South Park: The Stick of Truth – Xbox 360
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Nerd Rating: 8.5 out of 10
It’s remarkable to think that South Park has been on the air for 17 full years. What is even more remarkable is that prior to the release of the Stick of Truth, the South Park franchise had only generated 5 previous titles. That fact becomes more understandable when you look back at these earlier games.
The original South Park game was a pretty mediocre first person shooter that made it’s debut in 1998, first on the Nintendo 64. That was followed up by a trivia game Chef’s Love Shack and an uninspired kart racing game South Park Rally in 1999 and 2000 respectively. After that, the series was dormant in the gaming medium until 2009’s South Park Let’s Go Tower Defense, which was an Xbox Live exclusive that was well received. Rounding out the previous South Park releases was the mixed South Park: Scott Tenorman’s Revenge in 2012.
So why start this review with a history lesson you ask?
It’s because an RPG is a more complex and arguably mature genre of gaming, and the path that South Park has taken to get to this point in its interactive journey runs parallel to the maturation of South Park as a show. What started off in 1997 as a series based solely on crude humor and shock value has progressed into television’s most sophisticated satire.
So with 17 years of material upon which to draw, we finally get a proper chance to step into that quiet mountain town.
Stick of Truth picks up not too long after the events of season 17 ‘s brilliant three part episode. The neighborhood boys are locked in a Lord of the Rings fantasy, make-believe game and are divided between two rival factions: the humans led by Eric Cartman and the Elves led by Kyle and Stan. They are locked in a bitter struggle over the Stick Of Truth. He who holds the Stick controls the universe.
You assume the role of “The New Kid”, a recent arrival in town who was brought to South Park by your parents in an attempt to cover up your mysterious past. Your parents send you out to go make new friends and you quickly rescue Butters from a fight with an elf kid. Butters quickly befriends you and takes you to see Cartman, who has you choose one of the four character classes you can play as: Fighter, Thief, Mage, or Jew. He then sends you off on a quest that will lead you all around the town of South Park, space, and even the furthest reaches of Canada.
The partnership between Obsidian and series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker really shows in this game. Everything from the visuals and character movement to the voice acting and writing has blended together to create a definitive experience for the South Park fan. Tons of little references from the series’ extensive history have been littered throughout the game. It was really neat to open up Cartman’s closet and see things like his AWESOME-O robot suit or the Faith +1 Mir album.
Stick of Truth stays faithful to the show in the visual department as well. Everything is rendered in 2-D and it looks exactly like it would on television. The 2-D viewpoint does not hinder exploration at all. You are still able to explore the town and various locations fully. I was actually pretty impressed with how much there was to see and do in the game. Those with an obsession of collecting as much loot as possible in an RPG will find an abundance of items here. The bounty of collectibles and pace at which you find new gear was a great design choice as it provided that compelling hook to keep exploring and keep challenging enemies in combat. Every weapon or armor upgrade has its own pro’s and con’s, so just because something is statistically more powerful doesn’t mean you will want to equip it right away.
The point where Stick of Truth shines brightest is in its combat system. Obsidian has a long pedigree of fantastic RPG’s and they’ve created a combat system that is at the same time complex and accessible, but most of all very fun.
Taking inspiration from the Super Mario RPG/Paper Mario titles, Stick of Truth uses a turn based combat system that also relies on timing a button press to maximize damage or defense in combat. I love this approach to the somewhat tired familiarity of turn based battles because it forces you to pay attention at all times and keeps you engaged in those battles. You have standard attacks and items that can be used as well as special attacks that use power points dubbed “pp”. These attacks also utilize unique button combinations and quick time events, which helps keep things from getting stale. You also will learn to harness the power of your farts to utilize against bad guys and for solving puzzles. You can recruit certain people in the town to be special “summon attacks” that can be used once per day. The downside to those summons is that none of them can be used during a boss fight. Party size is limited to just two, which I felt was an interesting choice, but luckily two is all you really need as the battle system allows you to use an item like a potion without using up your entire turn. So that means you can heal yourself and still attack in one turn.
There are a ton of weapons and armor to find throughout South Park. Each item can be modified with special badges that can inflict different things like status effects on your enemies or buff your own stats. It acts a lot like the Materia system from Final Fantasy VII and they offer almost endless options for tailoring your character to your style of play.
There is also a mock Facebook style social media app in the game. As you gain more friends on the app you will unlock perks which will further increase your abilities in the game. However, befriending a certain former Vice President of the United States will result in a purposely annoying, yet hilarious, barrage of messages on your page.
There isn’t a whole lot to complain about in Stick of Truth. The main quest isn’t terribly long, clocking in around twelve to fifteen hours. That’s not really a bad point as a game like this does not need to over stay its welcome. I did feel that it relied a bit too much on fetch quests especially towards the end. One section near the end featuring Mr. Slave seemed like filler.
Overall South Park Stick of Truth does a fantastic job of translating the wit, charm, and humor of the beloved television series into a high quality RPG experience. Long time fans of the show will find an abundance of references to the show and role playing fans will appreciate a highly polished experience that with one of the best combat systems that I have seen in this genre.
South Park Stick of Truth is easily going to be remembered as one of the best releases of 2014. Don’t miss it!
Nerd rating: 8/10
Reviewed by The Watchman
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