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Review: South Park: The Stick of Truth – Politically Incorrect

by on March 4, 2014 3:00 AM 41

Show Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker debuted South Park in late 1997 and have weathered a harsh politically correct environment for nearly 20 seasons – the two have managed to keep up the show’s quality while pursuing other projects like Team America: World Police and The Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, the success of South Park on the television screen has never found its equivalent in the medium of gaming.

The earliest iteration of the franchise in gaming can be traced back to South Park, which was released for the Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and PC between 1998 and 1999. Four other games were released since then, with the most recent being published in 2012; none of them succeeded in bringing any sort of authenticity to the franchise’s representation in gaming.

The failures of South Park: The Stick of Truth’s predecessors were based in their inability to capture the essence of the show. The look, the feel, the writing – South Park meshes them all in a unique fidelity that is unmatched by any other comedic animation, and has never been realized in any of the games. Because of this, the game is so good that it has the power to nearly exorcise any memory that there were any other South Park games prior to its existence. Despite this, the game does not come close to perfection, or even greatness. As South Park, it is pure excellence, but as a video game, it has a tendency to fall flat on its face.

South Park: The Stick of Truth - Ass of Fire

The story focuses on the struggle between Humans, led by Cartman and “Princess” Kenny, and Elves, led by Stan and Kyle, over the fabled Stick of Truth. Whomever controls it controls the universe. The protagonist of the game is you, the new kid in the neighborhood. Through your interactions with the four members of the main cast and the wealth of supporting characters you encounter, the story expectedly and delightfully goes off the rails more than once.

Subject matter such as abortion, Nazis, AIDS, pedophilia, rape, racism, BDSM, anti-Semitism, sodomy, and essentially every possible fecal reference imaginable is interspersed throughout the game beginning to end. There is no break in the humor, and this game is certainly not for the politically correct. Despite the seemingly overabundance of black humor, the story never gets in its own way, and instead moves ahead at a brisk pace, with perfection in its comedic timing and placement of jokes.

South Park: The Stick of Truth - Anal Probe

Despite the amount of characters and references utilized throughout the game, their presence is not haphazardly thrown in. There is a balance between the main story and side missions, and I was able to complete the former and a good chunk of the latter in the span of about 20-30 hours. Between their references to the show and their satirization of IPs like Dungeons & Dragons, the game still manages to feel short, and even limited. With so many characters and potential storylines to utilize, I anticipated a possible inability to finish the game before writing this review.

Full disclosure: I played as the Jew class, which falls somewhere between Monk and a Blue or Red Mage. Out of the four that are offered – Fighter, Mage, Thief, Jew – the latter was the only one that I had never experienced in any form in any of my previous RPGs. As you can see, the classes are very basic and there is a small selection – you are not dealing with Final Fantasy Tactics here. Throughout the game you are paired up with one character from the selection of Kyle, Stan, Cartman, Kenny, Butters, and Jimmy. All of the playable cast members fulfill their own unique role with abilities, special attacks, and PP moves – there is no weak link.

Many of the RPG elements of the game are in fact basic, and it is obvious from very early on that the game was designed for veterans and newcomers to the South Park franchise first, veterans of the RPG genre second, and newcomers to both third. Aspects of the game that are the most heavily influenced by RPG tropes included the ability to customize weapons and armor with enfeebling and/or beneficial attributes.

south-park-the-stick-of-truth-has-censored-ab-L-fyXeIC

The gameplay itself is driven by a classic turn-based style of combat. Physical attacks can be enhanced by timing of the player to induce critical hits, and players can reduce damage by timing perfect blocks. Physical, PP, Summons, and Magic maneuvers make up the rest of combat.

It’s in all but PP attacks that the game manages to shoot itself in the foot and more. There is certainly a fine line between a challenge and a game that stacks the odds unfairly against the player. In the case of defending against physical attacks, the timing needed to block them is difficult to discern because every enemy has a unique pattern, so you constantly have to adjust and adapt. In that case, the game presents a unique and welcome challenge.

However, it is all moot because enemies have extremely potent and strong attacks; failing to defend perfectly against them results in a wealth of damage dealt to your characters, and perfectly blocking them does not provide much of a difference unless every single block is perfect (enemies typically have double or triple attacks on top of attack buffs).

Because of this, the game devolves largely into a race to frustratingly block against attacks before following up the next turn with an item and a PP or physical attack move. This is further compounded by difficult boss fights (in which you are not allowed to use summons) and encounters with more than three enemies at a time. For example, a party of five Nazi rats (yeah, I know) were able to knock out one of my characters, even though I successfully blocked all of their attacks.

PP moves are the jewel of the game’s combat system, and can be described best as physical magic attacks, as they drain PP much like you would drain MP in any classic RPG title. They are useful as sources of burst damage or inflicting massive amounts of enfeebling effects. Players are only allowed to use them sparingly as the PP cost is high, and the player’s pool is small.

South Park: Stick of Truth - Kyle the High Jew Elf

With the Jew class, I had access to a selection of abilities including Sling of David and Wrath of Egypt, among others, all of which never failed to make me howl with laughter every time I used them. Every job has a thematic move-set that accompanies them, and all of them are humorous, though I imagine most people will be partaking in the class I chose.

