Wot I Think – South Park: The Stick Of Truth

By John Walker on March 4th, 2014 at 8:00 am.

Almost two years late, and following a publisher change and multiple slips, Obsidian’s South Park: The Stick Of Truth is finally out this week. (Today in the States, Australia tomorrow, and Europe on Friday, because, sigh.) But has it been worth the wait? As ever, it’s complicated. Here’s wot I think:

South Park does not make a good first impression. Discovering that the PC version carries not a single display option, won’t switch between controller and keyboard if a controller’s plugged in, and offers no way to reassign keys, you would be right to roll your eyes all the way back into your head. And this is before you discover the colossal mess that is its opening tutorials. It is in a state. However, and this is crucial, the more I played, the more I enjoyed the game, until by the end of its 25 or so hours I was having a very good time.

This is an epic South Park tale of sticks, aliens, Nazi zombies and government conspiracies, in which you play a new kid in town (“The New Kid” or “Douchebag”), embroiled in a neighbourhood-wide battle. Free-roaming side-wobbling exploration combined with Mario & Luigi-style turn-based combat. And all this combined should have led to something immediately recommendable.

There are, however, no excuses for the mess it’s in. Obsidian have their reputation for a reason, and they’ve maintained it here. And talking to others playing the console version, it looks like PC has got the best of it too – at least it runs without staggering here. (And of course also hasn’t been censored in the UK.) But running without a single graphic option, let alone the ability to reassign its mess of keyboard keys, and as I’ll explain being extremely poorly balanced, there’s no question that this feel unfinished.

You begin by creating your South Park boy (only boys are available, which makes sense within South Park lore), which is a lot of fun. Instantly the game looks just like the TV show, and that’s the case throughout. Every animation, detail, voice and sound effect is perfect, and it always looks like you’re in control of an episode of the programme. On this level, they’ve nailed it. And then you’re quickly plunged into a neighbourhood game of dungeons and dragons, in which the Cartman-led Humans are waging war with the Kyle-led Elves, in a battle to control possession of The Stick Of Truth. A stick.

This opens with a flurry of instructional sequences from Cartman, in which you’re taught the basics of combat. For another game. Quite what the hell happened here is a mystery only the years will solve, but these sequences are gibberish. Instructions fly at you and disappear without your clicking, and then don’t match what you’re actually supposed to be doing. Cartman screams at you for making mistakes the game is making, and at this point it’s only blind determination that sees you past a grimly weak opening.

And then it stays weak for too long. The Stick Of Truth is really rather hoping that you have a lot of nostalgia for South Park. Because rather than crafting a fresh, original tale that pricks at the zeitgeist, angrily satirising a topic from an angle that surprises or horrifies, it can end up feeling like a clip show. Remember Al Gore and the ManBearPig?! Remember Mr Hanky?! Remember the Underpants Gnomes?! Gosh, it desperately hopes you do.

The thing is, none of this is done badly at all. Al Gore is still very funny, the Underpants Gnomes are still extremely creepy and frighteningly angry, and Mr Hanky is still trapped in a loveless marriage with an abusive, drug-addled wife. When Jesus shows up, it’s great that it’s Jesus! Stan’s dad Randy is, as ever, a desperately pathetic and boundaryless sap. Cartman’s mom is still disturbingly disturbed, her bedroom a collection of pictures of Cartman and an array of dildos. Everyone swears copiously without bleeps, grotesque statements are made, Jews are berated, girls are hated, and you have a fight scene shrunk down under the naked fucking bodies of your parents. It’s South Park.

Except, not quite. Because South Park, while gleefully immature for the sake of it, is always saying something. It’s angry, or bemused, or intrigued with something topical, and it satirises it with its outlandish ways. Its targets may appear arbitrary, and its statements often extremely conservative, but it’s saying something. The Stick Of Truth is just rambling. It’s not until that rambling coalesces into something more interesting than “LOOK THIS IS SOUTH PARK!” – about midway through – that it becomes more the game it should always have been. Although it never finds a point.

The combat is, in theory, fantastic. Taking the style of RPG fighting I’m familiar with from the Mario & Luigi games, of turn-based reaction-led attacks and defence, it creates something easily accessible and quickly scalable. Basic attacks require that you hit the left or right mouse button as closely to a prompt as possible, while more elaborate offensive strikes require trickier button clicking/tapping. In most battles you’re accompanied by your currently chosen buddy, who can be switched out for another. They all have specialisms, like Cartman’s fire-lit fart spray attack (mashing W) or Butters’ Professor Chaos transformation that has you stop a spinning wheel to select which uber-powerful strike will occur.

It then adds to this with “magic”, which is naturally fart-based. (And also the game’s screwed up tutorials at their worst, as each new spell comes with a QTE-based learning sequence, that you then don’t have to do to cast the spell in battle.) Here tapping F instead of left or right clicking lets you transform an attack with additional gas, so long as you have enough “mana” stored up. Once it’s all in your arse-nal (geddit?), the array of combat options become enormous, and the different enemy types’ weaknesses can be exploited by judicious deployment. It is, undoubtedly, a great combat system. It just needed some semblance of balancing.

The fighting is sadly ludicrously easy. Even on highest difficulty (although I’m not convinced the difficulty slider was doing anything), by the second half of the game I was finishing most fights in one turn. The enemies were dropping before they could finish their own first attacks. As the complexity rose to more interesting levels, the difficulty plunged, rendering what should have been rather thrilling really very moot. Then of course it throws in a couple of absolutely ludicrous difficulty spikes near the end, making for fights that require sheer luck to get past, before things then return to numb simplicity. All this leads to the most peculiar situation where the best combat in the game are the boss fights. Wuh? Up is down. Because these at least offer some challenge, and a need to worry about the various bonuses and potions that are there to soup up the action.

Although these potions are in such mad abundance that you’ll inevitably just get told your inventory is full of each type as you loot, rather than ever have to consider rationing use. And even if they weren’t, the massive wealth you unavoidable accrue means you could pick anything up from any shopkeeper without pause. The balancing – it is a mess. And that’s a massive shame, because this really is a great combat system, and could have made the game.

