[Review] South Park: The Stick of Truth

ESRB:M
ONLINE:No
INSTALL:845MB [PS3, Disc]; Day One Patch ( 14MB )
RELEASE DATE:March 4th, 2014
PLATFORM:Playstation 3, PC, Xbox 360
PUBLISHER:Ubisoft
DEVELOPER:Obsidian Entertainment
ONLINE PASS:No [DLC Voucher included]

I’d like to preface this by first saying thank you to Ubisoft for providing me with a copy of the game. I’d also like to mention ahead of time that I am not the biggest South Park fan. I like the show well enough, but I don’t go out of my way to see it. I also haven’t really watched it in quite some time.

One other note: This review is based on the Playstation 3, North American version of the game.

Story

The story of The Stick of Truth revolves around you, the “New Kid”. You’ve made your way into the quiet little mountain town of South Park, Colorado after leaving your last home for reasons that aren’t really made clear to you at first. Something happened, but just what that was is unknown.

I won’t say too much, just know that the Stick of Truth isn’t exactly the main plot point.

The story definitely feels like something that fits right within the show. This could easily have been a multi-part episode. Having Matt Stone and Trey Parker work on the game’s story and voice the characters make this by far one of the best South Park games ever created.

The humor, if you’re a South Park fan at all, is all on point – it’s absolutely absurd, and some of it is quite offensive. Fart jokes, alien anal probing, male abortions – the game even parodies and makes fun of tropes in both modern and classic games.

It honestly was a blast to play through, and I don’t think I’ve laughed quite so hard at a game.

The story is a tad on the short side, however. My file clocked in at just under 16 hours at the end game, with most side quests completed ( I had one still active, and it’s possible there were some I may have missed. )

Needless to say, if you were expecting a 100+ hour opus out of this, you’re going to be pretty disappointed.

For me, though, the laughs and variety of quests more than made up for the lack of length. I also appreciate that the game isn’t loaded with filler content just to pad out the length – every quest you do is unique, and has a purpose.

Short, but also concise – rare in an RPG.

Gameplay

Quite possibly one of the most fun turn-based RPG’s I’ve played. It’s quite easy to get a grasp on the mechanics, and the game does a good job of teaching you the ropes.

You start out by creating your character – and the customization is fairly deep, considering. Choose your skin tone, hair, hair color, makeup, clothes and customize almost all of them with different colors. After that, you’re dropped into the game.

A cutscene or two later, and you’re on your way out of the house. On the sidewalk, you meet with Butters the Paladin, who’s being attacked by a rival elf. Upon saving him, he becomes your friend and takes you to Cartman of the Kupa Keep Kingdom – of which he is the Grand Wizard ( Hmm.. ).

Here, Cartman teaches you the basics of the game after you select your class ( Fighter, Mage, Thief and Jew ) – how to attack, defend, etc. The Kingdom is then attacked by the drow elves, and you learn how to handle a real battle.

The Fighter is your basic warrior class. Capable of taking a lot of punishment, as well as dishing it out. This was the class my playthrough used. The Mage is your magic user. The Thief is the quick, dextrous class, and the Jew is kind of a new one – a bit like a berserker class, where you’re capable of dealing more damage when critically wounded.

Battles play out like older RPGs, every character has a turn and you select your actions to use during that turn. Your characters are allowed to use an item or quick action before they attack, this is useful as it allows you to heal or recover Power Points ( PP ) and Mana, as well as buff your party or debuff the enemy before dishing out your damage.

Enemies can take two different stances – Riposte, and Reflect. Riposte stops all incoming melee attacks – so you’ll need to use ranged weaponry to hurt them. Reflect is the opposite and sends any ranged attacks right back at you. Attack with the wrong weapon against these stances, and you’ll be taking damage instead.

The “Perfect Hit” mechanic allows you to time a button press to your attack to deal extra damage and, depending on the weapon’s abilities, apply status effects or even heal your character. Miss, and the effects don’t happen while you deal substantially less damage.

Blocking is simple – just time the pressing of the Cross/A button to when a white circle appears beneath the character’s feet. If your character blocks all of an opponents melee attacks perfectly, you can follow up with a counterattack for a little extra damage.

Attacks come in three flavors – Normal, Power and Fart/Magic. Normal attacks are your basic hits and are good against shielded enemies. Performed by hitting the Cross/A button when your weapon gleams. Power attacks are done the same way, but by pressing Square/X. Power attacks are good against enemies with high armor. Fart attacks can only be done after you learned your first magic fart, Dragonshout, and can only be performed when you have some mana available.

If you have a weapon that can hit a few times in a row, you can actually combo a normal attack into either a Power attack, or a fart.

Battles are also not random – you see your enemies on screen at any given time and can avoid them or take them out through other means. I like having the ability to thin the ranks of a group of strong enemies by using a well placed shot from my ranged weapon, or causing an explosion with my magic farts.