The magic of the game is the power of the fart. Despite the amount of attention the story places on this power and how it is used to overcome obstacles in the regular environment, it is essentially useless in combat. Augmented attacks and PP attacks do the job much better than magic, and I found myself not needing to use it once.

Smaller problems are sprinkled throughout the game’s map and user interface, which are otherwise unique in their presentation. Fast travel locations needed to get around South Park are not present on the map unless the player goes to one first, and there is no waypoint system. Within the user interface, it is not possible to sort one’s inventory, and you have to constantly tab into it to look at the map.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is the tale of two games. It is a ridiculously off-the-wall black comedy that works in every way and successfully captures the tone and essence of the show. Unfortunately, it is also a satirization of the RPG genre that manages to misfire in more than one aspect in its most basic approach, and ultimately feels unfinished and in dire need of a polish.

rated rating-6.5
Review: South Park: The Stick of Truth – Politically Incorrect
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • PlayStation 3
  • Obsidian Entertainment
  • Ubisoft
  • March 4, 2014
  • $59.99
  • Review copy provided by the publisher.

Join the Discussion

  • Dollow Rlance

    I hope my friend like the game I know he likes South Park.

  • http://www.thekoalition.com/author/david David Jagneaux

    This is surprising to see – I reviewed the game as well and had completely opposite feelings. I don’t really agree with the majority of your criticisms, but to each their own.

  • chris

    why did you even review this game and what does the reasons you dont like the game have to do with lowering the score, the game is gewtting 85 to 90% and you bashed it for all the wrong reasons. the game is stunning

    • David Rodriguez

      @disqus_HYbNS2dYjl:disqus

      To answer your first question, I reviewed it because I had an interest in it ever since I saw the first couple of trailers. I also grew up watching the show and was interested in how they would execute it as an rpg.

      What was “wrong” about my criticisms? I wouldn’t necessarily call this a bashing. 6.5 is well above average.

    • Masoud House

      “what does the reasons you dont like the game have to do with lowering
      the score, the game is gewtting 85 to 90% and you bashed it for all the
      wrong reasons.”

      Typically, a score is lowered when a person finds fault in it. We don’t review games based on the consensus of other reviews, but of our own opinions. We’re sorry you didn’t agree.

    • Tony Polanco

      *scratches head*

      If he didn’t like the game then he WOULD give it a low score. That’s how it works, man. You don’t give a high score to a game you DON’T like. That doesn’t even make any sort of sense. A written review should have congruity with its score shouldn’t it?

      Also, what does it matter what scores the game is getting at other sites? This is DAVID’S review, HIS opinion. You think it’s stunning. Great. He doesn’t. A review is an opinion at the end of the day. Simple as that my friend.

  • Delsin Row

    when you dont like a game, why are you doing this? 6.5 ? seriously?
    gamespot = 7
    ign = 9
    cvg = 9

    • Blackmaile

      Get a grip. I usually agree with you but everybody is entitled to their god dam opinion. The reviewer has made his OWN opinion instead of waiting around for other sites to post theirs and copy the popular websites. I respect everybodys reviews.
      Currently playing Lords of Shadow 2 and i cant see where the 4s and 6s even the 7s are the game is wicked. Enjoy it if your gonna buy it and dont take someone elses opinion to serious!!!!!!!!!

      • Carmen

        seems a bit low, for the amount of effort put in. This would be a failing grade in school.

        • Masoud House

          Technically, 6.5 would be just above failing. At least, when I was in school. 65 was a D.

        • Tony Polanco

          65 is a passing grade. At least it was in my time.

      • Delsin Row

        Thats true. we should respect everybody”s opinion. im a big fan of this game and couldnt see this review. im sorry david

      • Hates bad writers.

        That’s not an opinion, that’s ignorance, and no not everyone us entitled. That phrase has been abused by morons, it’s time we start taking it back. As for the review, wrong. You can “not like” it all you want, but it’s still good. I hate racing games but I can accept that there are good ones. Taste in what you like is subjective, if something is ACTUALLY good or not can easily be examined, and tested.

        Mass Effect 3, tons of morons “like” the game, all of which fail to see that it does nothing new, it’s stiff as hell, it’s buggier than shit, it’s convoluted, it’s full of plot holes, and it isn’t much of an RPG. We can look at the facts and determine that yes indeed it is a bad game, but it’s not going to stop the idiots from liking it. Just like this game may very well be amazing, simply because he’s a sensitive little pansy the game got canned in the review. That speaks nothing of the games faults, it just tells me you’re a sensitive bitch that should be reviewing games. By all means every M game ever should be getting a 6.5 and lower just because they handle mature subject matter, or does that not work for you DualShockers? Hit driven review, you’re scum bags.

        • David Rodriguez

          @hatesbadwriters:disqus

          I… praised the writing and the comedy in this game, so I’m not really sure what you’re on about in your second paragraph. And 6.5 is above average, not “canned.”

          • Hates bad writers.

            The gameplay was off was it? Seems not a single person agrees, and you have some explaining to do.

