South Park: The Stick of Truth for PC Review

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I was seven years old and just started the third grade when South Park first aired in 1997 but I don’t remember anybody talking about it until I was in fourth grade. It was one of those shows my parents didn’t want me to watch so like any normal young boy whose told not to do something, I felt compelled to do it. If I knew it was on TV, I would always try to watch it. I had a friend in the neighborhood who acquired the movie, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, and we would watch it all the time. I’m not even a fan of musicals but that movie is my favorite musical of all time. The songs are catchy, the lyrics are hilarious, and it’s definitely something young children should not be watching. I haven’t watched the show in a few years but I try to catch some new episodes every now and then. South Park is known for it’s profanity, crude and offensive humor, and satire on a wide range of topics. My favorite episodes are still “Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy” and “Make Love, Not Warcraft”. “Scott Tenorman Must Die” is also pretty good. Developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Ubisoft, South Park: The Stick of Truth was released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in March, 2014. From what I’ve researched, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, are fans of the role-playing genre and wanted to create a South Park RPG and insisted that the game must replicate the show’s visual style.

The story is set in the fictional town of South Park, Colorado. You play as the silent protagonist simply referred to as the “New Kid”. Him and his parents recently moved to South Park and he quickly becomes friends with the neighborhood kids. The kids are playing a game and are split up into factions, the humans lead by Cartman, and the Elves lead by Kyle. The factions are battling for the sacred Stick of Truth. In typical South Park fashion, shit gets crazy and the kids end up in a plot involving Aliens, green goo, and Nazi Zombies. If you’ve seen the show, the writing and dialogue are exactly what you would expect. The story is hilarious and the writers don’t hold back in terms of what they poke fun at. Best of all, the voice acting is spot on. The game is basically a perfect representation of the show. As expected, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and April Stewart voice most of the characters. It’s not hard not to notice how the game was influenced by Skyrim and Lord of the Rings. In fact, I think many aspects were borrowed from the 2002 South Park episode “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers”.

Before jumping into the gameplay you must create your character by choosing a skin tone, hair style, outfit, makeup, and eyewear. Most of this seems unnecessary considering you’ll acquire all kinds of cosmetic items, or flair, to change your character’s appearance throughout the game. You can also use different dyes to change the color of your gear. The game plays out in days. To progress to the next day you must complete a series of story quests. Some parts of the story will force you into certain areas but at some point during each day, you’re free to roam around the town of South Park, interact with NPCs, collect things, and complete side quests. Enemies are scattered around the world and if you attack them or if they attack you, a battle is initiated. Whoever attacks first gets to go first when the battle starts. But besides enemies, there are all kinds of friends you can make and secrets to uncover. Gaining access to some areas of the world may require something as simple as a key but other areas will require special abilities. You can fart on fires to cause explosions which can destroy objects blocking your path. You can use the Alien Probe in your asshole to communicate with alien devices in the world, or in other words, you can teleport. And you can snort Gnome Dust to shrink and enlarge yourself. One of my favorites is the Sneaky Squeaker which is actually a fart that you can control and detonate at will. It can be used to lure enemies to certain areas. You can equip yourself with a melee and ranged weapon and these can be used outside of combat to stun enemies, making them more vulnerable if you decide to battle them. You can shoot objects in environment and utilize the environment to knock out or kill nearby enemies. If you really look around, some times you can use the environment to knock out all of the enemies in an area, basically allowing you to skip battles entirely.