This has been mostly negative, and that’s reflective of my mood for the first five or six hours with the game. And that’s far too long a time to just brush over, to dismiss and say, “Hey, slog through that and then it gets much better!” It does, but it’s not okay.

So why does it get better? Mostly because it moves on from its low-key nothing story about the South Park kids having divided into Humans and Elves, and fighting about it, and introduces its full array of ludicrous madness. Aliens, Nazi zombies, and more, all combined into one story starts to make it feel far more alive, far more interesting to be a part of. The jokes start coming thick and fast, and surprises appear that will either offend you past the point of involvement, or have you plough further to see just how much more grotesque it might get. While the combat is perfunctory, by the time you have a full set of skills, it’s actually rather fun to deploy them all, even if the opponents don’t put up a proper fight.

The town is also packed with collectables to discover, reasons to explore thoroughly, letting you use an increasing pool of special skills to reach previously inaccessible areas and pick up whatever nonsense can now be reached. And I loved all this – I collected every damned thing I could find, maxing out on the Pokemon-things, gathering a ridiculous number of friends in the game’s faux-Facebook (actually referred to as “Facebook”), and pursued all the treasure marked on the map. Doing this, in between the twenty or so side quests, and the twenty or so main quests, allowed the game to feel large, embellished, as you’d hope for an RPG. And of course by this time I’d grown used to the daft keyboard layout, and long since unplugged my 360 pad so I’d be able to use them at all.

All this, and of course every moment, every word, every cry or insult, has come directly from the minds behind the show. Matt and Trey provide 90% of the voices, and deliver it with every bit as much aplomb as they would for an episode. While there’s the extremely strong impression that they didn’t want to waste a proper story idea on the game (there’s nothing in here to compare with Bigger, Longer, Uncut, for instance), the minutiae of it is a massive treat. There’s a ton of great dialogue, astonishing insults, and outbursts from the likes of Cartman I’d never dare type here for the sorts of Google hits it might bring us. It not only looks like you’re playing an episode of South Park, but sounds like one too. And that’s important. It’s also potentially a bit of a problem.

There’s a thing about watching an episode of South Park. Its a passive experience. When they have a storyline that is as outrageously offensive as you could imagine, you sit back and stare in astonishment, wondering at how Comedy Central and their evil overseers Viacom could ever have allowed it on air. When you’re playing, this starts to feel rather different. I started to feel complicit.

There’s one particular moment in the game, about three-quarters in, that I’d love to state – it so perfectly sums up the depth of inappropriate grossness this reaches, and the really bemusing references to real life people who will surely, surely want to try to sue. I’m not going to, because it’s far too big of a reveal. Let’s just say “abortion clinic” and let your imagination roll on from there. It’s gobsmacking – and it’s so beyond offensive that it’s hard to be offended. Those extremes are perhaps extreme enough to self-destruct your reaction. However, where I found problems were with the ideas that occur before this degree of shock. Where it’s just saying “rape” because “rape” is a shocking thing, eh?

Anal rape, as it happens. And this is where that complicity really stands out. At one point, your actions cause someone else to be anally raped. And yes, in its context, and with the reactions to it, it was funny. But not that funny. Not funny enough for it to have felt worth it. And especially since, unlike most episodes of the show, it wasn’t there for any purpose. There’s no point being made. It’s just that they once had that anal probing episode, so there’s anal probing in the game. This wanton use of offensive ideas (and they are numerous) without there being a reason beyond their being offensive, is something that I found occasionally too icky. Your own personal levels of ickiness will vary. If you are at all sensitive to matters of sexual assault, racism, disablism, and so on, then yes, be advised.

My personal position is that I have the right to be offended, and will fight for that right. How much I want to choose to take part in the creation of that offence is something I’ve yet to work out. The Stick Of Truth crossed the line for me a couple of times. Hell, just the use of worn swastikas and recorded Nazi audio being shouted by zombie attackers feels a bit shit, before that goes far, far further. (However, when it’s cows doing it, I find it purely hilarious. I am a hypocrite, if nothing else.)

There are some oddly lacking areas. Despite the volumes and volumes of recorded dialogue, barks are few and far between, meaning you’ll hear your accompanying characters say the same few things an interminable number of times. How they could have failed to record more than one line for Butters’ Professor Chaos attack is beyond belief, and it reached the point where I’d avoid using it so I didn’t have to listen to it again. It’s such a dumb oversight, bearing in mind just how little effort would have been needed to add ten or so more barks for each character.

So, there are some very serious issues with the game, with gibberish tutorials, incorrect on-screen instructions, no PC options at all, and the complete lack of basics like reassigning keys or switching between mouse/keyboard and joypad. None of that is acceptable. There are also some very significant balancing issues, with combat far too simple, and a ridiculous ubiquity of power ups, potions and cash. There are stupid oversights, such as there being no “sell all” button for the literally thousands of pieces of junk that fill your inventory. Also, there’s a very annoying bug that causes many lines of dialogue to cut off midway through the final word of the sentence – nothing kills a punchline like lacking the last word. I even had a South Park-appropriate bug that saw Cartman get stuck in a fart animation until I killed the game. Regarding content – that’s going to be a personal matter for you. It’s safe to say, as much as the overly-simplistic opening hours might suggest it, this is in no way a game for kids.

However, the reality is I played every inch of it, collected almost every hidden item, completed every single side quest, and maxed out the level cap long before it ended. That’s partly out of the duty of reviewing a game with enough time to do so, certainly, but I can’t deny that I was dragged deep.

It is at once the South Park game we’ve been waiting for since the series started 17 years ago, and a cluster of stupid mistakes and bad balancing that we’d hoped Obsidian had put behind them. If you’re willing to plough through its dull opening hours (or perhaps mainline the main story until you reach the Taco Bell content to speed that process up), and put up with the technical issues, then there’s a lot on offer here. But that’s a big “if”, and not one someone paying for the game should have to ponder.

But most of all, don’t ever fart on a man’s balls.

