It was Tuesday night, my wife had already gone to sleep, and I had nothing going on so I decided to dust off the old PlayStation 3 and revisit a quiet little town in the mountains of Colorado.
Before we can get into what made The Stick of Truth such a great game we have to understand its rocky road to release. The story of The Stick of Truth’s development is now somewhat infamous but it bares repeating. Development started back in 2009 when series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker approached Obsidian Entertainment about creating a interactive title in the RPG genre for their TV show.
Exclusive publishing rights for the new title were given to THQ even though the publisher was already having financial troubles. After suffering a delay, team layoffs, THQ’s bankruptcy, and an auction; South Park Digital and the rights to The Stick of Truth were sold to Ubisoft for a cool 3.2 million. After another six month delay the game was finally released in March 2014
For me, South Park has a special connection to my early adolescence. When it debuted in 97 I was ten years old and, like The Simpsons, barely understood any of what I was laughing at. Still, those shows were cartoons and cartoons were funny shows about funny drawings saying funny things. Unlike The Simpsons however, South Park was something that my parents never allowed their children to watch. I remember my older brother and I, fighting sleep and in our tacky PJ’s, would sneak into the den to watch Comedy Central Late Night and try not to wake up the parental units as we quietly snickered at the dick and fart jokes that encased the larger satirized political and cultural events that went way over our heads.
Alright, enough walking down memory lane - on to the game.
He Who Controls the Stick...
The Stick of Truth casts players as “The New Kid” who is thrust right into the middle of a fourth grade role playing conflict between Cartman’s humans in the Kingdom of Kupa Keep and Kyle’s Drough Elves. The two factions are battling for The Stick of Truth, a wooden branch, that is the humans most sacred relic. The Stick, as well as most of the game’s setting and early conflict, come directly from Season 17's excellent Black Friday Trilogy episodes. If you haven’t watched these episodes yet do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a viewing, especially if you’re into Game of Thrones.
RPG First. Cartoon Second.
Underneath its paper animated cartoon exterior, The Stick of Truth is a very old school turn based RPG. Given that Matt and Trey’s original design for the game was more akin to Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas, I can only imagine that cuts were made because of development budget and the game’s sense of scope. What came about in the final product seems like a fortuitous stroke of genius since a traditional turn based RPG allowed South Park Digital to use references from the show as items. Need to heal yourself? Have a nice bag of Cheesy Poofs. Want your turn to do actions too come faster? The tweakers at Tweak Bros coffee can help with that. Did a buddy fall in battle? They’ll get right up after tasting one bite of a Casa Bonita Taco- unless it’s Princess Kenny- the rats leave nothing left. Those bastards.
Loot All the References!
Most of the other items you’ll find in The Stick of Truth fall under the junk category, but I would encourage you to at lease take a look at those items before you up and sell them for precious nickels and dimes. Almost every item is a reference to something in the show. Go into Cartman’s Mom’s bedroom and you’ll find...things that make “the magic” happen or head on over to the Marsh residence and check Randy’s night stand to find the flash drive containing “The Sword of a Thousand Truths” from the episode Make Love Not Warcraft. Granted, you’ll see a lot of Okama Gamespheres but they’ll generate a chuckle the first few times around.
It’s been two years since The Stick of Truth’s release and its sequel, The Fractured But Whole (see what they did there), is on the horizon. I know that there are some out there that took issue with South Park Digital after all the drama involved in the development of the game and some never really embraced the turn based idea of it all, but for a die hard fan like me The Stick of Truth is still perfect two years on.
I think I’ll go pick up a stick out of my yard and call my brother for some laughs because he who controls the stick controls the universe.
Seth has way too many Star Wars T-shirts, likes to use his real name on the internet, and just wants to be your friend. Follow him on Twitter @sethpchilders for more nonsense and check out his podcast Arcadio here.