The combat in The Stick of Truth is turn-based. You can perform normal attacks, power attacks, magic which are just different types of farts, and you’ll be accompanied by a buddy throughout most of the game. As you progress through the story, you’ll acquire new buddies and you can switch between them when roaming the world or during combat. Each buddy has different attacks and abilities and you can also command them to help you out with problems which is usually required in certain areas in order to progress. Early in the game, you get to choose one of four classes – Fighter, Mage, Thief, and Jew. I chose the Jew because it seemed like the most interesting of the four. When in battle, before you attack you have the option to use an item first which can also be given to your buddy. These include things like health potions, mana potions which restore your mana, and power potions which restore your Power Points. Characters have abilities which are like special attacks, and when you use these, they drain Power Points. You can use potions that grant positive status effects like an increase to your attack power. You can also throw items like water balloons at enemies to remove their buffs. It’s actually your typical RPG stuff with a South Park coat of paint. For example, the potions are just food items like Snacky Cakes, Cheesy Poofs, and cookies. After all, these are just kids playing around so everything is make-believe.

The combat is interesting because while it’s turn-based it’s not just as simple as choosing your attack and watching the action. When you attack or block, you need to watch for visual queues. You need to press a button when the visual queue appears for the action to be effective. This does cross over into quick-time event territory but for the most part, there are no surprises. Blocking will reduce the amount of damage taken, but not all of it, and if your buddy goes down, you can always use a revive potion to bring them back. If you manage to complete side quests for specific NPCs, you’ll unlock the ability to summon them during combat to vanquish your foes with the exception of bosses. These can be really helpful if you end up in a difficult situation but you can only summon these characters once a day. I would say the game is pretty accessible and as long as you remember to upgrade your equipment every now then, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting through the story. There’s three difficulty modes – Casual, Normal, and Hardcore. I played through it on Normal and while some battles were tough, nothing felt impossible. It’s not the kind of RPG that requires a lot of strategic thinking. Furthermore, your health and Power Points are automatically restored after every battle. The enemies come in a variety of forms including kids, adults, fetuses, aliens, zombies, rats, the Mongolians, and plenty more and boss enemies are just tougher than the standard foes you normally encounter. Enemies may be weak or immune to different status effects like fire, shock, holy, grossed out, and frost. Status effects can stack and there are some serious negative ones you need to watch out for or can inflict upon enemies like bleeding where you take damage every turn, pissed off which disables abilities, screwed where you die after three turns, slowed down where you take your turns half as often, and sleeping where you can’t defend yourself. Some enemies will utilize different stances which will affect how you attack them. For instance, one stance allows them to block melee attacks and another allows them to reflect ranged attacks. Enemies can also use shields which essentially makes them damage sponges unless you use an attack or ability that can break the shield.

Throughout the world are shops where you can buy and sell items and equipment. In addition to weapons, you can equip your character with eyewear, wigs, and makeup, otherwise known as flair, which is why the character creation aspect seems unnecessary. You’ll also equip armor like outfits, headgear, and gloves. Not only can you buy these things but you can find these items throughout the world, receive them as quest rewards, or acquire them by looting fallen enemies. You’ll also acquire junk which you can sell for money. Shops are scattered all over South Park. The kids will set up armory’s in their backyards where you can buy shit but you can also buy items from the NPCs around town and vending machines. Weapons and armor require you to be at a certain level before they can be equipped and each piece of equipment usually has different attributes that will aid you in combat. For instance, a piece of gear may regenerate a certain amount of HP each turn, gain a certain amount of power points when you deal a ranged attack, add fire, frost, or gross out damage on a perfect attack, and things like that. You can add bonus effects to your gear through the use of weapon strap-ons and equipment patches. These can be applied to the open slots on your gear and they can be removed at any time. All of the gear is more or less everyday items but because the kids are playing a game, all of the gear has fancy names which resemble something silly, something from the show, or something you would see in the fantasy genre.

As you defeat enemies and complete quests, you’ll earn experience points. When you earn enough experience, you level up. Leveling up also means you unlock an ability point which can be spent to upgrade one of your abilities. You’ll want to explore the world for quests, items, collectibles and to acquire new friends on Facebook. Yes, Facebook. Some friends will only befriend you after you have a certain amount of Facebook friends. And others may want you to complete a quest before they’ll be your friend. However, friends are important because when you acquire a certain amount of friends you unlock a perk point which can be spent on various perks. These include things like taking decreased damage when critically injured, inflicting extra damage and taking less from Pissed Off enemies, inflicting more damage to stunned targets, etc. You will come across collectables in the form of Chinpokomon and they are hidden all over the place. Sometimes you’ll have to solve basic puzzles to progress through an area and when I say “basic”, I mean basic. It can be as simple as turning a specific valve, using the appropriate fart magic, or commanding your buddy to help you out. The game gives you plenty of reasons to explore and you should because the payoff is usually better gear or something that is beneficial to your character.

