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
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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
As combat is a highly timing-based affair, your success can often live or die on your ability to hit X at the right time. Timed button presses make combat more involved, but it feels somewhat counter-intuitive in a turn-based RPG to fail at the hands of a couple errors in timing. The sheer wealth of tactical options counters this somewhat. Do enough side quests, or find the right combination of gear and Perks, and you could be gaining extra turns with Attack Up on perfect timings and dealing massive Bleeding, Burning, or Grossed Out damage--all before the enemy gets a say. The wide range of enemy types, without going into spoiler-y detail, also provide a fair amount of tactical challenge. Combat can be a highly thoughtful balancing act of defence, potion-taking, and attacking while managing the interplay of HP, PP, Mana, and enemy eccentricities. Foes might, for example, adopt a riposte stance that counters melee, or take up a reflect stance that counters ranged attacks. Others might flee in the face of overpowering attacks, or focus all their efforts on buffing comrades. Enemy attributes, strengths, and weaknesses factor heavily into all of your combat decisions, and it's all handled with often-hilarious callbacks to the series, from Mana- (fart-) restoring apple juice to some highly creative and amusing enemy attacks that channel the nostalgic personalities we love and hate.
Aside from combat, there’s also some environmental puzzle-solving that comes into play, with players able to use a variety of abilities to open new paths, snag collectibles, or get the drop on enemies and avoid combat altogether. Your chosen party member (usually swappable at will) has a unique 'Buddy Command' ability (like Jimmy's access to a handicap-accessible elevator), and you've got arrows for hitting out-of-reach switches and objects. It's fun to see how the interplay of these abilities can change the environment and create advantages, like by dropping a ceiling light onto other fourth graders or lowering a ladder to secret attic loot. You’ll also be using your fart powers cause explosions with open flame or distract guards during brief stealth sections, and a few highly situational uses of later abilities change up the gameplay formula with genuine puzzle-solving. These sections, breaking away from the RPG core, are hit-and-miss in terms of execution, with trial-and-error progress or inadequate signposting creating problems.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth does real justice to the South Park license, never failing to entertain with its humour, while boasting a fun storyline and addictive, in-depth combat that will resonate with turn-based RPG fans. Nevertheless, it’s not perfect, with some mundane quests and navigation hampered by the need to continuously delve into the map, as well as loading times and framerate drops interrupting flow. Still, Stick of Truth is an essential experience for series fans that mercifully offers the gameplay chops to match outstanding presentation and truly thoughtful design.----