          • David Rodriguez

            My job is to give a fair review, not make sure that it’s aligned with the opinions of my colleagues at other sites. As for an explanation, it’s above (i.e. the review).

    • Stranger On The Road

      Actually he wrote why he had trouble with it; he found it frustrating in some places and as an RPG it had some short comings. Different people have different opinions regarding the same thing; in this case it is his job to review it and give his fair opinion. You should read the review [and others] then decide which reviewer has the closets taste to your own.

      Some people find spending time leveling ‘up’ as good; others hate it. Some people like repeating a timed challenge until they beat it; other hate it. In my case, I view forcing the gamer to execute certain timed steps in perfect sequence as the lack of imagination of the designer who didn’t know how to add a challenge to the level and took the easy way out…. some gamers don’t mind them others love them!

      The same thing applies to JRPGs reviews; the reviewer doesn’t like JRPGs and for that matter, s/he most likely doesn’t like anime and loathe fan-service; yet they have to review it. I view their opinion as representing the view of someone who doesn’t like those things and it there to help others who share the same taste. But as someone who love JRPGs, I avoid those reviews since they are pointless to me; especially when the reviewer is conscience of the fact that s/he is reviewing a Japanese game.

      tl;dr: you should read the review instead of looking at the score.

      • Delsin Row

        I Did and i said im sorry? are you blind? i just couldnt stand with this score. because its my favotite game

        • Stranger On The Road

          Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to offend you with with reply. I not really blind, just shortsighted, in this case though I just started typing before I saw your 2nd message.

          • Delsin Row

            see? you did something and i have to apologize you too :D
            i didnt mean to offend you too my friend. im sorry if im upset you and said my word in a roughy way. are we cool?

        • Tony Polanco

          Dude, you’re upset because your favorite game got a low score? How does that work? If you like the game then what does it matter what score it gets?

          • Delsin Row

            i dont know :D suddenly i forgot how people have theire own idea of a game. :D you are right

          • Tony Polanco

            Yeah man. Keep in mind that every review is someone’s opinion. It isn’t a fact that’s set in concrete. What a reviewer thinks of a game may not jive with what you think of it and that’s fine. If we all had the same opinions the world would be a boring place, no?

            Don’t get upset if someone gives a low score to a game you like. That number has no bearing on your enjoyment of it. If you like it then that’s all that matters. :)

          • Delsin Row

            I Like you tony. you are awesome. yes. if everyone had the same opinion the world would be a boring place. i was in a moment and said that sentence :D

          • Tony Polanco

            It happens bro. No worries.

      • David Rodriguez

        @strangerontheroad:disqus

        Thank you for this, and thanks for reading.

  • qqq

    “Fast travel locations needed to get around South Park are not present on
    the map unless the player goes to one first, and there is no waypoint
    system.”

    Basically what you’re saying is, the game didn’t hold my hand, the game didn’t play itself for me. I mean, to actually fast travel somewhere, i had to discover that location first. Shocking. Clearly bad design right here. No waypoint? What in gods good name? Do they expect me to just play the game and explore? Blasphemy. Where is the glowing arrow above my head to point in the right dirrection so i dont get lost? Clearly a bad game and a spectacular review pointing that out. The reviewers knowledge and skill is evident throughout the text. Good job.

    • David Rodriguez

      @qqq31:disqus

      “Basically what you’re saying is, the game didn’t hold my hand, the game didn’t play itself for me.”
      No, not really.

      “A spectacular review pointing that out. The reviewers knowledge and skill is evident throughout the text. Good job.”
      Thanks for reading!

      • Fake_of_Silva

        The way points are visible when the player isn’t at any one, but the flag icon is deactivated (light gray color).

    • Steven Cayer

      I couldn’t tell if you were joking or not lol I enjoyed getting lost in South Park :) 10/10

  • Francis Jairam

    Here is some tips:
    If you are not a of South Park and you don’t really like RPG games then this game is not for you. If your a big fan of the show and love RPG game then this game is for.

  • Mikeherp Derp

    It’s not Skyrim with fart jokes? 6.5

  • Gannicus

    not sure how thief gets an 8 and stick of truth gets 6.5 cus thief is pretty boring tbh, my opinion I guess but the gameplay isn’t exciting at all really

    • Tony Polanco

      Different reviewers, my friend.

  • Michael Balchunas

    Picked up my preorder at lunch break and have it sitting in my car right now. Cant wait to get off work.

  • Fango

    6.5/10? I guess someone isn’t an RPG fan or Southpark fan because this game is definitely a 9/10. I have never enjoyed a game this much before. Only con is the seldom framerate stutter on the PS3. If this game were on PS4 i would have given it a 9.9/10

  • azz156

    wow i had a completely different experience, i loved this game. I over looked all its small flaws because of the near OCD level to keeping with the look and feel of the TV show and that’s a very rare thing to see these days.

    when i finished this game last week i just thought “game of the year” i find it rare when a game keeps me interested to the end and here i am playing this game through again but games like star craft 2 & bioshock infinite i just lost interest in. To me this game was just so refreshing after playing wave after wave of shit, cmon ubisoft bring on more dlc or a sequel.

dualshockers300x250

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