South Park: The Stick of Truth (The Late Review)

With the arrival of a new South Park RPG later this year in the form of the superhero themed The Fractured but Whole, it seemed worthwhile to check out the game that made it possible: 2014’s South Park: The Stick of Truth.

In my case I decided to take advantage on Xbox’s Christmas sales and grab the game the moment I saw it as I heard a lot of praise for it but never seen it in action. I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to check it out too as it is a staggeringly good example of how to make use of a license in a way that fits perfectly with the series it’s based on.

The game starts off with you creating your own South Park style character using similar kinds of tools you see in most RPGs but geared to the show’s art style. The game’s opening begins in a fashion similar to series’ introductions of new character and gives you chance to navigate your family’s new home and collect a few inventory items. The 2D art style is perfectly captured here with houses arranged just like they are on TV.

Outside the house you meet Butters, playing a Paladin, who takes you to meet Cartman and lets the real story begin. Seems the kids are engaging in some massive scale LARPing in the town with humans versus elves. Cartman is leader of the humans (obviously) and after a sneak attack, tasks you with helping them retrieve the Stick of Truth, the artefact both sides are fighting over.

As expected, Eric Cartman likes to be the centre of attention.

As expected, Eric Cartman likes to be the centre of attention.

After a brief introduction where Cartman refuses to address you with any name other than “douchebag”, a nice touch, the game reveals itself to be in the vein of early JRPGs with random encounters and turn based battles. Mechanically it’s straightforward in how it works with each character per side taking turns in their attacks but there’s some incentive to keep your eye on the game as the player is still required to time their actions to prompts on the screen to be effective.

Advancement in the game involves two main areas. The first is the more traditional XP advancement that gains you higher levels and access to better equipment. The second is perks which like Fallout add tweaks to boost your character and are attained by adding friends to your in-game Facebook which can be worth reading for both tips and laughs.

And the game pulls no punches with it’s humour either; going through the bedroom items of Cartman’s mother made that clear to me very early on. But it seems that Ubisoft had a few problems with it which lead to some odd choices made in regional censorship (see video) that are bound to infuriate fans that like it when South Park pushes the envelope.

The game gates off some content initially whilst it introduces you to both mechanics and the game world itself. Once you’re a couple of hours in you’ll be farting and fighting your way through the town causing all sorts of havoc on your many quests. The game encourages you to visit every location you can to accrue items and Facebook friends.

Plenty of favourite locations to visit. Ah, those pesky Mongolians...

Plenty of favourite locations to visit. Ah, those pesky Mongolians…

I can’t speak highly enough of the production values – the game totally nails the art style to such a degree that at times you’d be thinking you’re watching an episode of the series. Cutscenes are built on the same technology too which means your character is right there in the midst of it. Audio is perfect thanks to having South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, reprising their parts.

These guys were also quite involved in the development process with Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity). It really helps make the game feel less like someone else’s take on the series and more an extension of the original creator’s own ideas.

The difficulty of the game isn’t too high here – a couple of sections might take some thinking or switching of characters to solve problems but there are few big roadblocks to slow your progress through the game. It’s all about enjoying the world and having a fun time travelling through it.

For anyone who has been watching the television series since its first appearance back in 1997 you’re going to find a lot to like here thanks to its numerous references and its adherence to the look and sound of the show itself. It’s rude, crude and thoroughly enjoyable.

The game is out now for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Reviewed on Xbox One via backward compatibility where it works perfectly. The video below is from the awesome DidYouKnowGaming? channel on YouTube and contains plenty of cool factoids.

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