It’s not like I’m going to pretend that Headin’ on up to South Park… (part 1) didn’t happen. It’s just that somehow, on that day, when I went to type, I puked a bunch of random South park memories onto the screen. I wasn’t feeling very good. Maybe it was the allergy meds…? Whatever happened happened, and we should all just move on.
If you were to take away all the South-Parkian elements from South Park: The Stick of Truth (TSoT), you’d have a fairly solid RPG in the turn-based style of a Final Fantasy game. You and your party would set off on a quest to find a fantastical relic, braving strange, new lands and fighting off hordes of alien flora and fauna in the process. You’d gain new items and XP; you’d stop here and there to buy and trade goods. Fierce mini-boss battles would define your progress and bring you further fame. You’d make friends and enemies and maybe decide a few fates along the way. In the end, you’d face off with the toughest boss, using up all your collected resources as you’re brought to the brink of death. And then…in the final throes…victory!
Sounds like fun. Also sounds like many, many, many other games.
Thankfully, TSoT is infused with everything that makes South Park great and memorable. From the characters to the humor to the absurdity, TSoT is no less fun than it is funny. But let’s be honest, it takes more than a thick facade of blue humor to make a game truly enjoyable to play. Or does it? Just what is behind all the farting and Nazi Zombie hordes?
***SPOILERS, I HAZ THEM*** (i.e. look out below, or don’t look, your choice.)
As TSoT opens, you (the “New Kid”) have just moved with your family to South Park, the quaintest of quaint mountain towns. You have a keen knack for making friends and quickly become acquainted with some of the neighborhood’s kids, whereby you are thrust into their RPGing/LARPing adventures to secure the fabled “Stick of Truth.” At the head of your faction, your human faction, is Cartman playing as a wizard king and head of Kupa Keep (i.e. Cartman’s backyard). Others make up his camp, including Princess Kenny and Paladin Butters, and you are anointed into the fold under a class of your choosing (Fighter, Thief, Mage, or Jew)/ You are called, with the utmost affection, “Douchbag.” You learn that the hallowed stick has been stolen by the town’s…err, game’s elven faction, and the only way to retrieve it is to amass an army and attack them to get it back. With one partner at your side, your quest to save the Stick of Truth begins as you start your search for new human faction members.
Once the human army has been formed, the attack on the elves begins. But first, the elven faction, lead by Kyle the king, Stan the warrior, and Jimmy the bard, gives you a chance to abandon the “evil” Cartman and the humans to join their side. Once you make your choice, the battle begins. (For this playthrough, I opted to stick with the humans.) After decimating South Park Elementary, you learn that the blasted stick, in fact, been stolen from the elves by a previously banished teammate! This leads to more questing! Exclamation point!
Oh, and an alien ship crashes into South Park, which releases a “goo” that turns the citizenry into Nazi zombies. In a cover-up effort, the government tells everyone that the alien ship is actually a new Taco Bell that’s being built. In reality, the government wants to destroy the town. Typical.
The second wave of the game begins with human and elves “united” in their desire to retrieve the Stick of Truth. Problem is, they still need more people, a bigger army, to go get it. So they come to a terrible, horrible conclusion – they must recruit…the girls. And the girls don’t want to play their stupid game. But because you are just so darn cute and likeable, the girls are willing to entertain helping out, but only if you help them first discover a traitor in their ranks. This quest takes you to extremes, from South Park’s sewers to (gasp!) Canada. Because you are just too nice, you go to any and all lengths to help them out, and in the end, they agree to play your silly game; from there, it’s onto the end game.
At its core, the gameplay of TSoT is pretty much what I described in the second paragraph of this post, but it really suits the game. I mentioned that you get to have one other teammate with you at all times. While I was expecting a regular three to four person team, the two-person party dynamic was very cool as it gave you a chance to really get to know one (or more) characters’ abilities. (Personally, Butter took the cake for me.) While I chose to play as a thief, I still had a plethora of weaponry and spells, as well as attacks specific to my class. (By the way, what was behind, or in front of, all the farting was, um, you. That was your magic.) Gaining XP was never a chore (or it never seemed to be) and I never had to level-grind till my thumbs hurt. (Though there were plenty of opportunities to take on enemies at your discretion, especially during the game’s later stages.) Item-gathering was not for naught either – gather things dropped after battle, buy and sell things at stores – however you chose to obtain things was up to you as there was plenty to go round. And most everything, from your weapons to your armor could be modified with different patches (called “strap-ons,” because, you know) that you collected throughout the game.
It’s easy to throw around the word “authentic” these days – we use it to describe the quality of everything from our food to our fashion. But sometimes, there’s really something to it. TSoT is an authentic South Park game. Granted, maybe you’d have to put some time into the show itself to really get it, but everything about the game is South Park. The character’s actions and attitudes are true. The locales and the quests within them make sense. All (or…most of) the paraphernalia that becomes associated with your quests correctly feel like parts of the world. Your raison d’être as the New Kid, as a denizen of South Park just works, and it works well.
The world doesn’t need me telling people to play TSoT – if you’re a fan of South Park and turn-based RPGs, then you’ve probably already played it or plan to anyway. The game gets high marks from me, and that’s not just because I like dick jokes. It’s because TSoT follows through so well in concept and design. When I’m playing TSoT, there’s no place I’d rather be in that moment than with the loveable Douchebag and his band of Nazi Zombie-slaying misfits.