South Park: The Stick of Truth Review - a side-splitting RPG with real character
- Posted March 4th, 2014 at 02:59 EDT by Steven Williamson
- PSU Review Score
- Avg. user review score:
You must be logged in to rate a game
A side-splitting romp with all the sharp satirical humour we've come to expect from South Park. Strip away its wit and, despite a few flaws, you'll find a satisfyingly deep RPG.
- Very, very funny. If you love South Park, you'll love all the characters, dialogue, and the RPG twist.
- Standard RPG quests jazzed up with uniquely themed missions.
- Tactically engrossing turn-based combat with enemies, weapons, and powers that have a South Park twist
- Constant menu and map reference
- Loading screens and framerate drops
- Censorship in EU is frustrating, especially when it crops up in a particularly boring, long-winded section
The whole South Park cast is on standby to provide much amusement and disguise what could be described as generally standard RPG quests; you’ll be doing a lot of moving from ‘A’ to ‘B’ and then back to ‘A’ with fetched items, for example. Interactions with the likes of Cartman, Kenny, Kyle, and Stan, who deliver their unique brand of humour with some style and take their role-playing fantasy incredibly seriously, rarely fail to amuse and there’s plenty of laugh-out-loud moments during the entertaining campaign. Still, the humour can feel "safe"--not in a politically correct way (it most certainly isn't), but in a way that relies too strongly on mainstay jokes that series fans have heard time and time again. Immense respect for the source material is probably preferable to a game that takes too many risks and mutates what makes South Park so great. But more new material could have elevated Stick of Truth to a place of importance in series canon and made the whole thing feel less like a franchise highlight reel.
And despite a great deal of missions made more entertaining for their unique themes, some mundane sections persist that we couldn’t wait to get through, none more so then the utterly boring quest aboard a spaceship (which also annoyed with its U.K. censorship of numerous scenes). Also, the flow of quests are somewhat tainted by extremely frequent (albeit brief) loading screens and severe framerate drops when transitioning to new areas. On a broader technical level, however, Stick of Truth impresses. Music riffs on high fantasy orchestra to pleasant effect and combat tunes suggest the kids' (and creators') obsession with Skyrim. Visually, the game is indistinguishable from the show, especially since the HUD disappears during exploration. And all manner of nice touches give life to the world--kids and adults alike pull out their cell phones when standing around, comment on the player's action, and take humourous jibes at in-game events. The fourth-wall-breaking stuff is just fantastic: as I stepped away from the game at one point to browse the Internet, my character pulled out his phone and Butters remarked: "If you're texting your friends about this game, tell 'em it's good!"
Indeed it is--gameplay is surprisingly in-depth, with a well-paced XP system, a series of sub-menus (which demand an unfortunate amount of visits and attention), and some inventory management playing fairly large roles campaign. These sub-menus are very cleanly displayed and intuitive to navigate, which makes equipping your character with the right items and allocating Perks, abilities, and magic a breeze. Indeed, spending time within the sub-menus, making sure you have the right items equipped, becomes increasingly important as combat grows complex and side quests start coming in fast.
Battles take place whenever you bump into enemies on the street, although there are also instances where you’ll fight bosses or walk into a battle as part of a quest. Though the turn-based system may put off players who enjoy sword-clashing thrills, the developer has done a superb job at creating an engaging, tactical, and often humourous take on an age-old concept. There’s a wide range of class-based weapons to buy and upgrade with stat-modifying stickers (same goes for armour), and timed button presses change the nature of your attacks for dealing with armored and ranged foes. Abilities are visually diverse and tactically interesting--"Dragonshout," a powerful fart with the power to stun enemies, could give your party breathing room to reduce the shields of other enemies or open serious damage-dealing potential based on your Perk choices and equipment stats. Others, like the Thief's ‘Mug,’ has the chance of stunning AND procuring an item--but it relies on a different resource (ability's PP vs. farting's Mana). And many battles rely on the help of unlocked friends, like Jimmy the Bard or Princess Kenny, who uses womanly wiles to distract foes.