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188 Comments »

  1. Choca says:

    I did not get that sound cutting bug you had but had a different one. There always are sound issues in Ubisoft titles on PC, I really wonder why.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Sounds like exactly what you’d expect from an Obsidian South Park game. Given that I enjoy both Obsidian games (Alpha Protocol was well worth playing despite its flaws) and South Park then I reckon I’ll enjoy this.

    Going to wait for it to be in a sale though, that way I’m not paying over the odds for a buggy game, and by the time it has dropped in price some of those bugs may hopefully have been fixed.

    That said it taking a while to get going is putting me off a bit; I’m a lot less tolerant of several hours of slog until a game gets going than I used to be.

    • Slight0 says:

      It’s not really fair to call this game “buggy” just because it has an inconsequential audio bug that happens at certain points when loading game saves. It only applies to background music anyway. There isn’t a single bug in this game that will prevent you from enjoying it and continuing it and there aren’t really many to begin with.

      If anything, don’t buy the game because of how hilariously overpriced it is for what you get, not because we’re now deeming it as buggy. It’s fun but not a full price game by any merit.

      • Kadayi says:

        I wouldn’t buy it through Steam, but retail its reasonably priced. Start to finish took me 27 hours including wrapping up, side quests. I suspect I’ll probably replay it at some point to get some of the achievements as well. Overall I thought it was decent value for money in terms of the content.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      This game is, frankly, awesome. I’m very impressed.

  3. Drayk says:

    And Obsidian once told us that buggy games were behind them… I am no fan of South Park but it’s a shame that it can’t be the game fans were looking for. But most of the problems you pointed out should be improved quite easily (difficulty curve, controler and graphic settings, maybe small changes in tutorials… they surely playtested this game. How come it’s still messy ?

    • RationalLogic says:

      Most likely because the game was finished over a year ago. The “delay” clearly did not result in any more actual development time. Sounds like Ubisoft just sat on the game, not knowing when to release it, much like what happened with Alpha Protocol. Obsidian is an independent contractor, so they don’t have much control over the game once the deadline’s over, and the game has been submitted. The QA is usually handled by the publisher’s internal team, or by a third party.

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        Lars Westergren says:

        > Most likely because the game was finished over a year ago. The “delay” clearly did not result in any more actual development time.

        That’s not true. Development continued after Ubisoft picked it up, staff from South Park were shifted over to Pillars of Eternity pretty recently. Ubisoft seemed to have had opinions on development and added a new creative consultant (“my actual role is really amorphous”), but from reading this article it seems far from bad things he wanted to add.

        http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/210806/QA_BioShock_2_creative_lead_jumps_out_of_comfort_zone_with_new_South_Park_game.php

        Browsing forums most people seem to think this is fairly polished and bug free, though agree there is a disappointing lack of options in the PC version. Haven’t played it yet, will be interesting to see who is right.

        • KenTWOu says:

          Browsing forums most people seem to think this is fairly polished and bug free…

          This! Even Steam hub is relatively calm (and I’m talking about highly unpolished Ubisoft PC ports). That means the game is almost bug free.

      • Jumwa says:

        Was wondering how the Obsidian faithful were going to hand-wave away a buggy title when they were given years of extra development time to polish it up and it was built upon their own engine.

        Now I know.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Big publishers do the majority of QA for their release titles. There’s no hand-waving being done here.

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          bglamb says:

          Fwiw, I’ve played for half a dozen hours, not seen a bug yet.

      • Potem says:

        There’s a lot of stuff from the last season of the show, core stuff, so no.

    • Artea says:

      Those are not bugs, they’re bad design decisions. Also, jRPG’s have always been pitifully easy and this is a game that mimics the genre.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Haha what?

        • onodera says:

          Yes, they have always been easy. People have completed games like Final Fantasy V with four characters having the same job, including four Berserkers (which aren’t controllable by the player). The regular enemies are a filler, unless they can poison or petrify your character, and then they are an annoying filler. The bosses are the only challenge, especially optional bosses, which can be ridiculously hard to beat.

          • derbefrier says:

            Yeah specially since it seems to follow the mario type rpg. While those games were never that hard they were still extremely fun games so its not like it really matters. I mean we didn’t really expect a south park rpg to be on par with the likes of old school crpgs did we?

          • Philomelle says:

            You might want to mention that beating Final Fantasy V with four berserkers is classified as the test of ultimate bravery, requires dozens of hours spent on grinding mobs in order to pass certain bosses and only gets you as far as the final boss. That one was possible to beat by exploiting a bug existing in the original SNES cart, but is unbeatable as of the GBA remake.

            So really, using it as an example that FF5 is easy is like saying it’s possible to beat a Metroid game with 0% item completion rate, or Quake with an axe. Which it theoretically is, but it requires hours of training, a lot of skill and nearly infinite patience.

            JRPG is just like every other genre, there are easy games for casuals and hard games for hardcore players. If you don’t believe me, go play Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, Valkyrie Profile or Shin Megami Tensei (main series, not those Persona games for babies). Then tell me how easy JRPGs are.

          • Abndn says:

            People have completed Dark Souls naked with the default weapon as well. Someone very skilled with a lot of prior experience beating a game in a silly way doesn’t make it easy.

      • STiger says:

        I had to ask this of a friend the other day: Have you actually played any JRPGs made in the past 12 years? Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls don’t count.

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          jrodman says:

          Yes?

        • Slight0 says:

          “Dark souls doesn’t count”

          That’s good because Dark Souls isn’t a jRPG…

          jRPGs have difficulty and challenge outside of just boss fights. Stop trying to push the contrary because you’re in the minority and you’re probably misanalysing what difficulty is. Playing Stick of Truth should enlighten you somewhat on the art of creating difficulty in jRPGs by showing you what an absurdly easy and unbalanced one looks like.

    • Lobotomist says:

      Seems like buggy times are still with them. But this being Obsidian game, i am sure that its very good.

    • manny says:

      They just don’t seem to have very good coders or perhaps no design strategy coding wise. They released a buggy game when they were given a fully finished engine with Fallout 3 New Vegas for example.

