South Park: The Stick of Truth is a – gasp – turn-based RPG based on the popular South Park animated series. It was developed by Obsidian and published by Ubisoft in 2014. It was co-written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, co-creators of South Park, and is a hilarious level-grinder with tons of detail, loads of quests, graphics that are identical to the TV show, and all the voices that South Park fans have come to know and love (most provided by Stone and Parker).
I’m embarrassed to admit that I bought this game years ago in a sale, played it for a couple of hours, then left it alone. I recently returned to it and got back into it and very much enjoyed the experience. It’s just as bitingly-satirical (and puerile) as the TV show, but with all the trappings of an interactive RPG. And if one company knows how to make a good RPG, it’s Obsidian (they famously made Fallout: New Vegas, Knights of the Old Republic, Pillars of Eternity, and The Outer Worlds, among others).
In The Stick of Truth you play “New Kid” who has moved to the town of South Park and has become embroiled in a role-play fantasy war with humans, wizards and elves who are fighting for control of the all-powerful ‘Stick of Truth‘. The game quickly gets out of hand and aliens, Nazi zombies and gnomes begin threatening the entire town with destruction. Which you of course have to stop.
To stop it you must defeat relentless waves of attacks from a variety of enemies and this is done in turn-based combat. You can freely explore the town of South Park to collect and complete quests – all shown in a detailed quest log – and random combat happens when kids dressed as wizards and elves attack you while walking the streets. Combat is controlled with a combination of mouse and keys and attacking and defending is mostly down to timing. Right-clicking at the correct time, when an enemy is attacking, will diminish their damage. Which is key to survival. Attacking, when your turn comes, involves choosing a move (either a standard attack or a special ability that uses Power Points, aka PP), and left or right-clicking at the right time. Some special moves require that you press a specific combination of keys during the build-up phase of the attack, and instructions are always shown on-screen before you commit to the move. You can also use items in battle, like health potions and other buffs and de-buffs (water balloons, for example, when thrown at an enemy, will usually completely de-buff them). Just like combat in any turn-based level-grinder: whoever reduces their opponent’s health to zero first is the winner.
As you explore South Park you also gain friends who become party members, so you at least have some back-up. Unfortunately you can only have one sidekick at a time, but you can change partners during combat (useful if you find one to be ineffective). You control the actions of combatants in your party in combat, each of whom have different abilities.
The game even has its own built-in social media, with characters sending each other messages as the game progresses, some of which are very funny. And, just like the TV show, are for adults only. The Stick of Truth is peppered with profanities, fart gags, senseless violence, and jokes that bend the meaning of political correctness like a black hole bends space-time. In fact: in some regions the game has been censored in places, due to its edginess. I think I was playing the uncensored version, although I’m not entirely sure. What I saw and heard was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a video game before, and even the best/worst of the racial satire, anal probe or abortion gags didn’t really phase me. Probably because I’m used to South Park and am generally tickled by it’s sickening excesses. If you’ve never seen South Park before then this game’ll probably leave you slack-jawed… Or outraged! Heh heh.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Stick of Truth. It combines my favourite genre of video game with insane, cartoon humour in a way that only South Park can get away with. If you like RPGs and like South Park then it’s bound to appeal to you. In fact, chances are you’ve probably already played it because The Stick of Truth (at the time of writing) is eight years old now. If you don’t yet have The Stick of Truth, and see it in a sale, then I’d highly recommend picking it up. It does take a little while to get into, but when you’ve levelled-up a few times and gotten used to the combat and quest systems you’ll find a compelling game within. Just remember that you must be 18+ to buy it.
A sequel, called South Park: Fractured but Whole, was released in 2017.