South Park: The Stick of Truth (Australian Censored version)

 

Before I start, this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t finished the game, click here and be redirected.

Spoilers

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.

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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.

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The Elder Scrolls Online beta weekend.

The Elder Scrolls Online has had a few closed beta weekends for the lucky people who were selected to participate. If you weren’t selected, you possibly knew someone who was. I remember talking to my friend about how the closed beta. About an hour later, she got an email with a beta key.

Dunmer elf 'Radey'

Dunmer elf ‘Radey’

Just my luck.

Thankfully, I got an invitation to the open beta Bethesda was running this weekend and if you were the lucky winner of my beta key give away, you did too!

Let’s talk about the download and the drama that came with that.

The download size is ENORMOUS. It’s between 15-20GB big and it took several hours to download; an overnight download for me. My DC: Universe Online file size tops out at 25GB and that’s a full game. I’m somewhat worried about how big the final game will be.

After the download and install phase FINALLY finished, you log in, watch a quick opening video and go into character creation. You start by choosing your faction and race. Races are restricted to factions, but you’ve got

3 different races for each faction to choose from, so there’s a nice amount of variety. The sliders have a nifty locking feature (like layers in Photoshop) so you can play around with certain elements of the body sliders without accidentally screwing up another part of your character.

The factions and races are:

The Ebonheart Pact: Argonian, Dunmer and Nord.

The Aldmeri Dominion: Altmer, Bosmer and Khajiit. (Kitty!)

The Daggerfall Covenant: Breton, Orc and Reguard.

You can also be an imperial who are free to join any faction.

My character is a Dunmer (Dark Elf) so she’s a part of the Ebonheart Pact.

 

After character creation, you enter the game play. That’s where my problems started. First bug that I encountered was a UI error. Which is fair enough, it’s still in beta, bugs are going to happen. But when I went to close this error, it error’d out. After having to update a secondary program that you install with the beta, it fixed it. However, it wasn’t until some Googling and asking around that I figured that out.

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2014-03-01_00002A few other graphical bugs and some pretty interesting ping issues, the experience has been pretty polished. The graphics are better looking than those in Skyrim, although some people think they look cheap.

The final debate for users is going to be whether the game is worth $15 a month (€12.99 / £8.99). Hardcore Elder Scrolls fans will willing pay as much as Bethesda charge. Others are going to be more difficult to convince. It’s a pretty standard MMO. You’re the chosen one to do something or other and save the world. With all the talk hyping this game up, it shouldn’t take long for the initial game release to make money hand over fist, but I’m yet to find something that will set it apart from other successful MMO games like WoW or Final Fantasy 14. Still fun to play, but it’s not anything special.

 

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Top 5 Childhood Games

Top 5 games, hey? This is something I’ve been asked to do a few times and something I’ve thought of doing for years but I always thought it was kind of cliché and overdone. However, after browsing the Playstation Store for some reasonably priced nostalgia, I thought I’d do a “Best Games of My Childhood” thing, so here we go!

 

#5: Tomb Raider (PSOne)tomb_raider_pal

Developer: Core Design

Publisher: Eidos Interactive

I don’t think it would be a list of (my) old school games without Tomb Raider appearing on the list. The first female video game character I can remember playing as, Lara Croft definitely a role model of mine. Her tough “take-no-prisoners” attitude from the first games, along with the supernatural side and puzzles makes this game a great memory in my mind. The recent remake of Tomb Raider really holds no comparison to the original PSOne classic.

 

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#4 Psychonauts (Xbox/PS2)

Developer: Double Fine Productions/BudCat Creations

Publisher: Majesco Entertainment/THQ

Okay, okay. So this game wasn’t released until I was 15 (2005) but it inspired a childhood giddiness that I couldn’t pass up when writing out this list. From the brilliant mind of Tim Schafer, it’s about a kid who runs away from the circus and has dreams about meat circus’, who could pass that up! Obviously the iconic part of Psychonauts is the Milkman conspiracy, but there are so many gems (characters and levels) in this game that you can’t really have a favourite.

 

#3: Crash Bandicoot (PSone)Crash-Bandicoot-1

Developer: Naughty Dog (Originally. After the franchise started to gain fandom, it was sold around to several different dev houses.)

Publisher: Sony Entertainment. (Same deal as above.)

Man, who didn’t spent countless hours playing as Crash? This game was a staple of any 90’s child’s gaming career. The levels varied from too easy to controller-crushing hard and no matter how many times you died, you went back for more. Based around a set of fictional islands in Australia, Crash has to fight his creator Dr. Cortex to save his girlfriend.

The game is one of the best-selling games Sony ever released and still stands as a classic against the platformers of today.

 

Supermariolandboxart#2 Super Mario Land (GameBoy)

Developer: Nintendo EAD.

Publisher: Nintendo.

