The Truth in the Stick
Well, I occasionally put in posts about games I play (I am not counting SWTOR here OK). But I managed to get some kid free time to play South Park; The Stick of Truth. I was going to rant about the censors of Australia, like so many places of public officialdom believe that know better than I, what I want. Suffice to say that not banning the game in Australia enabled me to get the game from overseas in Australia. I am one for watching and playing the best version, Director’s Cuts, Game of the Year editions and so on, so knowing that some elements were cut from the game and replaced with just a crying Koala and a textual description of what was happening was not the same as seeing and therefore opted to spend my money overseas. Another local Aussie retailer loses money because of the government (and it has nothing to do with the GST (Goods and Servicers Tax)).
So, with that disc in my hot little hand, I found my controller (the one not used the kids which means it still works as in Dual Shock and SIXAXIS) and I decided to boot up my PS3. I am a fan of Role Play Games on the PC, enabling to play RPGs without the required organisation and room and time needed to find enough people with the same time to sit down and play a pen and paper RPGs these offer the next best thing. I am also a fan of Obsidian as a game developer they have created some great games, Knights of the Old Republic II, Neverwinter Nights 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Alpha Protocol and et. al. But they seem to have some problems with delivery, unsure of the backroom machinations and who says what they are either over stating their ability to delivery what they can or are being forced to, either way it often leaves the game not properly finished or properly tested and as a consequence will otherwise mar a potentially great game.
I will use Alpha Protocol in this, the story, the game play each of these elements gave the game this feel that I have not had in an RPG in a long time, it sat me on the edge of my seat, wanting to push ahead in the game. But so many times was the game hampered by problems, technical problems. Which shows the game was not properly tested before being released as it was often commented on by reviewers. This game got OK scores but had they released a properly working game it would have had better scores. The same went for KOTOR2 and Fallout: New Vegas, a great game hidden by a myriad of bugs and technical issues. Many have been fixed, but in KOTOR2, there is a large portion of the game never released because the game, already delayed was on a VERY tight timeframe to follow up on the massive popularity of KOTOR. PC owners can download and install a mod that is meant to restore as much of the content that can.
That aside, when I read about the delays in the release of South Park, which like many of the Obsidian games, I have been excited for this game for sometime but when the delays were announced and when THQ went under things were starting to not look good.
Thankfully Ubisoft took over the distribution and the game was finally released and I will say, it is a great game. An RPG that feels like an old fashioned RPG but captures 100% the essence and feel of South Park. This game comes so close to watching South Park that anyone who were to walk in the room, would not think twice if it wasn’t or not.
So like many of the games the kids play in the TV show you find a way into the game they are playing. Everything seems to be in this game that you might expect. The number of times I have found myself just laughing out loud. Trying to open Stan’s Wardrobe and hearing Tom Cruise say “I am never coming out…” was a nice touch.
There are some minor flaws here and there but nothing that seems to have been on account of Obsidian rushing their releases and more to do with specific mechanics.
As far as the RPG goes, it has all the elements. The standard 3 class and the additional Jew class system. The character customisation which is as good as it should be for this game and the fact that you can change your appearance throughout the game means you can pick what you want, and certainly when I got the Chin Balls I felt that I needed to walk a mile in Butters’ shoes.
Turn based RPG system that also requires timing of the button presses to make the critical strike. There is weapon stickers and strap-ons that enable your to augment the ability you already have. The special abilities are a good touch and provide a decent ability to help with vanquishing the “elves” that are in South Park. Coupled with Magic, a special South Park Magic gives additional boosts and the ability to clear paths when needed. But this is the mechanic that seems difficult to properly grasp and can often be ineffective. But accompanied with Summons (like many Fantasy setting RPGs), you are able to unlock some of the friends you get in your journey but some being Mr Kim (from City Wok, or Shitty Wok) and Mr Slave to name but two.
This is South Park, all the voices are here and all of them are well integrated into the game. As for other sounds throughout the game, it give that feeling you are in that town but also don’t feel out of place for the type of RPG that this is. The music is a combination of music from the TV show, custom music written for the game and there is a nice choral element where Cartman is in the background of the piece.
As for game play it as as much depth as many RPGs of the past. No crafting system but it would have been limited as to what you could craft. But potions a plenty, revives, mana and power potions means you can help your allies or yourself. One element I like is Butters’ Healing Touch, where he comes up, pats you on the back and tells you everything is OK. It was a nice Butters moment.
Graphics, what could one say about the graphics of the game, it is South Park, it look like no matter where you go. From the characters to the backgrounds to the weapons. The PS3 version is running at 720p, but I don’t think it would matter if this was running at higher resolutions on a PC, since the graphics on each version would look the same. This is South Park and no matter how many pixels you have to show it, it will look like South Park.
Adults are not Children
The only grievance I have is not with the game, it is over the version that was released into Australia (and it also seems some other parts of the world). There was some content replaced in the game with that of a crying Koala and the textual description of the goings on. To me, we had a recent introduction of a R 18+ rating for games and under these new censorship laws, this game was either going to be banned or needed to be edited. Rather than fight, they decided to edit the game and replace it with what is above.
As an adult who has children, I have not played this game in front of my kids, ever. I understand the concepts portrayed in the game and understand the contexts of what is going on. But to be told as an adult that I am not able to view certain elements because they are, well for whatever reason not clean enough for me is just rubbish. Now my only possible reasoning for this is that despite the R rating that they assume that children will be playing it (I personally know of several children who are under 18 years old who have played this game (the censored Australian version that is). So regardless of the law children will still play the game.
But due to this crappy situation local retailers have lost out because I have ordered this game overseas. It cost me less money in the long run and also gave me a game that is completed and unedited. I am responsible with whom I let see or play this game, but those who are responsible are being subjected to antiquated laws even ones drafted in 2012, because they believe we are all children, or that children will see this.
That said, elements I have already seen in this game (unedited) are no worse than what I have seen aired on TV in Australia, which doesn’t make sense to me since that is only rated M or MA at the worst. Interactive or not there is no excuse at all.
So, with the ranting over I would say, RPG fans who do not like South Park should not get this game. Though it is a solid RPG and has all the elements an RPG should have, it is South Park, from the classes (Jew) to the Summons, Mr. Slave, to the taunts in the battles, all of them come back to the fact that you are in a South Park game, RPG or not. South Park fans, who might not like RPGs will still get much out of this game. Accessible for those not used to the concepts but certainly can be played on easy just to enjoy the South Park portion of it.
People like me, who are fans of RPGs and South Park will find that the amount of content in the game will satisfy that RPG itch you might want and means you feel like you are watching just a South Park episode. So if you are in Australia, then I might recommend Play-Asia.com, the PS3 version is not region encoded and therefore is playable on any PS3 but some versions of the XBOX360 version can only be played in certain regions so be careful with what you get.