It’s been several years since we last saw a South Park game. Note, I said “A South Park game.” Because let’s face it, there hasn’t ever been a good South Park game. I’m happy to say The Stick of Truth has finally changed that.
It was years ago that the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, went to Obsidian Entertainment and said they wanted to build an authentic experience faithful to the show. Obsidian, known for their work on Knights of the Old Republic II and Fallout: New Vegas, happily said “fuck yeah.” (Probably) Providing a proof of concept to Trey and Matt that the game could look and play exactly like an episode left them extremely impressed. Combine that with the creators’ love of video games with a handful of episodes spoofing Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones and The Stick of Truth was born.
Before I go further, please note I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers because part of what makes these moments so hilarious is discovering them. However, there will be some mentions. If you’re not comfortable with that, simply scroll to the bottom for the score.
The game opens with your character moving into town. You are officially “The New Kid.” Right off the bat you realize you are essentially playing an episode of South Park. Besides the cut scenes; walking around and everything in the game is meant to duplicate the feel of the show. The amount of accuracy Obsidian and South Park Studios nailed in order to make this happen is unbelievable. If a buddy walked in and saw you playing this, they would think you were watching an episode of the show.
Your parents encourage you to make some friends. It isn’t long before Butters has teamed up with you and brought you to Kupa Keep, the fortress (Cartman’s house) run by the Grand Wizard (Cartman). Off the bat you choose one of four classes: The Warrior, Paladin, Thief, or Jew. No, I’m not kidding. From here, the tutorial kicks in and you realize just what kind of game you’re in for.
The Stick of Truth is a turn based RPG, and while this could’ve ended up really lame Obsidian has pulled it off extremely well. Not only is there a friendly wheel of choices to navigate using your joystick, you need to actually interact with your character(s). For example, when an enemy attacks you, you are provided a brief window to tap “A” and block, minimizing the attack. This also applies towards offense. Most attack moves will flash and if you hit “A” or “X” at the right time will deliver more damage. You and your enemies can receive burn damage, bleed damage, shock, gross out (poisoning), and the list goes on and on. On top of this, there’s even abilities specialized for each class and character. There’s even an items system full of health potions, revives, cures, and more. This all makes for an extremely exciting, strategy rich gameplay experience.
Being in a world of South Park, things are always hilarious and get more and more ridiculous as the game goes along. The comedy is just as sharp as the show. Furthermore, due to not being on cable television, things are taken to a whole new level. Think of this as a second South Park movie, only a billion times cooler. The references are in high numbers and include everything from the first episode to the most recent. Without opening my mouth, I urge you to visit Cartman’s mom’s room. A side mission takes place in the Peace Tower, for example. They are showcased from locations you visit, to characters you encounter, to even just background pieces. There are 30 collectibles in the game to find. These 30 collectibles are none other than Chinpokomon. On top of this, every time you find one, the hilarious “Chinpokomonnnnn!” will briefly play. I laughed every single time. However, the highest number of references definitely comes through in the loot.
Being an RPG, loot is in high demand and Obsidian delivers. Every enemy you fight can be looted and the game is chock-full of hidden treasure chests that possibly contain valuable items. A good amount of the loot is junk but naturally, there is a buy/sell/buyback system to unload it. I will say that money was never an issue in the game as most of my items came from quests and I always have hundreds of dollars. (Most “good items” are around $30-50, for now) Every single piece of loot for the most part is a reference. I’ll save them for you to discover but to give you an idea one of the first pieces of junk loot I came across was WILD CRAZY ACTION BIKE. Being a game in 2D, it was sometimes annoying to try and loot a pile of bodies as enemies all drop loot individually. However, mashing the “A” button followed by “X” for “Take All Items” becomes somewhat habitual anyways.
