Before I start, this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t finished the game, click here and be redirected.
South Park: The Stick of Truth (TSoT) had a development story akin to that of Duke Nukem Forever; developer issues, bankrupt companies and constant setbacks. However, with the help of Ubisoft, TSoT was finally released this March and to my surprise, it’s hilariously good. And this comes from someone who isn’t a South Park fan (there are dozens of us! DOZENS!)
Set in a Dungeons and Dragons style adventure game, the turn based RPG sees you, The New Kid (Sir Douchebag) go roaming around the neighbourhoods of South Park in search of The Stick of Truth after it was stolen by the Elves from the humans at Kupa Keep.
It is said whoever possesses the Stick controls the universe.
The create-a-character screen is fairly easy to use. You get a basic character and have a limited range of hair and clothes to deck your little adventurer out with. This isn’t a massive issue because along the way, you’ll look new customisation items or buy them from places around town. You also find dyes to make your costumes individual.
The game looks like an episode of South Park, which is what you’d expect. Your characters hop around when they’re walking and everyone looks like they’re made out of pieces of coloured paper. The writing is what you’d expect from a South Park game, too. The magic you’re taught from Cartman is one giant fart joke; Kenny is a princess who “charms” her (?) opponents by flashing some tits (which isn’t even the most disturbing thing in the game) and even the Aliens make an appearance. There are pop culture references a plenty and most of them refer to A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) which was spoofed in Season 17 (an episode that even I laughed in.)
Sadly, because I’m playing the Australian version, my game is censored but even that has a South Park flair. Because of the Australian Rating System, R18+ games still have strict guidelines to abide too. We’re not the only country to receive a censored version of the game, but our friends across the creek in New Zealand aren’t censored. Whether this raises discussion about adult content is yet to be seen, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone have made the censorship hilarious and a little easier to deal with.
Like most RPG’s, TSoT gives you the option to choose a class: Fighter, Mage, Thief or Jew. (Or paladin class for those of us who aren’t Cartman.) The “Jew” class is a tricky one to master but can have massive payouts for a skilled player as you become more powerful the closer you are to death. Combat works well and requires the player to generally press a button at the right time to have the full effect of an attack. You can summon characters you’ve helped through quests to come into combat and fight on your behalf with some hilarious results. The turn-based combat works nicely and gives you time to think up a strategy to defeat harder enemies.
Controls and UI are where I start to feel like the game was ignored. From footage I’ve seen of the PC version, you’re unable to rebind keys; possibly because the game was directly ported from console, but a simple feature like that can turn people off. I know that I like to have a specific key-bind for a lot of games to make it work easier for me. Even on the console, the use of the bumper buttons doesn’t feel natural and some of the magic combinations can be difficult to master because of joystick fiddliness. The controller really doesn’t feel like it was properly utilised for anything other than combat.
The options menu, “Facebook” and inventory tabs looks completely out of place with the rest of the game, too. I’m not sure if it’s some inside joke with hardcore South Park fans, but the almost generic tabs visual is off-putting and can be annoying to use. The game uses at least seven tabs to scroll through for various uses in the game, but trying to figure out where something might be is frustrating.
It’s racist, sexist, silly and painfully self-aware. It pokes fun at Australia, the games industry and fans of the series itself but it doesn’t feel forced or ironic for irony’s sake. A lot of the time you’ll find yourself laughing until you’re crying or in a state of mortified shock that realistically only something related to South Park could get away with. The game is enough of an RPG for fans of that style of game to enjoy and so South Park that it hurts. I almost hate myself a little bit for enjoying it as much as I do. With the few complaints about controls and UI, it’s obviously not a perfect game but it’s better than a lot of games based on a TV or movie franchise. Really, it’s just like playing a very long, unedited episode of South Park and that’s the best thing about it.