This was one of the first handheld games I’d ever experienced. It was also my first introduction to Nintendo and a portly Italian plumber. I don’t think I ever finished it because of the lack of save feature and a knack for dying. Sadly, my Gameboy no longer works so I can’t go running world to world, jumping on Gooma and punching coin blocks, but I can remember the fun (and frustration) I had as a kid playing Super Mario Land alongside Mario.

 

#1: 40 Winks (PSone)

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Developer: Eurocom

Publisher: GT Interactive.

40 Winks came out in 1999 and is classified as a “survival horror” game. Which is kind of funny since it’s about a set of twins (about the age of 7) named Ruff and Tumble; it doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of men. The idea of the game was that Ruff or Tumble (whoever the player chose) would fight through several 3D levels to save the Winks. The Winks are little creatures that help you have sweet dreams. But then Winks go bad, they give you nightmares!

You fight as robots, ninjas and super heroes to save the Winks from Nitecap and his minion Threadbear (his teddybear).

No shit, this game ruled my childhood.

 

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Madness, Mayhem but no Fun.

The guys at Rockstar promised some new Valentine’s Day themed gear so you can rampage with your significant other online, but is it enough to keep people interested?

With the terrible failure that was the GTA: O launch still fresh in the minds on users, Rockstar have tried to make it up to players with improved servers, the $500,000 stimulus package and free stuff packs for faithful players, it doesn’t seem enough to keep people interested. There is still no word on when the most anticipated aspect; heists, will be introduced into the online experience.

Heists were talked up by Rockstar as one of the most exciting parts on Grand Theft Auto: Online with apartments having heist planning rooms and being able to plan robberies with your friends. Just like the story mode, but instead of AI characters and hoping they don’t fall off their bike; you can chew out your friends when they screw up! (Seems like a good idea to me!)

The last few times I’ve played GTA:O, the servers have been half-full or below and I can’t get my friends to play. “Why? There’s nothing to do!” They lament. Which is true. The first week or so, we had so much fun taking selfies in the bathroom or trying to find the most outrageous spots to take photos. (Playboy mansion part, anyone?) but the novelty have worn off and it’s just not as fun anymore and I’m not sure that even when heists eventually make their debut, that it’ll be worth investing the 50+ hours that my clan and I played when the game first went live. (And we could all get online.)

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TotalBiscuit, FUN Creators and Critique.

The argument that video games are forms of art has been made several times. An important part of art is the ability to criticise the artist, the art and the art form as a whole. It’s worked that way for centuries with other forms of tradition art.

However, with this new art form come new critics and new artists who aren’t used to taking such “harsh” criticism, even when it’s warranted.

TotalBiscuit on the Cynical Brit YouTube channel is well-known in the gaming industry for his fair, but often highly critical analysis of video games. Last year, after a scathing review of a video game called “Day One Garry’s Incident”, the game’s developer Wild Games filed a copyright claim against the “WTF is…” video in which the review appeared. (It should be noted that TotalBiscuit wasn’t the only critic who slammed the game. His review was just the most prolific.)

After some intense back and forth between the YouTube channel, it was revealed that Wild Games had filed the claim under a false pretence and were forced to apologise to TotalBiscuit for having the video taken down.

The incident revealed some pretty gaping flaws in YouTube’s copyright system.

It seems like history is repeating itself.

After the “WTF Is…  Guise of the Wolf?” appeared on Youtube being highly critical of the game’s mechanics, voice acting and how many bugs were in the game. TB told his audience that this game wasn’t worth the money that it was asking for.

This is where the fun begins. The creators of the game FUN Creators filed a false copyright claim against the video (all videos use Fair Use). TotalBiscuit’s reps sent the developers an email asking why copyright claim was filed and that it’s illegal to file a claim as the video is a critique. The reply email from FUN Creators implied that the review was a paid review by someone else to criticise the game and that they would get their lawyers involved to find out who was behind the review.

TotalBiscuit announced the issue and FUN Creators hit back saying that any emails that were release were faked and not from their studio. Both claims are incredibly serious but only one person was correct. TB again provided proof that Fun Creators were making serious threats against him and his channel.

Finally, at the end of all this, FUN Creators want TB to take down his channel, tweets and pretty much anything related to the incident or they’ll sic their lawyers on the channel and everyone involved.

I try to present these facts without too much bias to allow you to make up your own mind.

Personally, without my journalist or reviewer side kicking in, I’m sick of developers trying to manipulate the system for their advantage and try to remove any critical analysis of their work. Like I said at the beginning of… whatever this is, art is presented without comment and readily for critique. Without it, art has no meaning. Games can present a story and a purpose, but without critique, there can’t be any discussion of the deeper meaning of what the story means for the player or the world.

When more information comes to light, I’ll update this post.

TotalBiscuit logo by Jamspencer on DeviantART.

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