The map is fantastic and authentic. The entire town of South Park is mapped out for you to discover. There’s a convenient fast travel system by means of Timmy. And yes, there’s more than just the town of South Park for you to visit. If you enter any home you’ll find a TV on which always features an episode of Terrance and Phillip or another show referenced throughout the series (I haven’t encountered Russell Crowe’s Fightin’ Round The World yet but I have a feeling I will). Go into any store and you’ll hear one of the many songs DVDA (Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s band) has done over the years. Songs such as “Montage” and “Let’s Fighting Love” blare over the intercoms as you joyfully laugh and take it all in. The game features a great auto save that saves your progress very often. Probably one of the most subtle, yet effective touches is that every time you continue your progress, it plays the little guitar strum you hear at the beginning of every episode.
Facebook acts as your inventory, quest log, map, skill tree, and more. They’re all conveniently grouped into one single button that you navigate with using the trigger buttons. You can also manage your friends. Some of them you just have to talk to to become friends and others you have to do side quests for. The more friends you gain, the more perks you unlock. Perks act as a secondary skill tree that is specific to your class. For example, one of my perks I chose was the ability to attack again if I killed an enemy in a group fight. Abilities are unlocked by leveling. There seems to be four per class and they stack up four levels, providing all sorts of extra damage and buffs. You can also access certain tabs of your Facebook through the D-Pad. You always have a buddy following and fighting with you. Down on the pad lets you quickly cycle through and choose one, for example. (Your buddies can also swap Pokemon-style in combat as well)
Your inventory is very robust and can get confusing at times. However, once you get further into the game, you get the hang of it. Everything about your character is customizable from the weapons to their equipment to the color of gloves you might be wearing. Equipment and cosmetic items are two separate things in the game but smartly are put on opposite sides of the inventory. Equipment can be purchased but like most RPGs, the good stuff comes from grinding and defeating bosses in side missions. Your equipment is clothing. This means hats, gloves, and shirt. The cosmetic stuff mostly deals with your face. You can get all kinds of wigs and glasses, plus more.
Not only is there what seems like thousands of weapons and equipment choices to unlock, they even contain buffs and can be stacked with more modifiers. For example, I have a level 8 club that I unlocked from beating a certain side mission. It already has a buff which does 2x damage. There’s modifiers in the game by means of “patches.” I modified the club with a patch that deals 50 extra fire damage (this also sets the enemy on fire, causing burn damage every turn). My ranged weapon is a thrown broken bottle which causes bleeding. I added a patch to my gloves that allows me to do more damage if my enemy is bleeding. The possibilities and strategy are endless. This may be a South Park game but it’s a hell of an RPG.
Quests are plentiful and for the most part, are quite high in variety. Side quests most of the time are fairly simple. One involved me “Finding Jesus” for Pastor Phillips while others usually end with a boss. However, you want to do these because the combat is actually fairly challenging and you’ll need to grind. On the plus side, they’re all extremely unique and require a different strategy to beat. I got an extremely good weapon from the Mongolians and a bunch of crazy powerful patches from a certain former vice president who is obsessed with a creature that is half bear, half man, and half pig. While the city may seem small, it’s actually pretty gigantic and you’ll find yourself using the fast travel system a lot.
As I venture further into the game, things seem to only be getting crazier. The gameplay remains the same but the game keeps introducing new ways to spice it up. Make sure to fully explore South Park and like a traditional RPG, click on anything and everything. It’ll either result in getting good loot or something hilarious. Without a doubt, this is the South Park game that fans have longed for. Obsidian and South Park Studios absolutely hit it out of the park. Not only is this game super addictive, extremely polished, clever, hilarious, well made, and incredibly long, it’s the ultimate ode to South Park. If you’re a South Park fan, this is going to be one of the best games of the year. If you’re just an RPG fan and have never ventured into the show, well frankly, it’s still going to be one of the best games you’ll play this year.
What I played: About 8 hours, taking in all the side quests and subtle references I could. The crazy part is even eight hours of playing nonstop, I can tell I’m nowhere close to being done. This was reviewed using a full retail copy provided by Ubisoft for the Xbox 360. The Stick of Truth was installed on my hard drive (And should be for the best performance). I encountered zero bugs and one system freeze when I killed an enemy.