During a battle, you can knock enemies out – however, they can be brought back by their teammates if they have the ability to do so. To prevent this, you’ll have to hit the downed enemy again, when they’re down, to force them out of the battle for good.

If you’ve played any RPG in the last century, you’ll understand this game fairly quickly – despite having different names, most of the status effects and other mechanics exist in just about every RPG ever created.

Grossed Out is Poison ( Damage over time, with the added effect of not allowing the character to heal ), Pissed Off is Beserk ( Causes the character to target the one who inflicted the status and prevents the use of Abilities ), Screwed is Death ( Character dies after a set amount of turns ).

I really like that all status effects and debuffs can be removed with one single Cure Potion – no need to micromanage your inventory or keep a huge list of potions just to treat multiple statuses.

There are also potions to restore health ( Snacky Cakes, Cheesy Poofs ), mana ( bean burritos, hot pockets, apple juice ) and Power Points ( Red Balls [Red Bull] ), and they all come in various strengths – from small to large. Small restores the least amount, Large restores the most.

One fairly major gripe that I have, is that the game seems to cap your level at 15. This wouldn’t be bad if the experience you earned were balanced in a way that you leveled evenly through the course or the game – or if the cap were higher – but it doesn’t seem to be. I managed to hit the cap well before the end of the game – and the quests and battles still gave out experience, despite it having no effect.

On the plus side – enemies seem to level with you, which is nice, and prevents you from completely overpowering anything.

During your quest, you’ll encounter all of the staple characters, Cartman, Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Jimmy and Butters and be able to recruit them into your party. They each have their own abilities. For example, Jimmy is a bard, and can sing songs that have various effects – like Brown Note, which causes enemies to crap their pants and deals damage and status effects, or Song of Buffness which buffs the party and debuffs the enemy.

You can also use almost all of your abilities outside of combat. Your ranged weapon can be used to shoot down gleaming objects in the world, your sword can be used to smash cracked surfaces and other things in the environments, like trashcans or mailboxes. Even your magic farts can be used in the world.

Honestly, giving someone like me access to what basically equates to a “press here to fart” button results in literally everything being farted on. Every person or thing that I met – I farted on.

In all seriousness, though – the farts are fairly useful. There are four different magic farts that you’ll learn over the course of the game. Dragonshout and Cup-A-Spell can be used to cause explosions in the world if they hit an open flame. They will also allow you to start a battle with your enemy inflicted with the Grossed Out debuff if they are vulnerable to it. Dragonshout is up close and personal, Cup-A-Spell is a ranged fart.

The Sneaky Squeaker is a fart that can be controlled in the air – you move it with the left stick to place it where you want, then detonate it with the Cross button ( A on the 360 ). This fart can be used to distract enemies – lead them into a trap or move them away from an entrance to slip by.

Lastly, there is the Nagasaki fart. A powerful fart capable of shattering just about anything. In the world, it is used to break cracked barricades that your sword can’t harm ( signified by green glowing cracks instead of orange ). In battle, it can literally blow away multiple foes from the battlefield.

To use your farts in battle, you’ll need mana. To gain mana, you take a mana potion – which are things like hot pockets and burritos. However, you must be careful. Unlike other games where you can’t take anymore potions if your HP or MP are full, South Park allows you to consume more mana potions, even if you have full mana.

Take too many, and you’ll find yourself dealing with a Mana Overload. Basically, that’s just a nice way of saying you just shit your pants. You see, a Mana Overload causes your character to literally crap their pants, and lose all of their mana.

As you level up and makes friends in the world, you’ll gain points that you can use to purchase upgrades to you class skills as well as perks. These are really the only things you have to worry about – there are no real stats to think about other than attack and defense, which are covered by your chosen weapons and armor. Health, Mana and PP increase automatically. There’s no Dexterity, or Charisma, or any other arbitrary stats to allocate points to.

Choose your ability upgrades well, however – as you won’t be able to get all of them. Not sure about perks ( which are tied to how many friends you have on Facebook ( In the game, not your actual Facebook profile, mind you. No actual social media connections here. ) ), but I doubt you’ll be able to get all of them either.

Overall the game is rather simplistic in nature, but this isn’t really a bad thing. The combat feels good, and not having to worry about anything more than being the right level to wear super bad-ass armor is quite refreshing. I love RPGs, but I don’t love having to maintain a specific build in order to use cool stuff, or having to micromanage a bunch of numbers to make sure I can beat a boss somewhere down the road.

Here, since enemies level with you, and you have no stats to worry about – if you lose, it means you either had poor armor, or you had a bad strategy. Come back with better stuff, closer to your level and you’ll likely see your chances improved.

