E3 2012: South Park: The Stick of Truth Preview – THQ’s Saving Grace
Written Sunday, June 17, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Traditional turn-based RPGs seem to have fallen by the wayside in recent years, which is an interesting turn of events seeing as the Final Fantasy series of yesteryear made a name for itself with its turn-based antics. When we heard that Obsidian Entertainment and THQ’s upcoming South Park RPG was to be turn-based, we were intrigued. When we heard that Matt Stone and Trey Parker were heavily involved, we were almost sold. Having had chance to see the collaboration in process at this year’s E3, we’re ready to hand our cash – and social lives – over now.
Instead of jumping into the shoes of one of South Park's four main characters – Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman - The Stick of Truth throws you into the shoes of one of the new kids on the block and it’s your job to build his reputation and rise in the popularity ranks. We pick things up in the opening moments as the young fledgling moves into his new South Park home.
“What do you say we blow off the kid and go bless the new bedroom, if you know what I mean?” says the protagonist’s father. “Mommy and daddy are going to go upstairs and wrestle, darling, why don’t you go out and make some new friends?” follows up the mother. “Yes, I’m sure there’s a lot of great kids in this town, go meet them!” utters the father as the door slams in his face.
“GO MAKE SOME FRIENDS!!” shouts a half naked father out of the upstairs bedroom as the protagonist tries to get back inside the house. Noticing a group of young townfolk play-fighting outside their new home, the main character – who you can name whatever you want and we’re going to call Jim for the purposes of this preview – tries to interact with them, only to get shot down as he wasn’t cool enough. Being a bit of a social outcast himself, Butters is your way into the inner circle of the town’s cool kids and tells Jim that the Wizard King wants to see him. Cartman is, of course, the Wizard King.
Cartman’s base actually consists of a backyard, fresh with stables – with a cat defecating in them – and various clan members dotted around, most notably Scott, whose special power is the power of diabetes. “The power of diabetes is mostly a gift and a curse,” notes Scott. “But mostly a curse.”
It even has a ‘pool of vision,’ which if you interact with Cartman will scream at you. Interact with it enough and Cartman will scream out for his mom. It’s a good indication of the level of detail Obsidian has put into the game. It’s worth noting that Cartman looks, sounds and acts exactly like he does in the TV show. In fact, the cutscenes are like watching an episode of South Park.
Cartman’s first act with Jim is to ask him his what his name is and regardless of what you enter, he remarks, “you entered douchebag, is that correct?” Clicking “no” resulted in the following response, “Are you sure you want to keep the name douchebag?” Again, putting “no” resulted in the following: “Very well, douchebag.” It wouldn’t be a clan without an initiation either, which believe it or not, is to go out and get Cartman some Kung Pao chicken.
It’s a class-based and turn-based RPG, so players can choose between four classes: cleric, fighter, mage and thief. There’s an incredible amount of customisability also, with players able to choose not only the usual stuff like weapons, headwear and body gear – with there being a plethora of options – but you can give them freckles, bizarre hats and even amusing facial hair. All of the armour and weaponry, as you’d expect, have different attributes and accompanying items, as well as those items having perks, so it’s a fully-fledged RPG experience.
Before you can get going to pick up the Kung Pao chicken, the “Elves” attack and come in search of the Stick of Truth. After exiting Cartman’s tent, you’ll not only see a kid urinating in the ‘pool of vision’ but you’ll see the Elves going to town on Scott and the others. It’s time to step in.
Like I said previously, it’s a turn-based game, but there are timed elements involved too. So after initiating the battle to save Scott from the beating of his life, the game descends into a turn-based affair. A perfect block – a button press at the most opportune time – when an arrow is approaching can reflect damage, while using the ‘assault & battery’ move for instance lets him hit baseballs at their foes; again, with a timed element to maximise damage. It’s traditional turn-based stuff, but with humour, and of course, you’ll be rewarded with XP, items and money if you’re victorious. In ridding the base of danger, Jim levels up to the rank of “Butthole.”
Jumping forward a few hours, we find Jim with Cartman – who’s now in his party – at the South Park Cemetery to take on the Goths and a bunch of high-levelled vampire kids. Using some bottle rockets to enter the church and walking past a memorial for Miss Choksondik – who died in “The Simpsons Already Did It” episode – the boys are ready for a more intense battle.
Armed with a Vibroblade from Cartman’s mom, which is laced with some toxic lube, which acts as a poision, the boys take on the Goths. The group that the boys take on use a lot more strategy than the standard fare in the aforementioned fight. With an Elder Vampire – who can summon reinforcements – and a healer – who sits in the second row whilst healing allies and throwing ninja stars – you really have to use your head. It’s a matter of taking down the healer as quickly as possible and then destroying any healer reinforcements the Elder summons, all while chipping away at the vampire mini-boss’s health.
Each move is even a nod to various South Park lore and is all part of the juvenile fun. You can Rochambeau foes – kick them in the balls, essentially – get Cartman to use his Burning Cloud move – which is effectively a lit fart – and of course, the pièce de résistance is the Wrecked ‘Em move – where Jim summons Mr Slave to come in and swallow the Elder Vampire with his ass, just like he did to Paris Hilton in the 'Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset' episode. A brilliant and perfect example of all the nods Obsidian has made to the show's subject matter in the game.
South Park: The Stick of Truth has all the makings to be not just one hell of a licensed game or one hell of an RPG, but also, just one hell of a game. The early signs are that Obsidian’s turn-based affair – which won our RPG of E3 2012, incidentally – is as close to you being in a South Park episode that you’re ever likely to get. It’s got the humour, it’s got the visuals, it’s littered with nods to the TV show, and the turn-based gameplay seems to suit the franchise perfectly. If you love South Park, you’re sure to love this. If you love RPGs too, you’re guaranteed to be in heaven. It’s early doors yet, but for ailing publisher THQ, The Stick of Truth could be somewhat of a saving grace. We’re excited to see more of what Obsidian has up its sleeves.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is scheduled for a Q1 2013 release.