      The sad thing is they didn’t even make their own engine this time. They used their Onyx engine made for Dungeon Siege 3. Graphically overpowered and unnecessary. They should have just used the Unity engine, then we’d be getting more features, no bugs and alot more polish.

      Makes me worried about their ‘technology sharing’ with Inxile, does that mean they’ll share their buggy code with them resulting in a half assed product?

      But they might be learning from their mistakes. Pillars of Eternity will be using the Unity engine so will probably be a bug free and polished game. Their first one ever.

      • LionsPhil says:

        To be fair, the engine they got handed for NV was also complete crap, and the various save-corruption/crash etc. bugs can’t be blamed on content creators almost by definition: they are platform bugs.

        However, the extensive quest scripting bugs are all theirs.

      • Artea says:

        What are you talking about? Both Dungeon Siege III and this game use their self-developed engine, and both are almost entirely bug-free. The review mostly complains about lack of keybinding and lack of difficulty, which are perfectly valid complaints.

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        Anthile says:

        What? Calling Gamebryo “fully finished” is crazy. It’s notoriously buggy and hard to use. Many bugs are simply inherent in the engine and it wasn’t viable for Obsidian (or Bethesda for that matter) to fix these. There’s a good reason it’s not a particularly popular engine.

        • Jason Moyer says:

          Gamebryo seemed to work fine in the Firaxis titles that used it.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            Good thing they didn’t try to make an open world exploration game

          • Jason Moyer says:

            Divinity II used Gamebryo and is a big open world game and seemed ok. Dark Age Of Camelot and Rift used it.

            Tons of games have used Gamebryo without shipping with the issues Bethsoft games have, although I’m hesitant to really criticize them for that given the huge scope of their games.

            I highly suspect most of the things people criticize Gamebryo for are the result of the way Bethsoft bolted things onto and cobbled it together rather than any inherent flaws in the core engine.

  4. Squirly says:

    I … will wait a week or 2 until they’ve released the initial ‘fix most of the glaring issues’ patch.

  5. Shadram says:

    Sounds like I’d enjoy it, so long as I’m in a forgiving mood, but I’ll wait until the price drops a bit. Not really worth $55 USD that Steam are charging at the moment. Summer Sale it is. :)

    • SillyWizard says:

      Honestly. Is it really just me, or does $60 for a South Park game seem kind of obscene?

      I guess it’s fitting, now that I think about it…

      • Zenicetus says:

        Yep, Steam is showing it at $59.95 USD. That’s a lot of money for a game with a very low animation budget and voice-overs by the franchise owners. In Hollywood movie terms, you’re not exactly “seeing the money” on the screen.

        Probably smart marketing though, because there is an established SP fanbase that won’t be waiting for a summer sale.

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          Big Murray says:

          From the behind-the-scenes footage, it looks like it’s actually far more expensive than you’d think to get the animation looking like it does in an actual South Park episode. Don’t let the lack of polygons fool you.

  6. electron105 says:

    God dammit Obsidian.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      RPS has always had it out for Obsidian, though, so I don’t trust their reviews of them anymore. They seem to have to fit all their games into a preconceived narrative about them being buggy, even when they aren’t especially buggy (or no more so than your average game on release).

      RPS’ review of “New Vegas” is probably the worst thing RPS has ever done, for example. It’s on the level of PC Gamer’s review of “Dragon Age 2″ in sheer ineptitude and just completely and utterly missing the mark. New Vegas was probably my favorite ARPG of the past console generation, so the fact that RPS would so easily dismiss it makes me think that our tastes are seriously unaligned on a very deep level.

      • cautet says:

        It’s funny you mention the PC Gamer review of Dragons Age 2. That was the point at which I started ignoring most other website reviews as well as metacritic and just read RPS. That was a game that really stood out in terms of how bad the majority of review sites had become. The metacritic scores from reviewers and players were also more dispareate than for any previous game, though it’s become commonplace now for gamers to use metacritic as more of a protest than an attempt to review the game so they are just as unreliable.

        just went and read the RPS review of FalloutNV. I would agree though it was a poor review of an excellent game and it’s very hard to reconcile the game he played with the one I bought on release. Thhough RPS have done a number of follow-up articles for various mods which have been very good. Also when they reviewed many of the DLC they were generally positive about the game.

  7. Lobotomist says:

    So, wait … you are telling me that its like every other game released by Obsidian ?

    Brilliant RPG experience , ruined by poor balancing , technical issues and premature release date.
    That will later become RPG classic must play, but not before Obsidian looses their bonus because low metacritic scores caused by buggy release and bad initial reviews ?

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      > bad initial reviews

      It’s actually looking good so far, several 9/10s. RPS has the most negative review of it I’ve read yet.

      • Lobotomist says:

        Good to hear. It would be sad for them to have another Fallout New Vegas missed bonus because of reviews :(

        • Syra says:

          I wonder if after that fiasco obsidian have earned enough good will from games websites in general for them to overlook some minor issues to help them with their meta-critic. It’s industry meta-journalism O_o.

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          Lars Westergren says:

          We don’t know if they have a “bonus dependant on Metacritic score” clause, though apparently it is common in the industry. Since Ubisoft bought the rights to publish the game, they might not have any obligation to provide any bonus at all. “Not a lawyer” and all that though, no idea how much came with buying the rights from THQ.

          Kotaku gave the most negative review yet, claims that on the Xbox 360 it’s so buggy it is almost unplayable, gives it the verdict “Not yet”.

          • quarpec says:

            then again it’s kotaku so who gives a fuck what they think

            it’s like citing the daliy mail

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          Big Murray says:

          Maybe if they didn’t release games which are buggy and poorly balanced, they wouldn’t miss out on bonuses.

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      Anthile says:

      Eurogamer: 8/10
      Giant Bomb: 5/5
      IGN: 9/10
      Polygon: 8.5/10
      PCGamer: 90/100

      It looks like it’s going to be their best reviewed game yet.

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        Lars Westergren says:

        USGamer, PCGamesN and Giant Bomb: 10/10. Whee!

