South Park: The Stick of Truth – review

Well it’s South Park for sure, but not like those other games that no one really remembers. It is its own fully fledged story, with many of the standard devices employed in JRPGs but with slight twists. It is intelligently stupid, mildly offensive (with some super offensive material thrown in for good measure) and hilarious throughout most of the game.

Is it like playing an episode of South Park? At times it really is, there’s plenty of the trademark South Park humour and while it is South Park, it feels a little more grandiose – more like the film. That is due in part to the musical score, which is full of deep vocal choruses that surely sing something rude or crude if you can work out exactly what is being sung.

The story itself sees you as the new kid in South Park – otherwise known as “Douchebag” – being brought into the (pretend) war between the Humans and the Drow Elves. Their fight is one over the Stick of Truth that gives its possessor the ability to govern the rules of the universe. That is the crux of the story but you will delve into many other ridiculous situations that take centre stage for at least a short period of time.

You being the blank slate that you are, means that there are plenty of customisation options for hairstyles and make-up (including war paints and mud). Clothes tend to intermix reasonably well and many of them – early on at least – won’t be overly more powerful than the alternatives. They scale better into the late game than the weapons do, which have to be swapped out for newer better weapons every level or so.

More importantly you make the character class choice which features the four standard classes from fantasy RPGs; the warrior, the mage, the thief and the Jew. Each being able to wield the same weapons and clothes, the only real difference is the set of abilities that you have access to. All of the abilities usually have a very fantasyesque name to go with a real world equivalent, such as fireworks for a fire spell etc.

Each class is only different because of the abilities and their scaling class gear, which makes the game feel more open to letting you play with the weapons and armour that you want to. Everyone also gets both a melee and a ranged weapon as they are needed for different combat situations. The addition of patches for clothes and “strap-ons” for weapons which give a wide variety of effects makes it a little easier to trade extra armour for extra damage, or ways of earning extra PP for activating abilities.

It’s by no means the deepest RPG combat that you’ll ever find but what it does do, it does in a particularly streamlined way that makes for above average turn based combat. Many of the clunky and outdated ways of doing things have been stripped away to something not dissimilar to the way the new Mario RPGs play. Good timing will allow you to deal more damage and take less damage, giving you a little more than menu selections for a battle system. You also fully heal and regain all PP between battles though it does take a few seconds for it all to replenish.

Items and certain abilities can be used before an attack as an extra action, which is particularly helpful for curing yourself or your ally of any ailments or debuffs. It gives you some much needed breathing room but at the same time, it does feel ever so slightly overpowered – especially if you drink coffee to allow you two attack actions.

You do have at least one companion helping you in combat throughout the game, giving you a wide choice of roles to have by your side. Butters starts out as the paladin that can heal you early on but you will gain most of the main cast throughout the story.

The worst part of combat is probably the fart powers; unlocked a little later into the game it adds a second resource for abilities that in combat, drains quickly from use and is only replenished via eating the “mana” restore items. They are interesting powers but the lack of slow build-up of power feels like a missed opportunity. You can so easily use a skill of equal power and not have to worry so much about mistiming of the attack or replenishing the mana pool (if you have full mana for too long then you run the risk of pooping yourself which unsurprisingly is not a good idea).

Combat and grinding isn’t really an issue as it tends to let you push on through the quests to gain the majority of your exp, but enemies scale to your level. As such, you normally get a fair amount of challenge but won’t necessarily have a difficult time getting through the game. It also very cleverly adds in environmental kills, which will gain you the same exp and items as going through the trouble of battle. It’s nice to be rewarded for clever thinking in an RPG without worrying about missed rewards.

The majority of time outside of combat will have you wandering around South Park, finding collectibles, talking to the various townsfolk and interacting with the environment to either get somewhere or kill something. Once you have the fart powers, far more options appear that allow you to use environmental kills.

If you are a fan of South Park like us then there really is no option other than to play this game. It’s one of the best written games you’ll come across in terms of humour and its combat won’t detract from the rest of the game much at all. It doesn’t feel overly short nor does it overstay its welcome, you could press for a second playthrough and still enjoy it mainly for its humour but also allowing for alternate combat styles or paths through areas.

critical score 8

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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