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South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

Beyond the humour, the game itself lets you explore South Park in its entirety, and involves solving quests, navigating simple environmental puzzles using a range of abilities you acquire gradually through the game, and partaking in combat. The first two of these are engaging, if straightforward. There are plenty of hidden surprises in South Park, from side-activities to chests containing new weapons, equipment and item upgrades. Sometimes these are easily accessible, other times they'll require you to find a key first, or use the right powers to surmount several obstacles and access the area.

South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

The combat system, on the other hand, is exquisitely designed, managing both tactical depth and visual comedy with equal success. It's turn-based, and takes its cues largely from Final Fantasy. Each turn you and one other member of your party are allowed to use an item followed by an attack, a special ability, or a spell. But it isn't simply a case of picking an attack and watching it fly. Both attacking and defending require your active involvement, by pressing the right buttons when prompted. Succeeding in offense result in a perfect attack that does additional and damage, and can add effects such as bleeding, while defensively will block incoming attacks, causing less damage.

South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

Each of the four available classes, Warrior, Mage, Thief, and Jew, has their own colourful range of abilities. Despite the obvious temptation, we opted for the Warrior class, as generally they're the least interesting to play as and so offered a handy yardstick to measure the game's ability to innovate. Turns out the Stick of Truth called our bluff. The Warrior's abilities include "Roshambo" a swift kick to the gentleman-grapes which, if performed perfectly, stuns your opponent. Meanwhile, your magical abilities, available to every player class, all revolve around your exceptional farting talents. These range from "Dragonshout" - a standard expulsion of noxious gas - to "Nagasaki", which is best witnessed first-hand.

South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

The skills of your companions are equally inventive. Cartman has a "Curse" spell whereby he swears over and over, culminating in a massive electrical attack. Furthermore, Kenny can summon a Unicorn to charge his opponents, the results are which are devastating in both their damage dealt and amusement caused. The only issue is these later abilities, alongside your upgraded ones, do somewhat unbalance the game in your favour during the final third, with many standard fights ending in victory at the conclusion of your first turn.

For the most part, The Stick of Truth is a better RPG than many of its more earnest counterparts. But there is one area where it might be argued that it falls short, and that's in the player's ability to influence the story. There are a couple of choices to be made, but for the majority of the game you'll tread the same path as everyone else. It doesn't offer any narrative flexibility in the way Mass Effect or Fallout: New Vegas did. This rarely felt like an issue while playing because the mechanics are so fun and the script so funny, but it's worth pointing out nevertheless.

South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

It's also relatively brief for an RPG, with a play-through unlikely to clock in below 20 hours. Frankly though, this is a good thing. So many games outstay their welcome these days, while The Stick of Truth remains sharp and fresh throughout its duration. Put another way, given many comedy films can't stay consistently funny for ninety minutes, that the Stick of Truth sustains the comedy for over ten times that length is mightily impressive.
Ubisoft's marketing for the Stick of Truth announced it to be "The definitive South Park experience", and there's honestly very little evidence in the game you could use to argue the contrary. To further dilute the Internet's favourite superlatives, it is an epic fantasy send-up that is frequently hilarious and occasionally awesome. More than that though, it is an RPG triumph for Obsidian, who for so long have aspired to greatness and have always just fallen short. That makes the Stick of Truth something else entirely. That makes it special.

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