Developer(s) – Obsidian Entertainment & South Park Digital Studios
Publisher(s) – Ubisoft
Director(s) – Chris Brion, Chris Parker & Zane Lyon
Producer(s) – Todd Benson & Matthew Singh
PEGI – 18
Hyped up for quite some time and having suffered from a fair few delays, South Park: The Stick of Truth had been a game that I was looking forward to a fair bit. When I saw that was going to be a turn-based RPG, I was thinking to myself about the possibilities of factors such as variety in gameplay, and how long it could possibly last. One of these concerns of mine was adequately met, whilst the other was not.
Graphics – 9.5/10
The developers were aiming to capture the feel of the show in the game’s visuals, and they did just that. Playing the game feels very much like playing an actual episode of South Park. So whilst the graphics aren’t cutting edge, there’s no call for them to be cutting edge. The visuals are as good as could possibly be desired. One bad thing I would say about the game in terms of this axiom of judgment is that all the houses in the neighborhood area of South Park look exactly like one another, but are in different colors. But the thing is, that’s the way they are in the show as well, and there are plenty of other unique-looking buildings and locations to compensate for that. In particular, I like how the developers designed Canada as an 8-bit environment; that was a very nice touch, and it did provide some diversity in visual style. But I think the worse instance of visual presentation in the game was the cutscene whereby a UFO crash-lands in South Park. That part is rendered in 3D, and to me, it’s quite sloppy. It actually had the feel of the South Park first-person shooter that was released on the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation back in 1998.
Gameplay – 8/10
The game itself was also very enjoyable to play. It was a very nice throwback to old-style turn-based RPGs such as early Final Fantasy games or Dragon Quest, with learnable abilities, magic, and even summons to collect along the way. Although the game could have done with more, there are also a few side quests as well, and exploration is encouraged, but only to a certain extent. I think the gameplay aspect I can praise the most is the amount of variety it has. Like Final Fantasy, there are multiple party members at the player’s disposal, and they all have their own unique abilities and special moves. The combat system also presents the necessity to strategize, which is always a plus. The medium mode doesn’t present a lot of challenges, but for more intrepid players, the difficulty can be adjusted.
Controls – 10/10
As a 2D open-world turn-based RPG, the control scheme for games like this has been long since perfect, and consequently, there should never have been any issues with the controls; and nor are there, I’m happy to say. Many developers have tried to add different aspects of controls in turn-based RPGs in recent years to compensate for the characters simply standing still, such as in Lost Odyssey, where bonus damage could be dealt with by pressing buttons at the correct times. But how the developers of this game have managed to do that is actually pretty impressive.
Lifespan – 3.5/10
Frustratingly, I’d finished this game in less than 14 hours. I’d say that at most, it would take players still less than 20 hours to complete the game to 100%, and for a turn-based RPG, that’s nothing. Games like this can normally be made to last 80, maybe even 100 hours; over five times longer than South Park: The Stick of Truth. Unfortunately, reminiscent of some games from the previous generation, such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Dead Space, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, this is one of those games that simply left me wanting more. If Trey Parker and Matt Stone ever wanted to release a sequel, I really wouldn’t mind more of the same in terms of gameplay; just as long as it’s made to last far longer. My only hope now is that the planned DLC for the game can significantly increase its lifespan because, in its current state, it is far too short-lived.
Storyline – 7.5/10
Whilst the game’s story is extremely funny and very well thought out, I can’t help but think that it’s mostly open to one specific demographic; fans of the series. Newcomers who may never have watched South Park before won’t be able to get laughs out of all the references to previous South Park episodes and consequently won’t get the most of what is to be had out of the game overall. But having said that, the main plot of the game is pretty appealing. The player takes control of a new kid who has just moved to South Park with his family, and whilst out looking to make friends, he inevitably finds Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Kenny, who are all playing a huge kids game. Cartman and Kenny are the leaders of the Kupa Keep faction and Kyle and Stan are the leaders of the Elven faction. The new kid is caught in the middle of the two groups waging war over an item called the Stick of Truth. According to the rules of their game, whoever controls the stick controls the universe. But it all turns into something much bigger than their little game, and the new kid must work to stop a threat looming over the entire town of South Park. Aside from the plot of the game is very good, in lieu of South Park tradition, the vulgarity dial is cranked up to 11; for any readers who may be looking to try the game, but who may be easily offended. There is everything in this game ranging from explicit violence, adult themes, foul language, toilet humor, full-frontal nudity, strong sexual content, political incorrectness, and disturbing imagery. Seven scenes of this game were even censored in not only the Middle East and Africa, but in Europe too, along with the PC version of the game also being censored in several other countries. So any players with children are strongly advised to make sure their kids don’t walk in on them playing this game.
Originality – 8.5/10
In terms of gameplay, whilst hearkening back to old-style Final Fantasy, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a very unique take on the turn-based RPG genre as well as it having a unique story, unique level designs, and a unique enemy roster, ranging from elves and wolves to aliens and cows. The game can also be noted for its exceptional level of crudity. I have played many games that have caused a lot of controversy over the years, but it will be interesting to see how people react to this one.
Overall, South Park: The Stick of Truth was a very decent game to play through, but it did ultimately leave me wanting so much more out of it than what I got; and by that token, I felt pretty jaded by it. But it is worth playing once, and hopefully, it will be worth holding out for the planned DLC to come along and increase the game’s lifespan by at least some margin.