South Park: The Stick of Truth Hands-On Preview – Jew Gold?
Written Friday, February 14, 2014 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Believe it or not, South Park: The Stick of Truth is out in less than a month. This is a game that’s had very few showings – none public – since its original announcement back in 2011. In fact, up until last week we’d seen less than an hour of guided gameplay, none of it was hands-on. Admittedly I was worried. You probably were too. And if I’m being perfectly honest, we had every right to be, if not for the trials and tribulations that have faced the game behind the scenes – THQ went bust for one – but for the simple fact that tie-ins are usually a load of old toss. Fear not though, folks, I can finally confirm that Obsidian’s South Park: The Stick of Truth is shaping up to be one-hell of a game.
South Park: The Stick of Truth follows on somewhat from last year’s huge three-part episode revolving around the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One “console wars.” Their fantasy alter-egos – first introduced in the episode “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers” – are this time are embroiled in a town wide LARP over a stick… “The Stick of Truth.” On the one side, Cartman and the humans (and you, the new kid in town). On the other side, Stan, Kyle and the elves. We pick up things from the very beginning, creating our character with the robust character creator, and heading out into the small mountain town in Colorado.
The Stick of Truth at its core is an open-world, turn-based RPG. Yes, open-world, and interestingly, to the best of our knowledge, The Stick of Truth is the first time in South Park history that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have actually mapped out the Colorado mountain town. Players will have free reign in South Park, with there being multiple quests to embark upon, collectibles to collect (like 30 Chinpokomon) and random things to do, you know, like fight hobos, which incidentally we did, something which is actually an in-game ‘collectible’ – there are so many hobo camps to relocate.
Obsidian’s South Park is a world chock full of fan service and around every corner will be a reference to something that Matt and Trey have included in one of their many episodes. With the pair being on as writers too, the game is actually as funny as the show too – it’s as close to playing as an episode of the TV programme you’re ever going to get. It’s genuinely a laugh a minute, whether you’re riding on The Timmy Express – the game’s fast travel system – talking to Al Gore about ManBearPig who’s hiding in a bush outside the Tweek Bros. Coffeehouse, or finding A.W.E.S.O.M-O in Cartman’s closet or dildos in Cartman’s mum’s drawer, fans are going to love every second of this.
In typical Matt and Trey fashion, it’s edgy and controversial from the off, but that’s the beauty of it: it’s a true South Park experience and as such a thing of beauty. Naturally, when given the choice out of the four playable classes (the others being mage, warrior and rogue), we chose the “Jew” class, which in return gives us some Holy Robes, a Holy Yarmulke, some Holy Rings and a Jewish staff, all of which have various attributes, like all the weapons and costumes in the game. Aside from the normal attack and the Bow of Sucking for distance attacks, I guess you’re wondering what the Jew class’ special abilities are, right? Well, you have the Sling of David, Jew-Jitsu, Plagues of Egypt and the Circum-Scythe. It’s classic South Park humour from everything to the design down to the names.
Unlike traditional turn-based JRPGs, Obsidian’s take on the genre involves making it a little more western, attempting to inject some level of skill into the proceedings. Instead of players simply pressing a command and selecting an attack like in most JRPGs, players will be asked to actually perform some tasks instead to boost chances of getting a critical hit, or even making it work at all. Whether that’s tapping a button, wiggling a stick or whatever, timing is actually key to success in The Stick of Truth. Whether that’s something you’re okay with will vary from person to person. Us? We’re surprisingly okay with it. Actually, there’s a considerable amount of turn-based RPG depth when it comes to the combat, which you probably wouldn’t expect considering the far from serious subject matter, with plenty of debuffing going on and players getting into riposte and reflect stances to counter some of your moves. You won’t be able to just attack, attack, attack. You have been warned.
Then you have the environmental assists that can help you avoid battles too, gathering valuable experience along the way in return for thinking on your feet. Rather than jumping into every battle, players can use their bow to knock vents on an enemy’s head, fart and cause an explosion which takes down a foe, and so on. There’s plenty of opportunities to seek this avenue if you so wish rather than jump into every turn-based fight. You’ll even have to use your allies – of which we picked up Butters and Princess Kenny along the way – to navigate certain obstacles… Kenny for instance, rather amusingly can pull down his top to show his breasts to get the attention of someone to open up a previously closed route.
When it comes to battles, the allies are just as useful as your main character. Butters, of course, has Professor Chaos to fight by his side, while Kenny on the other hand has some really bizarre powers. His “Royal Kiss” ability, for instance, can inflict an STD – like gonorrhea – on the enemy he attacks, while his Furry Friends power summons an army of rats to attack them. Fail with the button press on the latter though and Kenny dies, before spectacularly coming back to life with his next turn in true South Park style.
From a quest perspective, the opening hour or so saw us go to Cartman’s house and fight off the elven invasion, before heading out into the streets of South Park. There we were tasked with saving Tweek, Token and Craig, and persuading them to join the human’s cause. To recruit Tweek you have to complete the Hot Coffee quest (ha!), which tasks the player with getting the secret ingredient for the Tweek Bros. Coffeehouse meaning Tweek didn’t have to work his shift. The secret ingredient incidentally was meth that you had to steal from a meth lab, Breaking Bad style! With Token, you have to get a gas mask so that when the crazy security guard outside his house sprays you in the face with Mace, you’re not affected and can get past him. And then with Craig, the Thief, you have to save him from Mr Mackey’s detention, fighting off the ginger prefects along the way and collecting various keys to fight the huge ginger prefect boss. From start to finish in our hands-on, it was classic South Park scenario after scenario, filled with fan service, laughs and more importantly, the minute-to-minute gameplay seemed to back that up perfectly
Let’s not get too carried away here though, after all, we did only play the first hour or so of it, but the initial signs are positive. Considering that RPGs – especially those of the turn-based variety – are usually slow starters, it’s tricky to see where this one will actually go after the section we played. If it can continually deliver on the fan-service, incredible production values – it’s like being in your own South Park episode! – maintain the high level of humour, but more importantly, continue to get deeper and deeper – which we fear might be the only thing it comes unstuck on – and prove to be perfectly balanced, then South Park: The Stick of Truth is as good an argument as any that last-gen is very much still alive. The fact that’s it easily one of my most-anticipated titles of the year should speak volumes.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is scheduled for a March 4th and March 7th release in North America and Europe respectively.