Further to my previous post, I have now finished South Park: Stick of Truth. Hence, for your reading pleasure, here is a review. Freshly baked, may contain nuts. I will start off by saying that this game is fantastic, funny, but not without its flaws. I won’t dawdle (what a great word) on the points I made before – instead you can read all of the new and exciting opinions that I have concocted whilst playing the 11 hour campaign!
Let us begin with the story. It’s pretty much what you would expect from South Park – starts off all innocent, and then becomes something much bigger. The story isn’t going to leave you scouring the internet for tinfoil theories, or make you sit back in your chair and respire a “wow”, but it’s South Park, and you’re getting what you’ve paid for. It will, however, make you squee at the epicness of some scenes, and, importantly, laugh out loud. This is without a doubt one of the funniest games that I have ever played – up there with the likes of Portal, Borderlands or Fallout. The humour is, obviously, somewhat controversial, but what would you expect from a South Park game? One aspect of the story that was lovely to see – without giving away any spoilers – is the fact that throughout the entire game, the children of South Park are just LARPing (look it up), despite the madness that is going on around them. I’m reminded of past South Park episodes such as “Towelie”, “Lil’ Crime Stoppers” and the more recent “Black Friday Trilogy” – episodes in which something much larger than the children is at stake, but they just continue playing their games, somewhat apathetic to what is going on around them. The main body of the story beautifully incorporates a classic fantasy tale intertwined with the goings on about town: a unique blend of genres that makes Stick of Truth a one of a kind game. The ending, whilst epic in places, did feel a bit rushed at times, with no real reveal as to what actually happens to the game’s main antagonists. But overall, if this were an episode of South Park, it would be up there with the greats, and at the end of the day, isn’t that all we really want from this game? Well, kind of: “what about gameplay?” I hear you cry from your computing chairs. Well, on to that now!
As stated in my “Initial Thoughts” review, the game has you wandering around a sandbox style map, engaging in turn based RPG fights. The map itself is a fair size, with a couple of new areas opening up as you journey through the game (the visit to the kingdom to the north was absolutely brilliant #nospoilers). You often find yourself returning to areas that you have already explored, but with new enemies popping up and new out-of-combat abilities unlocked, there is always that teeny bit more to do. There is the option to fast travel which, when crossing over the entire map, does help – but the map is relitvely easy to traverse on foot, and interesting, so I rarely found myself using it. Still, it’s nice to have the option. Thoughtful. The town of South Park also has a lot of explorable buildings too – buildings that contain loot and goodies and hilarious people to listen to and fart on. In fact, your first hour or so of the game will probably consist of going around opening everybody’s garages and seeing what you can steal.
Combat is initiated by hitting (or being hit by) an enemy in the over world: unlike classic JRPGs of yore, Stick of Truth features no ‘random encounters’. Unfortunately, combat gives very limited XP, but considering I reached the maximum level cap of 15 quite a bit before the game’s climax, I can kind of understand why. When engaged in battle, you are taken to the combat screen. As mentioned, the battle system revolves around turn based combat. Generally it will go you, your buddy (more on that in a bit), then enemy A, B, C etc. However if you think that you can just lay back in your chair and apathetically press ‘A’, boy oh boy are you wrong. Stick of Truth’s combat system requires you to be on the ball. When an enemy attacks you, you have the option to execute a perfectly timed block and counter attack. When attacking, you must engage in a quick time event to perform your move correctly. This could be as simple as pressing ‘X’ at a specific time, to inputting Guitar Hero-style commands. Whilst fun at first, it soon grows quite tedious, as QTEs often do. I got very bored of wiggling the L-stick on my controller…and usually I love wiggling my stick! Throughout the majority of the game, during combat, you have a ‘buddy’. Whilst each buddy is unique and offers a different approach to battle, I found myself sticking with the same ones – Butters is good early game, with Kyle and Cartman being your go-tos later on. Kenny is pretty good all around (and revives if he is killed!), whilst Stan and Jimmy are both very average. Your character as two weapons – ranged and melee – which you can customise to inflict elemental damage, syphon life or penetrate armour. He also has at his disposal class specific abilities. These are the only things that really separate one class from another, and whilst I used my thief’s backstab ability countless times at the beginning of the game, by the end my melee attack was so OP that I just stuck with that. Your other method of attacking is, surprise surprise, farts. Farts, however, require mana. Mana requires specific items. As a result, I never really felt the need to faff around with this, and didn’t utilise my farts to their full potential. Heh. You can also acquire summonable characters. There are four of these, and each one instantly defeats all enemies that you’re currently fighting. However they cannot be used against bosses, and can only be used once per in-game day. Whilst funny to see for the first time, their limited use is only really beneficial if you just want to end a battle quickly. ‘Normal’ enemies are also relatively easy to defeat, and I never really felt threatened enough to use a summon.
Goodness, I have exceeded 1000 words. I should wrap this up.
A final note on collectables and replay value. If you’re an achievement hunter, you’re going to want to play through this game several times, or at least have multiple save files. Apart from that, there isn’t really much reason to replay Stick of Truth, asides from the fact that it’s a fun game. Once you complete the main story, which isn’t too long, you do enter a free roam of the map…but I’m not too sure how much you would get out of this as there isn’t too much additional stuff to do. There are 30 Chinpokomon to collect and 120 Facebook friends to find, but you will probably grab most of these as you play through the story anyway. A note of caution, however – despite the game giving you freedom to continue playing after you finish, there are many areas that become inaccessible, meaning if you missed a piece of loot or a Chinpokomon, you’re screwed. This happened to me. 29/30 Chinpokomon, which meant only 119/120 Facebook friends (you get one as a reward). As expected, I am very upset and am seeking counselling, m’kay.
All in all, Stick of Truth is not only a faithful adaptation of a great series, but also wonderfully incorporates key RPG elements, making it a fun, hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable game. The campaign does only last 11 or so hours, so if you can afford to wait to play then I would maybe suggest holding off until it comes down in price. And take your time. There’s no point in blitzing through. Whilst no DLC has been formally announced, there is an option for it on the main menu…so fingers crossed that the developers are concocting a new story for us to tackle, and aren’t just going to release some shitty alternate costumes…!