South Park: The Stick of Truth is the South Park game that everyone who has ever seen Kenny violently killed has been waiting for. Stuff Magazine was privileged enough to be invited to a pre-release event of the game earlier this week but, thanks to an embargo, our lips have been sealed regarding what we saw there. Happily, that time has now passed and we can now reveal our first look at the Ubisoft-published, Obsidian-created turn-based RPG from the brow of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
The Stick of Truth puts the player into the role of a new kid in the titular Colorado town, a kid who is tasked with making new friends and who is very quickly drawn into a fight over the Stick of Truth. The Stick confers control over the world to whoever possesses it (remember, this ‘game’ takes place in the minds of the South Park kids) and control over the Stick is extremely strange. The fight over it eventually spirals out of control and causes a lot of carnage (again, this happens in South Park). As always, this is done with typical (read: probably offensive) South Park humour.
We saw the very beginning of the game, from the intro sequence to the completion of the first boss fight, almost in its entirety. This isn’t, technically, correct though since a lot of content was skipped over during the preview because of time constraints. But, all the extra bits were in plain sight and gave hints as to just how much there is to do in South Park.
The Stick of Truth is an turn-based RPG that looks, on a visual level, just like the television series that it has been based on. If it wasn’t for the presence of menus and controlled combat, you might as well be watching an extra-long episode of the show. Players will encounter a huge number of the denizens of South Park on their travels, though we only saw a fraction of these and – if players are ‘popular’ enough – some of these people will become playable as party members. Each party member that we saw had a special skill that will allow access to certain areas of the free-roaming world that is South Park.
South Park has been reproduced in its entirety. Players will be able to explore everywhere from the school to City Wok to Kenny and Carman’s house, rummaging through drawers and containers for items, potions and weaponry (as well as cash). Since this is an RPG, a lot of what is found can be equipped and these additions will change your character’s appearance while giving them various stat bumps and advantages in combat. There is a fully-fledged levelling and equipment editor that will let players sort through their gear and really make the most of their character’s skills, perks and class. In case you didn’t know, the four available classes are Fighter, Mage, Thief or Jew.
Combat is a little… weird, as befits a game that is so closely based on the TV series. Each member of a team can, once combat has been initiated (by the simple expedient of smacking an enemy or being smacked by one), take their turn to deal damage. There are standard and power attacks, special attacks that can be learned and utilised, and then there is the farting mechanic. Farts function a lot like magic, in that they’ll impart status effects and stun enemies. Plus, they’re really, really funny. Players can inflict bleeding or gross-out effects, which impair enemies, but they can also be afflicted with them in turn. There are doubtless more effects in the full game but we didn’t get a chance to check them out.
Gameplay is actually fairly cerebral. Tactical options while fighting can shorten battles (taking out the healer first, for example) but there are also ways to limit having to enter the turn-based screen that involve using the environment to your advantage. For example, an open flame can be used to barbecue enemies with a well-aimed fart. Arrows can also be used to drop bits of scenery on opponents but that’s just not as smelly.
From what we’ve seen of South Park: The Stick of Truth, gameplay and the game’s visuals are as close as we’re ever going to get to actively participating in an episode of South Park. Whether the turn-based combat and the sometimes-puzzling objectives will get repetitive is something that can only be answered when the game launches on 7 March. But, there looks to be a massive amount of… stuff hidden around South Park that acts as shout-outs to old shows and this alone will be worth the price of admission for fans. Each and every character is authentically voiced, the locale looks just like it does in the show and the storyline is shaping up to be the most offensive and hilarious South Park outing we’ve ever seen. Release day cannot come soon enough.