Posted: March 21
If you think the review is way too long, go to the conclusion !
I advise anyone reading this to keep in mind that I am a big fan of South Park.
There's a lot of people that love this show, but when I say fan, I say that I must have watched every episodes past season 16 at least 3-4 times in french, and re-watch everything included the latest episodes in their "almighty original english version" at least once (still, the french version is for me the best french dubbing in the world).
So, when a South Park game comes out, made by Obsidian... Of course it's gonna be at least very good.
But damn, I never laugh and smiled that hard playing a game, since a long time ago !
The concept is: you are a new kid in the city of South Park, after you create your character you meet Cartman, Butters and other kids that are playing this "role play fantasy game" really heavily. It's basically the sequel to the Game of Thrones trilogy episodes, which are in the same spirit as the LotR episode.
This setup makes you do quest, meet well known and loved South Park characters, and go through crazy thing. All of that in 3 consecutive days. The game "ends" after that, but you can still do stuff in the city, search for items, do secondary quests and all that.
It looks exactly like the show, it couldn't really be better graphically when you think about it. The city is quite big, there is stuff to do, see, hear and take in almost every building so don't hesitate exploring everything before passing to another game.
The mechanics are totally RPG based, it's simplified compared to some classical RPG titles but still, there is classes, stats, perks, levels... Combats are turn based and pretty interesting. Basically it's you and a companion of your choice VS 1 up to 6 opponents. Each turn you choose between attacking with your main weapon, attacking with your range weapon (bows, objects you can throw etc...), using magic (consumes mana) or use an ability (consumes power points). In addition to attacking, and I insist on the term "addition", you can also use an item to restore some of your -or your companion's- health, power points or mana or you can revive your partner, debuff yourself, debuff your enemy's power ups, gain in power and defense (with the same item !) or give yourself the ability to attack twice. All those items you can find them everywhere, you can buy them and there is a -large- limit of what you can carry.
The combats are fun. I have to say, at first it feels a bit flat, like fights are gonna be the same and won't evolve much. But it's amazing how a fairly simple combat mechanic can be, also, quite deep. Enemy's are well thought and can give you some challenge. Opponents with armor and shields for example can be really scary depending of your characters and you will have to build a tactic to beat some combat events. Negative effects like bleeding, burning, being unable to use items because you are sick thanks to "gross damage", can also force you to adapt those tactics.
The progression of your character is also interesting, I spend time changing my weapons, bound relics to them to add some bonus effects to them. Upgrading your special attacks is a difficult task, you won't be able to upgrade everything so you will have to specialize. You also earn a point to unlock perks at certain milestones of the amount of friend you collect on the social network hub (yes, your menu is basically Facebook), you gain them in the general progression but a big chunk of them is available only for those who explore the city and finish side quests. And like every good RPG I planned what perk will I want to unlock.
A really smart aspect of the game is that it's not just about fetching quests and fighting, a lot of those sequences are linked by "puzzles", you have to progress but the road is blocked, so you need to search for an item or use your awesome abilities that you collect throughout the main adventure to open the way. Sometime you can use those abilities to take down opponents with the environment even before fighting them to make the combat easier. And there is a nice difficulty curve to those puzzles, plus a good sense of reward completing them.
Still there is I think flaws to the game. A big one is that in combat you can select an item to use at EVERY turn. Without any disadvantages ! Except having to maybe spends a bit of money to refill some of your stack, which is nothing since your won't use your big pile of money much anyway to buy weapons, clothes and relics. That means that you can always heal yourself, revive your companion, build up your attack and defense, but the most overpowered of those is in my opinion the "Speed up". That gives you the ability to attack twice ! So basically, you can attack twice at every turn, unless your character is sick (but you can also debuff that easily with one item). Having a limit or some constraint to the use of items would have made combats a lot more strategic, fun, and challenging.
The first time you are thrown in the city is also a bit unthought. It's a huge space, you feel like you have to visit everything, and so you are subject to let down quests and completely derailed from the main branch of the game.
I liked that feeling in Skyrim for example, but The Stick of Truth is more of a story heavy adventure, exploring is not as interesting. You just beat the crap out of every pole, letter boxes and open every drawer to loot items and money. And you don't have yet any ability that will allow you to reach the most interesting places. So, beside collecting quests (and forgetting them because you collect so many quests) exploring at the very beginning of the game is quite long, boring and without much purpose.
Having the city expend throughout the main progression would have made that "unleashing" less abrupt and overwhelming. I would have imagined a territory unlocking being on point with the lore of the game, for example since human fights against elves, you can't go to a elven territory if you are not welcome within it.
But overall you can see they really worked on all aspects of the game, the details are amazing. The fact that this is a RPG based adventure means you are free to make some choices, good or bad and everything has been thought. Look, the skin of your character's parents are changing relative to the skin you selected for your character, it's awesome !
All items in the game are references. Guys I'm serial, there is references everywhere ! To the show mostly, but also other games. There is a tone of items you find on defeated enemy and bags that serve the unique purpose of being sold for quite little money and those are amazing references to South Park episodes.
In the end they did a great job of throwing all those references in a 15 hours game cleverly within a totally new scenario. It's really a new way to "watch" South Park. It's everything the show is, but in a well designed game that makes fun of games in general, while offering some crazy moments that you will remember. There is even times when I though that they went even more nuts than in the TV show. You feel by the escalating chaos this scenario is evolving into that they have absolutely no limits (I advise any parents to not show any kid under 13 to play or watch this game, seriously).
I will not forget the moment when you finish the first day and your character goes to bed, you think you where in some crazy sh*t all along and now you can rest a little. And then, the craziest ♥♥♥♥ among them all happens ! And the second night, oh god...
The game is gold for South Park fans. If you are not one of them, then watch the show, if you don't like it, fine. If you like it, watch every single one of the episodes and then play the game. Without knowing the references to the episodes, you loose so much of the fun, the main interest of the game really.
If you are a fan of South Park, you MUSTN'T miss this ! It's the game made for you.