NOTE: Review written by guest writer, Nathaniel Wagner.
It has been 2 years since South Park has tried their hand at making the leap from TV screens to video game consoles, and in 2012 they released Tenorman’s Revenge, a game that can be sadly described as not fully finished. It was unfortunate because South Park was always a series that I have been fond of for some time. So having a game based on a beloved series that was done with seemingly no love or attention really made me wonder if South Park could ever have a video game that could live up to the show itself.
However when I heard that the newest South Park game would be a RPG and that Obsidian Entertainment would be handling it, I had a small hope that maybe this game could successfully break the series into the video gaming world for all to see and appreciate. And man did it ever!
The game opens with a cut scene explaining how the humans and elves have been at war for ages over which of the two would have possession of the Stick of Truth, for whoever possess the stick has control over space and time..
After creating their character, the player gains control of “the new kid” or as the other children call him, “douchebag”, who has just moved into town with his parents. The new kid soon becomes acquainted with several South Park characters such as Butters, Kenny, Cartman, Token, Tweek and many more. Afterwards you are given the choice of picking your class. The mage, the fighter, the thief, and the Jew. While they present you with 4 classes I have played the game with 3 of the 4 classes and nothing much really changes except certain abilities that are given to you, which made me want for more variety.
Cartman is the Wizard King of the Kingdom of Kuppa Keep and sends the player out to do missions, collect friends on Facebook, gather different factions to aid them, and ultimately claim possession of the Stick of Truth. All the while he makes fun of you and teaches you the secret art of magic, or farting. The RPG elements of the game come in the form of turn based battles, managing weapons and armor, talking to townsfolk, and completing missions.
The battles in The Stick of Truth handle combat much like that of games like Paper Mario and the Mario and Luigi RPG games. Each character takes a turn to do actions such as attack, heal, cast magic, abilities or items, or switch around buddies. Like Paper Mario, each time an attack option is selected the player can engage with a quick time event in order to increase damage (in the case if the player is attacking) or reduce damage taken (in the case of the enemy attacking). The quick time events are nothing more complicated than hitting the space bar or clicking the mouse (for the PC version) or hitting a button (for the consoles) at the appropriate moment.
While it took some time to get used to, the combat is very well done with lots of options for beating up on the multitude of enemies that the game has in store for you. While there is a lot of different options in combat, I found myself using the same tactic over and over again, which wouldn't be that big of a deal except that the game presents you with a ton of different weapons and stickers, the last of which gives your armor and weapons different powers and effects. But I found myself just buying and using whatever gave my character's attacks more bleeding which is like poison in Pokemon and deals a lot of damage every time when the person afflicted with it commits to an action.
But lets stop with the combat for now. I want to talk about the thing that I think can really make or break an RPG: the world you are in. When I heard that the creators of South Park would have more control over the development of the game along with writing the script, I got excited because who else could bring the feel of the show to the game then the creators themselves, and boy did they nail it.
The town is an exact replica of the show and features a lot of landmarks from it. Entering South Park elementary felt so cool I honestly got goosebumps the first time I entered it. Walking past the bus stop that Kenny, Kyle, Stan and Cartman wait by brings back memories from the show that I had almost forgotten about. All the characters and townspeople have great lines, and having the original voice actors from the TV show for the game pays off in spades.
As far as the visuals, anyone who hasn't seen the TV show you shouldn't come for next gen super HD turbo graphics, or else you will be very disappointed. However, for fans of the show, you will love the way that the whole town and characters are rendered and move. Seeing the new kid hop around town really made me appreciate the level of detail they put into it, mimicking the nuances of the TV show flawlessly. The levels and dungeons are well designed and use quite a lot of environments from the show and are all charming and fun (Yes, even the sewer section.)
But alas here is the question I have been pondering ever since I started playing the game. Can someone who has never seen the show still find enjoyment out of the game? That is a hard question and to be honest, I still don’t know the answer. I tried playing the game from the perspective of one of those people who have yet to see the show, however I was soon hit in the face as I've forgotten how much South Park has influenced pop culture and the other way around. Everyone probably knows some references to South Park, even if they don't know it.
The one thing I can say is that there is a LOT of fan service in the game. There were some parts where I was left confused by how far they were going just to throw in a reference or a side character. And also like the show, the game looks to push buttons and offend as many people as possible. Despite the fact that I was never offended there was one sequence in the game that made me facepalm so hard I was surprised there wasn't a mark for a week.
All in all South Park The Stick of Truth is a game that brought the series a title that it can be proud of. A great script and charming visuals along with solid gameplay and RPG elements really make the 13 plus hours I spent with the game a 13 plus hours I will not forget for a while. It made me feel something that I never believed that I would actually feel.
I felt like I was in South Park.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE
(A great game that largely succeeds, but stumbles in some notable ways.)