        I hope they patch it to increase the difficulty though, that is the criticism I find most worrying. I was looking forward to some tricky and tactical fights. I know an endless stream of mindnumbingly easy fights are tradition in console/JRPGs, but I hoped this was one area where they would be mocking rather than imitating.

        • Kitsunin says:

          Have JRPGs gotten like, way way different on consoles? I keep hearing that this is mimicking JRPGs and JRPGs being really easy but prior to Final Fantasy XIII I can’t remember a single notable JRPG that wasn’t at least somewhat challenging, with frustratingly difficult ones spattered here and there.

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            AngelTear says:

            Agree. I mean, difficulty in JRPGs is not always fixed in stone, since you can always do some grinding and level up, and suddenly everything becomes easier, but the JRPGs I remember, especially the Final Fantasies (including number 13, to a lesser extent), were appropriately difficult, with a moderately challenging main storyline and sidequests that really upped the difficulty and made full use of the combat systems in all its nuances.

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            Lars Westergren says:

            Fair enough, I haven’t played JRPGs in years, and the total number I have played could probably be counted on one hand. The one concrete example I remember is FF7, the only battle I failed in was one of the secret optional fights against the giant mecha thing – “Diamond Weapon” or something?

          • Werthead says:

            In FF7 every single battle is trivially easy (even the bosses) as long as you keep upgrading to the best weapons/equipment/materia available at any time. Even Sephiroth isn’t that tough.

            What are almost impossible to defeat are the optional bosses, most notably Ruby and Emerald Weapon, which go somewhere beyond ‘preposterous’. To kill Ruby you need to start the battle with two dead team-mates (his first attack otherwise knocks them out of the battle, forcing you to solo it which is a complete non-starter) and then resurrect them. To kill both, you need a materia which can only be obtained by breeding chocobos for three million years.

            Admittedly that’s just one JRPG, but reading around it appears that the ‘main game easy, optional stuff megahard’ structure is pretty common in them.

          • Kitsunin says:

            Maybe some are easy, but I mean, FFIII and IV (The remakes are least) are both very challenging, even doing all the (regular, grindways, not ludicrously hard) sidequests and such along the way. FFX and XII, Chrono Trigger, Radiant Historia all require you to be properly conscious or you might lose. All the Dragon Quests that got a western release are a very staunch challenge…I would say they tend to be hard far more frequently than easy. Just because FFVII is the most ubiquitous JRPG and also happens to be pretty darn easy doesn’t mean that extends to all JRPGs, or even terribly many at all.

          • ansionnach says:

            It’s a long time since I played the original FFIII but I wouldn’t say IV is that challenging (played it a few months ago). The original SNES Japanese hard type should be as hard as it got (seeing as you couldn’t select the final party) and you can complete it by running from all the battles and just fighting the bosses. Well, that does exclude the final boss. Unless I’m mistaken there’s no special strategy there other than having enough health to survive an attack he spams you with no matter what. Other than him, though, it’s simple enough and you should be able to beat the rest (including collecting all the summons) with the right strategy (although that may be luck with Odin). You don’t even need to update your equipment or bother collecting any in dungeons until the last few. IV is quite lame in the way it makes you fight two or maybe even three bosses in a row sometimes and changes your party every five minutes because contrived plot. It’s one of those old games that takes delight in design decisions that trap and kill you! In fact, because of this meanness in its design you may die just as much at higher levels, especially since it delights in luring you out of your way in most dungeons for lame items so minor enemies can chip away at you. Ignoring the loot and running may make it easier! I’d say if you took out all the cheap deaths from IV (i.e. “modernised” its design) it certainly would be less than challenging!

            III probably isn’t that hard either, or maybe it’s just a lot of fun. IV really was the beginning of the end in terms of linear gameplay and self-obsessed, contrived plots… but then everyone says that about just about every FF game (other than I, III and V), eh?

            I’d say your point still stands, though: these games are definitely more difficult than South Park sounds!

    • Ivory Samoan says:

      Ex-Obsidian Dev, now homeless shelter Janitor?

    • Slight0 says:

      Almost everything in your post is a fallacy.

      1) It got good initial reviews, as others have mentioned
      2) It’s not a “brilliant rpg experience” nor will it become a “rpg classic” by any merit. It’s got a very simple combat system with low variety and no difficulty; you don’t have to really think much about any sort of strategy or what attack type/combo to use. You literally use two skills the entire game and wear whatever equipment you want.
      3) It’s not a buggy release. It has one inconsequential common background music bug and one or two rare bugs that still don’t have much of an effect if any. Calling this a buggy release is an affront to buggy releases everywhere.

  8. Premium User Badge

    daphne says:

    I get the impression from your review that this is a game primarily for South Park fans and secondarily for core RPG gamers. In that sense I don’t begrudge the easy balancing, though you might have a point about the difficulty setting.

    • Lemming says:

      It was never touted as a ‘core RPG’ game. This is very much part of the console RPG-lite staple. Its origins are things like paper mario and the SNES-era Final Fantasy games. It’s a branch off that many ‘core RPG’ gamers probably never paid much attention to. Not an issue in itself, but it’s not something that should be seen as the game not delivering.

  9. NathanH says:

    This sounds like someone has specifically designed a game that I would hate in every way. I think I’d better steer clear.

    • Serenegoose says:

      You too? Appreciate the lengthy review, RPS, confirmed my suspicions that there’s no way I could possibly enjoy this.

  10. demonalcohol says:

    Butters alter-ego is actually Professor Chaos, not Captain Chaos.

    That is all.

  11. bigjig says:

    “There are, however, no excuses for the mess it’s in. Obsidian have their reputation for a reason, and they’ve maintained it here.”

    That’s a shame to hear. The Obsidian defense force will always tell you that it’s the publishers’ fault their games are so god damned buggy, but they’ve had plenty of time on this one. I’ll sit this one out until a sale comes around, hopefully by then it’s been patched up.

    • Artea says:

      Apart from some minor bugs, the complaints were about lack of keybinding for PC (very valid, but not a bug) and too easy combat (not a bug, and arguably silly to expect tactical combat from an RPG-lite). So quite the opposite.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        No options at all and a complete lack of polish – which is a pretty hard pill to swallow for a game that was supposedly “done” for months and got months of work even after it was “done” because it was being delayed so long. Clearly the months of post-gold work didn’t go to…..where did they go exactly?

