South Park: The Stick of Truth Preview
Respect this game's f'n authoritah!
I’m not sure why, but South Park: The Stick of Truth ended up being one of my favorite games at the Microsoft press conference. It could have something to do with the fact that I’m a huge fan of the show and watch it religiously. Or it may have been due to how annoyed and underwhelmed I was with the focus of the conference. It even could have been because Trey Parker and Matt Stone were far and away the most entertaining—and real—people to get on stage the entire time. Whatever the reason, this game could end up becoming one of my favorite games of 2013, even in a year that seems poised to have the most crowded release schedule of all time.
Certain things are a given with a South Park game. You can expect Parker and Stone (as well as the other cast members) to provide all the standard voices, as well as some choice lines of dialogue. You can expect locations, enemies, and characters pulled straight from the show. And usually, you can expect the game to look like garbage. In his usual self-deprecating style, Trey Parker remarked that South Park has always looked like garbage, and the art team at Obsidian has really nailed that look. I would humbly disagree—the animation quality of South Park has grown by leaps and bounds, and if you haven’t seen the show in a few years you may be taken aback by how the show looks today. The Stick of Truth replicates the new style of South Park perfectly, to the point that I couldn’t differentiate gameplay from cutscene. Many people have attempted it before, but Obsidian has really brought the cartoon to your console or PC.
The characters and town of South Park have been lovingly recreated, and with this presents a problem never encountered before. Just how do you get from, say, Stan’s house to the school? Kenny lives on the poor side of town, but where is that in relation to Cartman’s house? And just where is Stark’s Pond? It’s a problem that Parker and Stone seem excited to solve, and the town of South Park will be fully navigable. No word yet on modes of transportation, but fingers crossed for the Poo Choo Train.
As far as the actual story goes, calamity has once again beset South Park. The boys seem to be playing, much as they did in the Lord of the Rings-themed episode “The Return of The Fellowship of the Ring to The Two Towers”. You play as “The New Kid”, who has just moved to town and is eager to make new friends. Naturally, you end up tangled up in the shenanigans of the boys, because unlike Craig you can’t just walk away. You’ll get to create your character of course, and it looks like a great way to experience everything South Park has to offer.
The Stick of Truth is a full-on RPG, and combat looks to be firmly rooted in the design and style of older games from the 16-bit era. Your team lines up on the left and your enemies (you know, like gingers, douchy vampires, and guinea pigs) line up on the right. The face buttons on your controller issue commands, and in the fashion of the Mario and Luigi games, well-timed button presses will reward you with better attacks or perfect defense. Summons are also a big part of the game, with the trailer showing Mr. Slave doing his big finishing move from “Stupid Spoiled Whore” as well as the Christmas Critters using their demonic powers.
As you may have surmised, the humor of The Stick of Truth is spot on, and takes into account the entire series, instead of focusing on the tired jokes of the first couple seasons that people always seem to go back to. With the show having taken on such epic storylines as Imagination Land and the struggles of Coon & Friends against the dark lord Cthulu, this game can really go anywhere. And I’m hoping it goes to those places and more, because I had been expecting The Stick of Truth to be a game for XBLA and PSN. As a full retail disc release, the value proposition becomes a little iffy for me, unless Obsidian can show me that they’ve really packed that disc full of RPG level content. We’ll just have to wait until next March to find out for sure.