Perhaps best known for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and Fallout: New Vegas, Obsidian is no newcomer to RPGs. Thanks to the talent over at Obsidian and the writing prowess of showrunners Trey Parker and Matt Stone, we are presented with a surprisingly deep and thoroughly entertaining RPG.
It’s Like Playing a Great 14-Hour South Park Episode
Thought of by many as one of the funniest cartoons on TV, South Park is known for being both as hilarious as it is offensive. Trey and Matt aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of political correctness. That being said, The Stick of Truth is no exception. In fact, it may even be far raunchier than any episode that the show has put out to date, resulting in entire continents censoring certain parts of the game. Though the level of shock humor is definitely upped, at no point did I feel like it was forced. Every bit of extreme humor felt very South Park.
The stories in South Park have often taken a backseat to the comedy itself, with The Stick of Truth being no exception. The story is definitely less of a focus here than in other games within the genre, but The Stick of Truth doesn’t lose any of its value because of it. The story is lighthearted, zany, and will take you to enough interesting places to keep you interested throughout.
The art style of the South Park TV show is a minimalist, and, especially early on, primitive to say the least; episodes often need only days to finish. That isn’t to say it is a bad looking show. The simple and easy to digest art is loved by many and is translated perfectly into The Stick of Truth. If someone were to pass by as you were playing, it would not be unreasonable for them to assume you are watching just another episode of the show. That being said, the visuals ran almost without a hitch on the Xbox 360 version, apart from some framerate issues. Even less so on the PC version of the game. The PlayStation 3 version, however, featured much more frequent dips in framerate and audio cuts. Subsequent releases on modern consoles have fixed a lot of these issues. Overall, the charming and simplistic art style of South Park translates perfectly into The Stick of Truth.
Great RPG Elements
Though absurdly funny, The Stick of Truth would be nothing without its core gameplay mechanics. They aren’t anything we haven’t seen before by any means, but they all work perfectly and are well-balanced. Each of the four classes provide unique abilities and combat styles. As you progress, more abilities become unlocked.
During the turn-based combat sequences, you are given a companion to help fight your foes. The six companions offer different ways to fight. If you get stuck on one boss battle, utilizing a different companion’s abilities may very well be the way to go. The variety of ways to approach your battles keep the fight sequences entertaining throughout.
As with any RPG, you level up by gaining experience and you can use experience points to unlock new abilities. Talking to folks around town and doing side quests earn you Facebook friends. The more friends you have, the more perks you are able to unlock – anything from doing more damage or having more health. I was pleasantly surprised by how fun the combat was and how deep the upgrade systems were. The boss fights are also pleasantly challenging.
Early on you are given mana abilities, portrayed through farts. These can be used in any number of ways within the environment, such as distracting potential enemies or breaking down a wall, but they are poorly explained and utilized in combat. At the end of each fight, your PP and health regenerate entirely but you are forced to use potions in battle to recharge your mana abilities. Not only are the mana abilities not necessary to win any fights, you will find yourself questioning the need to waste an item turn to recharge an ability you will never use.
In addition, many items and abilities can cause status effects. While often humorous, they are never fully explained and can easily be missed in the short tutorial sequences. While not game-breaking by any means, I did find myself getting confused by what some of them did.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is an immensely entertaining ride into the lives of your favorite South Park characters. This will certainly go down in history as one of the most accurate presentations of a TV show within the video game space. Fun combat and an entertaining and hilariously written story make The Stick of Truth a must-play for any South Park fan, and something general RPG fans should keep one eye open for as well.