Veteran RPG lover Toby McCasker goes hands-on with this surprisingly tactical offering from Obsidian.
By Toby McCasker on February 17, 2014 at 11:37 am
The thing with South Park is, it’s not very serious. It is — if you might allow me this open invite to catcalls of U CANT WRITE OMG I AM BETTER WRITAR THAN U — totes cray. Let it not be said Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s satire is stupid, no way. It is the opposite of that. But you would not reasonably expect these two goons of anything-goes to lend their barely animated precious to a hardcore goddamn turn-based RPG. Or maybe you would. They are kind of nerdy fellers with their hearts on fire. Trey has still not gotten over a woman who cheated on him 15 years ago. Her name was Liane. Yes, like Cartman’s mum. No, he will not let it go.
Obsidian have demonstrated a similar kind of obsessiveness in developing the nuances of Stick of Truth, at least from what I saw munting through the first hour of it. Mechanics aside, it is an RPG that loves and hates RPGs, much like South Park itself loves and hates all the silly things that people do.
I think one of the very first narrative jabs it takes at the trope-worn genre is when you, the new kid, wake up in your suitably new place in South Park and your parents ominously comically infer that you are an amnesiac. “Son, do you… remember, why we had to move here?” Speaking of you, you can make yourself. It’s no Skyrim, but I got pretty close:
Yes I did actually take a picture of the screen and then put an Instagram filter on it. Professional here.
All of which I believe is a convenient ploy to make the protagonist a hilariously silent one. When asked what your name is by Cartman (he is instantly your new wizard queen in the battle against the elves/everyone who is not in playground servitude to him), it matters not what you type. Cartman will ordain you “Douchebag” forevermore. Shortly thereafter, you come under attack. To battle! And what battle.
Let’s say you hate turn-based combat ala Final Fantasy I – X, which is exactly what this is. You’re a monster, but that’s OK. The Stick of Truth will make you like it. Not only is it hard – the second fight is ridiculous by start-of-game standards – you have to actively improve your guard and attacks if you don’t want to suck. That means looking for the flash right before some nooblet whacks at you with his improvised weapon, and hitting a button just in time. Some damage negated. It applies to your attacks and specials, too, and all of them have crazy-different timings.
Butters is your first party member, and he’s pretty much a paladin. You yourself can be a warrior, a mage, a thief, or a… Jew (the ‘gag’ class, ostensibly for your second playthrough). I chose a thief because awesome, and all my attacks were quick as hell and required me to pay some kind of attention. Butters comes along with his slow-ass warhammer thing that takes forever to wind up and give you the go-ahead glint. It really impresses the fact that yeah, turn-based – but no, not disengaged. The opposite. It’s arcadey and strategic; enemies in armour and cheeky counter-attackers and those at range all require specific methodology to deal with. Sometimes the pressure mounts.
Later I killed a meth head with my fart in a tactile mini-game of getting the pitch and power just so.
Another surprise thingy is the in-game Facebook rip where you can ‘friend’ various denizens of South Park as you meet ‘em when you’re wandering around (outside of combat, it’s like a 2D side-scroller on a spacious highway). They post stuff to your wall randomly and after things happen, and it’s meaningless but totally great for some reason. After such a long time being handballed all over the place no one’s really sure what to expect, but no one’s expecting this. Very seldom are games so delayed worth the wait. Trust. This one’s gonna be a killer surprise.