when there is no real threat posed by your opponents; not once did I fall in battle and by the last third of the game I became too overpowered. I recommend to all players to start at the highest difficulty which can be done at any time in the options menu.
Regardless, The Stick of Truth is a very competent South Park game that the show desperately deserved, but it also features the entire town of South Park to LARP in, meaning that this is the first and official layout of the town that fans will feverishly want to explore. There are dozens of familiar characters that will need a helping hand with missions that takes players to every corner of South Park, which is filled to the brim with references from the show and gaming alike. The more you wander the town of South Park the more secrets can be uncovered; hidden stashes of weapons or armor can be found in backpacks, but some are unobtainable until you receive the required ability to reach it.
Obsidian Entertainment, along with South Park Digital Studios, did a remarkable job making The Stick of Truth look and feel like an actual episode straight from the show. And just like the show, Trey Parker and Matt Stone take on their roles of numerous South Park citizens with the same level of consistency and ridiculously hysterical dialog. Standard medieval tunes with a South Park twist does well enough to make this modern day medieval romp feel like you’re back in olden times. There are a few noticeable lags in the game, particularly when dealing with “almost president” Al Gore. And I had a small glitch happen where battle music continued to play even though I was just exploring around, but got fixed when I re-loaded a save. All of these bugs were a bit annoying, but didn’t do anything to ruin the game as a whole.
Finishing at 15 hours, The Stick of Truth is admittedly a short game, especially for a role-playing title. After concluding your search for the stick, you do have a chance to wrap up any remaining quests, though with less incentive. And if you were thinking of picking a different class for your next playthrough the only difference would be your abilities; every class can wield the same weapons and armors just as effectively as the other and that does hurt the games replayability as there is little diversity. On the flip side there is plenty to enjoy: the well-designed and well-paced gameplay, outrageous moments, hilarious dialog, and getting to interact with many of your favorite characters. Your focus in-game may be to search for the Stick of Truth, but for gaming, the search for a good South Park title has finally come to an end.
Overall Rating: 4/5