        • DerekG says:

          It’s as polished as a 2D side scroller can be. Even the 30FPS can be forgiven to some extent due to the animation style. It just suffers a serious case of consolectal portitis.

          The biggest issue that’s driving me away from this game are the hero skills. If you happen to pick the right skill, perk, or class, you can often kill enemies in one shot, like John was saying. What fun is it to move from enemy to enemy using the same skill over and over? All of our other skills to little to no damage but one skill is a one-shot kill. I hate games that I can’t play optimally and South Park is just terrible in its current state. After a while, these frequent battles seem like an irritation that prevent you from getting to the content.

  12. MiniMatt says:

    At the risk of starting, you know, that argument all over your nice clean comments section:
    “You begin by creating your South Park boy (only boys are available, which makes sense within South Park lore)”

    Strikes as odd given one of the key lessons South Park has taught me is never to f*** with Wendy Testaburger
    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyLv6rZSt4o)

    • Premium User Badge

      AngelTear says:

      Yeah, but Cartman & friends would never allow a friend into their group as a stable member. And all girls, on the other hand, have their own group with that creepy “Sunshine” assembly, so, he’s right, ti wouldn’t make much sense, as much as I’d have loved to play as a girl.

      • HothMonster says:

        You might not be able to play as a girl but you can play one hell of a cross dresser or tran.

    • John Walker says:

      Indeed – hence Wendy and her friends being a very important plot element. However, you don’t see Wendy hanging out with Stan, Kyle and co.

    • MiniMatt says:

      Valid points both.

  13. The Dark One says:

    Specialisms? Come on, John, you can’t keep making up words like you’re Shakespeare. Sure, you might even be able to bring in a few friends in the comments section to pretend along with you, but we both know the truth.

    • Tiax says:

      But do you both know the stick ?

    • sassy says:

      Specialism is a real word, meaning exactly what you would think. Not sure that’s how you write it in plural but it’s very likely correct.

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        jrodman@calufrax:~ >grep -i specialism /home/jrodman/bin/doodle/sowpods
        SPECIALISM
        SPECIALISMS

        (If not familiar, sowpods is the old international scrabble word list.)

  14. CrazyPaladin says:

    Ah the PC port BS. Ubi must have a passion to screw every single PC players out there, even a title that they acquired half way during the development can’t survive their ambition.
    Oh wait, is that Obsidian? Never mind

  15. sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

    >not a single display option

    Does it force a particular display resolution too ? That would really suck, if say, they had that force set to 800×600

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      It runs in a non-resizable 640×480 window unless you run it from a boot disk, and you have to configure your sound card before you play.

      • sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

        Damn, I hope it’s soundblaster compatible. I guess I’ll have to go digging for my port and IRQ numbers.

        • Premium User Badge

          melnificent says:

          If I don’t load the cd driver will there be enough base memory to run it?

          • Premium User Badge

            AngelTear says:

            You can purchase the floppy version, although it comes without the voice dub.

          • Jekhar says:

            Yeah, got the CD version. I wonder if i have enough HDD space left for the full install.

          • ucfalumknight says:

            See that there, that’s a tear of nostalgia in my eye, now, If I could only upgrade my rig to 4mb RAM…

          • DanMan says:

            Just type “POKE 788,52″ and you’re good.

        • Premium User Badge

          Klydefrog says:

          That soundblaster comment did it for me. First time I’ve laughed aloud at an RPS comment in a long while, thank you.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    So South Park as understood by a 12-year-old. Hmm.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Sounds like. Pretty much the reason I liked SP all those years ago was that it was using its over-the-top offensiveness to actually rip the everloving piss out of topical social issues. If you take away the specific barbs of a message, surely all you’re left with is offense-for-attention’s-sake.

      (The conjoined fetus episode was one of the best.)

      • Allenomura says:

        “surely all you’re left with is offense-for-attention’s-sake.” There’s no evidence in the coverage I’ve seen of any topical stuff to guide the direction. The motivation for the extremity and excess seems to be firmly rooted in “that’s South Park!”

  17. Premium User Badge

    AngelTear says:

    I’d be willing to go through a fairly bad game in order to get more SP content in the form of plot and dialogues, but the review has left me doubtful precisely because of the criticism to the plot. I mean, I’m a fan of South Park to the point that I’ll probably get 110% of that nostalgia value, but it’s still a shame that the storyline has fewer opinions to substantiate its jokes. In a way, I feel SP is never truly offensive because there’s always a reason that puts what could be offensive in context and gives it a purpose, and without that it would feel shallow and juvenile.

    I don’t know, I’ll probably pick it up anyway, but I had a lot of hopes for this and now I’ve got less.

    • drewmaxon says:

      Hopefully the reviews you pay attention to are from those that have played the game from start to finish.
      If you like South Park this is a must play game. I played on Ps3 and didn’t notice any bugs. I am sad the game went so fast but it was worth the unique experience. I suppose Dishonored and Thief were just as quick but I feel cheated paying $120 for two games that were almost exactly the same…There is no South Park clone out there.
      I do almost nothing but play computer/console games and am bored to tears with soooo many of them…been playing since the Apple 2e on computer and Magnavox pong/hockey console in the early 70′s…there isn’t a decent RPG I haven’t played since forever…that reminds me…I need to go beatch at some uninformed opinions about ESO………so, if you claim to be South Park fan and have played any RPG (the older the better) you will love this…

  18. LionsPhil says:

    There’s one particular moment in the game, about three-quarters in, that I’d love to state…really bemusing references to real life people…I’m not going to, because it’s far too big of a reveal. Let’s just say “abortion clinic” and let your imagination roll on from there.

    And yet a couple screenshots down, you seem to give at least some of the game away?

  19. Allenomura says:

    Half price is my price for this one. The combat seems too slight, and there aren’t enough robot turkeys! As something to point and laugh at, it wouldn’t falter, though.
    It’s unfortunate that the PC port is undercooked, but it’s nothing a patch or three couldn’t right. Had they provided a strong RPG along with their SP game, I’d have been more for it.

