South Park: The Stick of Truth, after the THQ Bankruptcy, Ubisoft purchase and subsequent delays, is finally here.
Packed with all the gross out, offensive humor and horrible fart jokes you know and love from the long-running show, it’s safe to say that this is the best South Park game that’s ever been created.
Granted, that isn’t saying much. Matt Stone and Trey Parker never had the opportunity to build a game that looked exactly like the show. The license has been slapped on a few poor excuses, but The Stick of Truth is clearly the best shot that’s ever been attempted.
Though, it isn’t perfect. This game is a wonderful tribute to the show it’s based on, but it isn’t quite the game I wanted it to be. It’s darn close, mind you, but it isn’t completely the real deal.
The Look and Jokes You Know
The craziest thing about South Park: The Stick of Truth is that it looks exactly like the show. It sounds like the show, it moves like the show, it feels like the show. If someone walked in on you playing, they might even initially wonder which episode you’re watching.
That feel translates to the music, the jokes, the voice acting and even the plot beats. In both good and bad ways, The Stick of Truth stays so true to its source material that some bits repeat from the series nearly wholesale.
Now, on one hand it’s a positive since the game is being deliciously referential. You’ll laugh at the gags in the same way you and your friends laugh at movie quotes again and again for years on end. On the other hand, all that reference means that the game isn’t entirely original.
What is original, though, is mostly glorious. When South Park: The Stick of Truth recognizes it’s a game, from stuff like ESRB callouts, it separates itself from the show enough to warrant its existence. I loved it for those jokes, and those are what kept me engrossed all the way through the title’s campaign.
Make no mistake, this is for South Park fans. You might be frustrated by the repeated jokes if you live and die by the show every day; but, if you dig the humor and love referential nods, then The Stick of Truth is absolutely stellar in this regard.
A Middling RPG
What The Stick of Truth is not, though, is a wonderful RPG. It’s okay, it’s solid, it doesn’t really fail at any single RPG mechanic, but it’s not polished the way an RPG should be polished.
The combat is likely the best part of the RPG experience here. It feels a lot like the turn-based affairs in a Mario RPG, of all things. You’ll select attacks and specials, and you’ll need to nail button prompts at precise timings to succeed.
While not the most complex system (as if anyone would really want that from a South Park game), it’s fun enough to keep fighting from ever being a chore. I was never frustrated by a fight appearance, and I never once felt like the game was making me grind. That’s an overwhelmingly positive note for an RPG.
However, the crucial elements of menu navigation and item management are not nearly as good as they should be. Flipping from point to point in the menu, which is set up to look like a social network, is fluid enough. It’s just that managing the items within isn’t that great.
There’s no way to quickly compare items without equipping one and swapping through others one at a time. There’s no way to label certain things as junk or move them into a pile of stuff you want to sell, either. That one’s a big problem as you’ll pick up weapons and equipment constantly in this game. Junk is auto-labelled as junk and instantly sellable. Weapons and equipment? Not so much.
You’ll need to remember which you want to keep mentally, as there’s no way to flag something as “special” or “must-keep.”
There are four classes here, though they don’t build in ways that complex RPGs build. Whether that’s a con is really up to you. You won’t be building a character from scratch just for the fun of it. The fun is had in seeing the unique moves once or twice, having a chuckle and moving on. No complex spreadsheet managers need apply.
Really, the RPG side of this equation is little more than a vessel for the hilarity. The combat is great, I have no complaints about that, but the skill system, perks, buddies and Facebook friends are all so haphazardly slapped together that they feel so very secondary to the humor. That’s okay, though. I didn’t buy South Park: The Stick of Truth thinking it would be the next Skyrim.
However, I genuinely feel that things like UI navigation and Item Management are crucial to any game set up like an RPG. The fact that Obsidian Entertainment didn’t polish the heck out of those bits is a little frustrating.
Oh, The Little Things
Matt Stone and Trey Parker have a video game to be proud of, even if it’s not perfect.
Judging whether or not South Park: The Stick of Truth accomplished what it set out to do is sort of tough. Its “game” stuff isn’t up to par, quite frankly. But its humor?
I know that I liked The Stick of Truth because I chuckled the whole way through. Rooting through Carman’s mom’s drawers at the beginning of the game and finding exactly what I expected to find (those who watch the show will know) was hilarious. That happened in the first few minutes of the game.
Spread those giggles and nods of recognition over the course of more than a dozen hours, and you’ll realize that I was delighted all the way until the end. The game things aren’t great, but everything else is spot-on.
I will say that I ran into a few freezes and crashes, maybe three or four, so expect stability to come down the line. It could have been a lot worse based on Obsidian’s track record with games like Fallout: New Vegas.
South Park has been a show since 1997. That’s a whole lot of ridiculous canon to pull from. If you’ve enjoyed even a fraction of this series’ run, you’ll enjoy the game. Matt Stone and Trey Parker have a video game to be proud of, even if it’s not perfect.
We purchased South Park: The Stick of Truth for the PC with company funds. We played the game to completion before starting this review.