Becoming the Cool Kid
There have been a solid handful of terrible South Park games over the years. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that we would see a game that not only does the IP justice, but a game that is genuinely fun from a mechanical point of view. This hilariously twisted quest begins with your character as the new kid in town – your mission is simple: make friends and become cool. Just like anything South Park related, things quickly escalate to proportions that essentially threaten all life on earth and your small 4th grade character is at the center of it all. With South Park: The Stick of Truth, Obsidian has created what is not only the best South Park game ever made, but a game that is an incredibly well-made and engaging RPG in its own right.
AESTHETICS = 10
While I was reviewing this game, on a few different occasions, people walked into the room and asked me which episode of South Park I was watching. If this doesn’t sum up the way the game looks, I don’t know what will. With the guidance of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Obsidian has accurately captured the exact look and feel of a fully-featured episode of the iconic television series.
Over the years, the aesthetics of the show have grown with technology and while it has retained that cardboard-cutout style after all these years, it still looks incredibly sharp. From the wonderfully inventive character designs, to the surprisingly vast and detailed environments, South Park: The Stick of Truth is full of eye-candy. There must be thousands of different armor and weapon combinations, each more outlandish than the last, complete with collectible dye customization a la Guild Wars 2.
Once you really dig into the environments around you, chances are you will uncover at least a couple Easter eggs tailored to your favorite episode. Every kid’s room has objects that reference their funniest moments, such as Polly Prissy Pants in Cartman’s room. So many linear RPGs come out nowadays; it’s easy to forget what it feels like to explore a detailed world.
The game is presented from a relatively isometric/top-down perspective that is 100% accurate in regards to the TV show and it actually works. Parker and Stone were forced to literally map out the town and plan where all of the landmarks were in relation to one another. The result is a large and vibrant city that never really stops entertaining you. At first, it seems like the experience may feel a bit cramped, but some of the large and sprawling “dungeons” you explore, as well as a certain nation to the north, really do a lot to expand the scope and size of your adventure.
Throughout my 20+ hours with the game, I was discovering new little references every few minutes. As such, I cannot stress enough the importance of searching every single nook and cranny that you come across. The level of detail put into this game is simply staggering. I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed at all in terms of the game’s aesthetic presentation.
GAMEPLAY = 8
After watching previews, trailers, and gameplay demonstrations, I already knew what the game looked like. However, until you really sit down with an RPG and get past that dozen or more hour mark, you won’t really have any idea what it plays like. Thankfully, South Park: The Stick of Truth’s gameplay is far from disappointing.
While it may seem strange to compare the two on their faces, gameplay is extremely similar to the Mario & Luigi RPGs. Combat functions entirely from a 2D turn-based perspective, but also features real-time button combinations for different attacks. For example, I played as a Knight that used primarily 2-handed melee weapons. As such, when going up to attack an enemy, I would have to time my button presses to visual prompts in order to put together combos and increase damage. Several of my abilities require me to hold down certain buttons, spin the control stick, or perform various other actions in order to maximize my abilities.
As an added layer of depth, there are a wide variety of character classes, enemy types, attack types, status effects, and tons more that keep combat interesting. Enemies are arranged in both rows and columns – ranged attackers in the back protected from melee attacks, as well as shields and armor stats that affect your party’s damage output. Enemies can even reposition themselves to riposte melee strikes or reflect ranged projectiles. On top of all of this, you have a constantly expanding reservoir of party members to substitute into your group during battle, each of which have their own class and combat style.
Your party can only consist of yourself and one NPC at a time, but you are allowed to freely switch out of combat and use a turn to switch during combat. One of the best things about the game is all of the side dialogue you hear from the different party members outside of and even during battle. I’ll never forget when rescuing a captured Princess Kenny near the midpoint of the game, as we were storming through a barricaded house, Butters mentions to me how tedious the game is and how he hopes I bash it on forums later. Sorry Butters, you’re my favorite South Park character, but you couldn’t be any further from the truth!
Despite the gratuitous amount of depth and customization in combat, I never really felt challenged. Since your HP and PP refill at the end of each fight, defensive abilities and more strategic attacks are only useful in boss fights as I found myself easily mowing down smaller groups of enemies with ease. In fact, my entire game is littered with unlooted corpses due to the fact that I simply cannot carry any more of a certain item type – I hoarded so many cheesy poofs its ridiculous. However, even though I was never really in fear for my life, I had a blast throughout the game and actively sought out battles.