It finally came out! After years of production and the messy bankruptcy of THQ (original publishers of the game), South Park: The Stick of Truth has finally been released. Now if you don't like (or are offended by) the TV show then this game is unlikely to change your opinions, but if you enjoy the series then this game is for you.
Obsidian worked with South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker to make an RPG that feels like you're playing an extended episode of the show. There's been over a decade of fairly bad South Park games; finally there's now one worth playing. You are the New Kid (more commonly known as Douchebag) who has moved to South Park for mysterious reasons. Butters and Cartman quickly befriend you and involve you in their 'humans vs elves' make-believe conflict over the titular Stick of Truth. And that's all I really want to say about the storyline to keep from spoiling any of it.
Early on you choose your class: Fighter, Thief, Mage and Jew. They all come with their own special attacks (and extra dialogue/jokes if you pick the Jew class), but there isn't much else that separates the classes unfortunately. don't expect radically different repeated playthroughs. This is where I found one of my few nitpicks about the gameplay. The classes don't seem to matter much. The classes don't determine what weapons or armour you can wield; it's the special attacks you can unlock through levelling up that makes the difference. Speaking of weapons and armour, there is a lot of both. A mix of wacky gag items and every increasingly powerful weapons you'd expect to see in a fantasy game. There's also strap-ons and patches you can apply to augment your weapons and armour and I recommend you do (bleeding and gross-out damage are best).
There is plenty of fighting in South Park. There's area and event-specific enemies that you'll only usually see the one time, or there's the re-spawning general enemies that you'll see as you roam around town. There's little need to grind, the quest battles and some of the overworld fights should be plenty as long as you can get a good grasp of the on-screen prompts during battle. South Park borrows active attack and defence prompts from the Paper Mario series. Timing a button press is the difference between an average attack and a great one, or a good defence or getting the crap kicked out of you. I struggled early on as I picked up the timing needed, but stick with it and you'll quickly be hard to defeat. Fights can also be won without even getting to the turn-based part as you can mess with the environment using dragonfarts (I'll leave it up to you to play the game and learn about those). When used right they can take out groups of enemies.
RPG fans might be let down by the games running length of 12-15 hours, but let me reassure you that it's not a bad thing. To drag South Park out to a 30-40 hour epic journey would have involved stretching out the story and padding it out with even more fetch quests. The lack of replayability may be an issue for those wanting a lengthy experience wondering if they should fork out the money, but if you enjoy South Park and want a funny game that has as much gameplay as plenty of other AAA games out at the moment then South Park is definitely worth it.
Now all that RPG talk is out of the way, let's get to the South Park part. The Stick of Truth could easily have been one of their multi-episode arcs. At the end of the recent season there was an introduction to the characters to lead into the game, but you don't need to have seen it to know what's going on, as it's all explained early on. This game is filled with easter eggs to the TV series, from the locations and what's inside them down to the junk items you pick up all throughout the game, which almost all relate to specific episodes. It's not until going through every house and looking at all the rooms and garages that you realise just how many episodes you've seen, or it might give you an incentive to catch up if you're a lapsed viewer. You'll find references going right up until the last season. Trey and Matt's involvement in this game is apparent throughout as the writing is what you'd expect from episodes of the show and as usual they voice most of the characters and they all behave how you'd expect them to.
Not everything is smooth sailing technically in South Park though. The frame rate got iffy when I was trying to quickly move from location to location. But I played this on the Xbox 360 so I can't speak for the other versions. Frame rate also took a dip when auto saving. Thankfully the frame rate issues don't impact on the gameplay, it's just there and when they've gone to such efforts to make the game look just like the show it can be a little jarring every now and then when you're trying to speed around the town.
South Park The Stick of Truth will make you laugh plenty throughout the 12-15 hours and just happens to be a fun RPG also. This is a definite purchase for fans of the TV series and those who don't mind offensive humour and are looking for a good comedy game. This game is the most authentic South Park experience you'll get outside of the show and with the amount of time it took to make, and with the series creators so heavily involved, there might not be another South Park game of this quality for a long time.