There’s no need for any boring grind work to be done, which is something I truly appreciate. One other feature they have here that I truly like – the ability to buy back anything you’ve sold, other than junk. This is a lifesaver for those who may be a bit quick on the trigger finger when it comes to selling things. You don’t have to worry too much, as long as you have enough cash to buy it back.

As far as armor is concerned – the costumes aren’t just cosmetic changes. Each piece offers bonuses to your character that can help in battle, such as more armor, extra melle/ranged weapon damage, extra elemental damage and many others. Armor and weapons can also be fitted with Patches/Strap-Ons which can allow for even more bonuses and customization.

Presentation

This is where things get a little tricky to describe. You see…South Park isn’t known for being a beautiful show with high production values. In fact, it looks like shit – I think even Matt & Trey said this themselves.

It’s gotten better over the years – but it still looks terrible.

South Park: The Stick of Truth manages to look exactly like the show. It’s actually quite impressive as very few of the South Park games have ever really captured that look before. The ones that did, were games like Chef’s Luv Shack or Let’s Go Tower Defense Play!, and never let you explore the town.

The look of the game being an impressive feat in itself, they also managed to layout the town of South Park – something that Matt & Trey admitted to never doing before. In all of it’s episodes, it was never established how far anything was from anything else. Now, we have what may be a legitimate layout of the town.

The audio work, like the visuals, is also up to the same bar as the show – since Matt Stone & Trey Parker voice just about the entire cast, the voices are all authentic. The characters that they don’t voice are authentic as well. They’ve done a great job bringing South Park to life in game form.

There are a few issues that I noticed, however. I’ve seen the framerate drop a few times – sometimes slowing to a crawl. I also noticed a character lose their walk cycle and become a stiff, sliding character.

Other than that, the game ran pretty well. The framerate cleared up just as fast as it slowed down, and a quick smack to the frozen character freed them from their frozen state.

I also love that the different status effects have their own animations. For instance, characters who are Grossed Out will fall to their knees after their turn and puke. They’ll also look nauseous while idle. Pissed Off characters look angry, Stunned characters look dizzy. Burning characters are probably my favorite. Their heads catch fire, complete with a crappy looking fire effect, and they hop around their spot, screaming and yelling for the duration of the effect.

I also loved going to Canada later in the game – much like Saints Row IV, this area was a nice nod to the games of yesteryear.

Also, when you load up a save, they even play the little jingle that happens when the show gets going. It’s a nice touch – like a new episode has started.

Replay Value

This depends on how much you like RPGs, and whether or not you like to try out different classes in them. With 4 classes and each class promising different gameplay strategies, you’ll have a decent amount to do. There are a decent amount of side quests that are all unique – none of the usual “Go get this item then bring it back to me x1,000” stuff, which will give you at least a few extra hours of play on your first go round – some of them can’t even be completed until you get a bit further into the main story.

Overall, there’s a bit to do here, but if you’re not the “play every class at least once” type, you may find the game lacking once you’ve completed everything.

I do like that they allow you to keep playing after the main quest is over, so you can finish up any side quests you didn’t do beforehand.

For the trophy enthusiasts, you have around one and a half, maybe 2 playthroughs to deal with. The trophies aren’t all that difficult, but some can be a bit time consuming – like finding all of the friends in South Park.

The Verdict

This is a tough one. On the one hand, I had a lot of fun with the game. I even enjoyed the story, despite not really being that big of a South Park fan.

On the other hand – the game is a bit short, at least in terms of being an RPG. However, this is due to the fact that the game doesn’t really pad out the experience with a bunch of useless grinding. Games like Final Fantasy are long because they often force you to go back and fight a bunch of weaker enemies to level up enough to face the next boss. Or they have quests that require you to collect things from all around the huge world. South Park doesn’t do that. The worst you’ll find is a hunting mission that has you killing certain enemies around town.

Overall, for fans of South Park and RPGs in general, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a Buy. I honestly had a blast playing through the game, and will gladly play through it many more times. If you’re a South Park fan at all, and if you like good, turn-based RPG gameplay, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by skipping this title.

For those who may only have a passing fancy for South Park, I’d say at least rent the game. It’s definitely worth your time. If you aren’t a South Park fan at all, or if you’re easily offended, you may want to pass. The game is great, but the humor, as I mentioned, is very South Park. It’s not for the thin-skinned, and it’s not for the people who can’t take a joke, or laugh at really dark situations.

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PROS CONS
  • Fun battle system.
  • Authentic South Park feel.
  • Doesn't drag-on like a lot of other RPGs.
  • Fart.
  • Some annoying framerate issues and glitches.
  • The amount of small amount of content, despite its variety, may be a turn off.
  • Not for the thin-skinned.
  • FINAL VERDICT
    Click here or on the verdict image to the left for full disclosure of what these ratings mean!

    About James Headrick

    James is an aspiring game reviewer that plays primarily on the Playstation 3 & 4. He also works freelance as a graphic designer, doing print and branding based design.

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