The world and environments are separated into areas. Given the game’s 2D visual style, you might say this leans more towards a side-scrolling RPG. Although, you can move up and down. I guess you could say the action is viewed from the 2.5D perspective. In addition to the town of South Park, you’ll get to explore the maze-like forest surrounding the town, an alien spaceship, and even cross the border into Canada. Exploring the world is in your best interest and it’s also a way to acquire new side quests. While the side quests can be humorous, that’s all they really are. That, and completing them usually reward you with something good. But the reality is, a lot of them are like fetch quests. Luckily, the location of quest objectives are marked on your map. Throughout South Park are fast travel flags and you can use these to fast travel around town. Fast traveling can be useful if you want to avoid the enemies scattered around world. If you’re an avid fan of the show, you’ll probably appreciate the fact that you can visit many of the iconic locations seen in the show. The kids’ houses, Tom’s Rhinoplasty, Tweek Bros. Coffee, South Park Elementary, the Police Station, and plenty more. And you’ll want to explore each of them for all kinds of goodies. Exploring and interacting with the environment is a great way to acquire new items, flair, and gear. You can open doors, drawers, lockers, containers, or simply break things. Even if you don’t need what you find, you can sell it for money so almost everything you acquire is useful in some way. Because parts of the world are inaccessible until you acquire the appropriate abilities, there’s always an incentive to return to previously explored areas.

One of the greatest things about this game is its visual presentation. Matt and Trey wanted the game to reflect the show’s visual style and the developers nailed it with flying colors. Now the show is animated using Maya, however I read that Obsidian produced the game assets and animations in Adobe Flash. Honestly, the game feels like an episode of the show in video game form. This means the game retains the show’s unique 2D style which is based on cutout animation. On the audio side, I think the music is phenomenal. When exploring the world and during some battles, you’ll get to listen to these catchy, and sometimes dramatic and tense, fantasy-sounding tunes. The sound effects are pretty good, too. You’ll hear typical clashes and clangs during combat and satisfying slashes and hits when you make contact with your weapons. And the farts sound as silly as you would expect. As for the technical aspects, the game ran smooth throughout my entire playthrough. The only bug I encountered was characters blinking and disappearing during cut scenes. But this only occurred once towards the end of the gaem. Whenever you enter a building, the game has to load which kind of gets annoying but luckily the load times are brief. I did find it easier to play this game with a controller, especially because you can’t change the PC controls in-game.

I had a great time with The Stick of Truth. I don’t play many turn-based games but this proved to be a lot of fun. Obsidian is well known for their work in the RPG genre with games like Neverwinter Nights 2, Pillars of Eternity, and Fallout: New Vegas. I would say The Stick of Truth is among some of their best. And while The Stick of Truth has some depth to it, it is very accessible to those not well versed in RPGs or at least turn-based games. Mashing buttons and some of the quick-time events during combat becomes a bit tiresome but, overall, the gameplay is fun from start to finish. There’s plenty of quests to complete, secrets to uncover, and being rewarded with new and better gear for doing almost anything should keep you coming back.

Ultimately, I would absolutely recommend South Park: The Stick of Truth to fans of the show and RPGs. Even if you don’t play many RPGs or turn-based games, I would still say give this a shot. It’s not super challenging and it offers a comedic ride all the way to the end. I mean how many games let you fart on people, travel up a guy’s ass, or perform an abortion? If you never liked South Park, this game won’t change your mind but from a gameplay standpoint, it’s a lot of fun.

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