South Park – Stick of Truth

Clearing up the Steam backlog and South Park is on the list.  I used to watch it fairly regularly but I cut cable a few years ago and haven’t really paid much attention since.  I had heard good things about the game, and obviously it was at a good price.

The game certainly takes the source material to heart.  It’s voiced with all the same folks as the TV show, the art is the same, the story is full of the same with, sarcasm and black humour.  It really feels like an 8 hour episode, and I’ll touch on that in a bit.

The game is RPG, all the way.  Classes (all very similar in effect), melee and ranged weapons, 3 armor slots, customizations for that gear, HP/MP and special powers.  Very generic and trope-like items, but with a South Park twist.  You’re as likely to find a giant dildo as you are a shovel.  Max level is 15, and that should be easy enough to reach by the end of the game.  There’s enough tinkering here to make you feel like you’re specializing in a particular type of role.  I personally prefer to stack the Bleed effect, as everyone appears vulnerable and it deals a lot of damage over time.

Combat is very similar to Paper Mario.  Turn-based, with you getting 1 accessory skill and one attack per round.  Press a button in the middle of an animation to deal more damage, or defend for more.  Nearly all fights are against multiple opponents, even a few boss fights.  You get to team up with 1 of 6 possible NPCs to help fight.  I liked Butters, Stan and Cartman, once they became available.  Stun an enemy in the overworld, and they show up stunned when the fight starts.  It’s fun to find the little links between the various skills and effects, which can make combat either very simple, or quite complicated.

The world itself is well done, with plenty of side quests to undertake. Each area has sub-areas, often locked behind story progress to attain a new skill.  Shrinking, anal probes, shooting, or one of 4 types of magical farts.  It sounds dumb, but when you’re playing it makes sense.

Without spoiling the story too much, there are clear acts within the game.  The town, sewers, Canada, a spaceship, school, a tower…and your own home.  This last one, well, it’s worth playing just for this 15 minute section of the game.  The battle with the Gnome Warlock is the most unique boss fight I have ever played.  Just don’t play with the sound up too high, or without headphones.

The final battle is reminiscent of FF’s model of multiple end bosses, with twists.  It works, not because of the mechanics, but because of how absurd the entire thing plays out.  When I completed it, I felt as if I had accomplished something, that the story had seen an end, and that in some way, it made sense.

There are certainly weaknesses here, though it’s hard to tell if they are on purpose or not.  The Girls recruitment quest exemplifies that issue.  Repetition is a little strong in some areas, where it feel more of a grind than it should be.  But then you get a quip from a character stating just that, and it gets too meta.  Some skill balance issues remain, where massive AE attacks and status ailments are just way too powerful compared to other choices, and the last skill for each class just changes the game – again, this is likely done on purpose.

If you play this as a straight RPG, then you’re gonna have a bad time.  If you play it as an interactive TV episode, then you’re likely going to find it too much of a grind.  Instead, it finds a solid ground between both.  It’s certainly made my top 10 RPG list.



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