  20. Mman says:

    “All this leads to the most peculiar situation where the best combat in the game are the boss fights. Wuh? Up is down. Because these at least offer some challenge, and a need to worry about the various bonuses and potions that are there to soup up the action.”

    Sounds like they got the JRPG inspiration spot on!

  21. BumKnuckle says:

    I have to say, I’ve had no issues with the tutorial at all. I’m playing with a 360 pad, so perhaps the issue is with the keyboard/mouse controls.

    Also, I’m not sure the lack of graphics options is a valid gripe. Aside from resolution, what more could they give you? It’s not like antialiasing and texture filtering are relevant in this engine.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I’m honestly not sure why anyone would even attempt to play a game like this without a gamepad.

      • John Walker says:

        Because it’s far better suited to mouse/keyboard, as some console reviews have complained.

        • Tacroy says:

          Wait, how is it better suited to a keyboard? I’m playing it with an Xbox controller, and it works fine – the radial menus are a little bit weird, but then they always are.

          • cafeoh says:

            Gotta agree, I don’t know what with keyboard and mouse could beat laying back in my chair with my xbox 360 controller. Aiming to stun/fart enemies before combat may be easier this way? I don’t know, I have absolutely no problem with using a controller in this game.

        • nrvsNRG says:

          Same. Had no probs with tut, and having fun with 360 pad.

  22. DanMan says:

    So, it’s a Flash game, basically. Ah well, I guess I’ll grab it. On a sale, of course, because controls and Germany.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      It looks like a Flash game because South Park is made using Flash. It plays like a Paper Mario game, though.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Not that it has any relevance on if this game is good, but I thought South Park was made using Maya, hilariously enough?

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          They’ve been using Maya since season 5, and they relied on PowerAnimator before that.

          • Jason Moyer says:

            Thanks. I wish I knew which orifice I pulled that Flash thing from.

  23. PopeRatzo says:

    When you say “in no way is this a game for kids”, I think what you mean is, “it’s absolutely a game for kids”.

    • The Random One says:

      Sounds like a game for kids that no kids should play.

  24. Jexiah8bit says:

    Did they release a day one patch or something, because the tutorial made perfect sense to me and the only main problems with it are the serious lack of PC functionality and a sell-all button.

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      That’s what I was thinking. The opening tutorials made perfect sense to me. Just talks about armour, shields, stances, power attacks, debuffs etc. Both text and audio all made sense for me. Although the bit where you get taught to fart later on does use a QTE that didn’t seem to work properly isn’t then used in battles anyway.

      • Premium User Badge

        bglamb says:

        In fact, there’s a video that was released a week ago of the first 15 mins of the game, which includes all the tutorials. So it can’t be a patch. It’s the same as the video. And it made sense then too.

      • Potem says:

        They are a bit misleading, For a while I thought I needed to match the alternate button press sequence when all that matters is the little sliding triangle.

  25. Deadeye666 says:

    I don´t really get all the criticism for the difficulty. It was made very clear that this game was supposed to be a RPG-lite in the vein of the Super Mario RPGs. You don´t play them for the challenging fights and hard difficulty but for the characters, dialogue and humor.
    And concerning the lack of PC options…really?? What exactly do you need for this game? Ambient Occlusion? Bloom? Anti-Aliasing? There isn´t really a whole lot you can do with this engine and the graphics style.
    Now I´m not a giant Sout Park fan. I catch the occasional episode but it´s been a few months now since I last saw the show. So I´m probably not the main target audience. But while watching a Let´s Play of the first 25 minutes or so I actually found myself laughing out loud quite a few times. I´m definitely going to give this game a try.

    • Vorpal says:

      Rebindable keys?

    • cafeoh says:

      I’ve been playing for some hours now, and the difficulty is moderately high. I pretty much never one shot enemies like John said, and I often times fail battle (although I rarely have to retry more than once, it’s mainly about learning the attack patterns). Potions are in abundance, which is good since I find myself using one at the very least every other turn, most of the time every turn.

      I suspect the difficulty slider may change how levelling works, because having it pulled to “hardcore” right in the beginning did yield some challenging combats. Maybe turning it on hard later on lessens the impact, or maybe I’m not far enough in the game (I’m at the gnomes part). In no shape or form did I find these first 6 hours boring or annoying though, as I absolutely did not see the time pass, and find myself writing this comment when I should be long asleep.

      I’d probably have to add that I consider myself quite the “hardcore” player, mad in love with dks and the like.

      • LVX156 says:

        I have had the same experience. I’m only about four hours in, but regular fights are never finished in the first round, usually require some form of healing, and I’ve lost a couple of boss fights because I wasn’t properly equipped.

    • Machinations says:

      I have the opposite experience. Playing a thief on ‘hardcore’ mode from the start, and there has been perhaps one fight I thought I might lose – but didnt.

      Between the always refilling HP and PP immediately after battle, the overabundance of +HP and +PP items just makes the game a cakewalk.

      They really need to offer a harder difficulty, or the option to make HP and PP not refill after every single fight – like the mana already is.

  26. malkav11 says:

    “Obsidian have their reputation for a reason” – that reason, apparently, being their reputation. Because it certainly hasn’t been borne out by my experience with their games, and it seems common for them to come under fire for things that are let fall by the wayside if the game was made by Bioware or Bethesda, both of whom make games I have had far more technical issues with. Bethesda especially.

    Can’t speak to this particular game so it’s possible it’s deserved in this case, and I’m very conflicted about whether to get it, as I’m a huge Obsidian fan but the only thing South Park I have ever enjoyed was the movie.

    • Werthead says:

      Absolutely. FALLOUT 3 had far more CTD bugs than NEW VEGAS ever did, whilst reviews didn’t mention them at all (or the ones in OBLIVION, or SKYRIM) whilst going on at length about NEW VEGAS’s, which were generally fixed pretty quickly. The most annoying bug in NV was the one where you can’t load saved games from the main menu, you have to start a new game and then hit load which isn’t too time-consuming. Comparing that walking around in FO3 and the entire gameworld would turn black or sometimes just hang for the sake of it, NV wasn’t too bad at all. And of course NV works fine with W7/8, whilst FO3 is very flaky on them; I wonder why reviewers haven’t revisited their reviews and marked FO3 retrospectively done for that?

      KotOR 2 didn’t have too many bugs that I remember, it was just unfinished thanks to LucasArts arsing around with the release date. ALPHA PROTOCOL wouldn’t launch at all for me, so fair enough (I got a second copy on Steam and will see if that works). Haven’t played DS3 or NWN2 yet, but DS3′s reputation is that it doesn’t have any bugs whatsoever.

      • Grygus says:

        NWN2 was in bad shape upon release, but honestly I’d rather have a good game with bugs than a very polished bad game. I’ll take XCOM over Impire every time.

      • DrGonzo says:

        I had to comment on this. I adore New Vegas, I’m playing it through at the moment. But it’s in a completely shocking state. It’s far worse than Fallout 3, which I had very few issues with. This is my 3rd playthrough, twice on pc and once on 360. It’s very bad on both, crashes all the time. Also you have to have lots of save games backed up in case they corrupt, which they like to do often. However, with Fallout 3 I had very few issues, maybe a few CTDs occasionally. Not one EVERY SINGLE session of play.

        Still, New Vegas is one of my favourite games of all time, and is a far better experience than Fallout 3, even with the constant crashing and bugs. (Got to Benny this time, and he turned invisible after our conversation, I guess I’m not killing him this time then!)

        • malkav11 says:

          Out of the box Fallout 3 will crash to desktop the second you try to start the game proper rather than the menu, and after that’s resolved will consistently freeze less than a minute into any game session. The former problem is, I believe, something to do with having multiple cores in a CPU (rare at the time), the second was something else that I can never remember but have eventually managed to solve every time. I encounter both anytime I have to install Fallout 3 fresh. And that’s just for starters, and just Fallout 3 (versus, for example, the even more thoroughgoing issues I’ve had with Skyrim more recently). I can’t say I’ve had many technical issues with New Vegas and I’ve had practically none with virtually any other Obsidian title, though I’m neither surprised nor particularly angered by games as enormous and complex as New Vegas, and Bethesda’s various games having a certain degree of roughness around the edges. (I’m substantially more annoyed by, say, the Civil War questline in Skyrim having the stability and durability of wet tissue paper. You’d think they’d make sure the major questlines worked…)

          But anyway. I don’t dispute that their games have had significant problems for some people, despite having been lucky enough not to be one of those people, I just would contend that they’re not any worse at technical execution than most of the rest of the folks working in the genre and better than some.

  27. Keyrock says:

    Yes, the fact that there’s not a single graphical option in the game did jump right out at me as I booted this up this morning. The more I thought about it, though, the more it seemed (mostly) unnecessary. I can only speak from the experience of my mid-powered lappy (i7-3630QM GT 650M), but the game runs great on my machine and looks exactly like an episode of South Park, and I mean IDENTICAL. I can’t imagine that kind of simplistic art style being particularly taxing on hardware, so I can only guess that you would need to have something pretty darn old and/or cheap for this game not to run well. On the other end of the spectrum, no amount of SSAO, godrays, Bloom, HDR, anisotropic filtering, etc. is going to make the game look any more like an episode of South Park (on account of it already looking identical to an episode of South Park). So, yes, for a few people running on really low power or old machines maybe lowering down to a crappier resolution would be helpful, for the rest of us, it seems graphical options would do nothing at all.

  28. obvioustroll says:

    Graphic sex and violence in tv, movies and games… that’s fine.

    Satire of it … CENSORED!

    Makes sense.

  29. Jenks says:

    Yet another publisher rushes an Obsidian game out the door!! ;D

    At least Matt and Trey’s brilliance is adding a solid 20 points onto the Metacritic score. Maybe Obsidian needs to do more licensed games where their work is secondary.

  30. Mokinokaro says:

    Bravely Default is the most challenging jrpg I’ve played in a while (though to be fair the biggest roadblock I’ve encountered was taking on optional bosses as soon as possible.)

    I think what make most people see jrpgs as easy is the final fantasy series where you can easily out level content.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Klydefrog says:

    Are the dodgy tutorials due to the keyboard controls? I’ve looked at a few videos (although admittedly not in detail because I want to avoid spoilers) and most people have been using 360 controllers and seemingly not having any problems.

    • Tacroy says:

      Yeah, I can confirm that the tutorials make perfect sense on the PC with a game pad. I was bewildered when I read that part of the review.

      • EnragedPixel says:

        I can say that they made perfect sense to me as a keyboard user as well. I went in after reading the review expecting it to be horrible, but i found the tutorial sufficiently explanatory. Maybe Walker’s release was an earlier one?

  32. toxic avenger says:

    Great review, turned an instant buy to a wait and let’s see buy for me. Just curious as to why certain things offend you, while others don’t. Jews and abortions and Nazi’s, A-OK, rape, absolutely not. Yeah, yeah I understand somethings had context and some meaning behind them, while others didn’t, and yeah, yeah getting offended by one thing doesn’t mean you don’t have to get offended about others. At one point during the review you said that you were “gobsmacked” because some of the offensive things were SO offensive you couldn’t even get mad. I don’t understand how that logic, if you are taking that path, doesn’t apply to the whole game.

    Listen, I get rape is a very serious subject matter, but to make a rule about that and not other things just seems disingenuous.

    • Premium User Badge

      maninahat says:

      Some people just don’t like rape jokes, but don’t mind other riské jokes. For others, they can enjoy them as long as they better pay off, or don’t punch down too hard. Some things are just so ridiculously over-the-top offensive, it is impossible to take them seriously enough to be offended (what tvtropes calls “refuge in audacity”). What’s acceptable might seem arbitrary, but I don’t see a problem with that.

      In terms of South Park, the show has this somewhat dishonest view about censorship and what is permissible to show, suggesting that the moment you start pressuring people to not depict something, you are taking the position that anything can be censored (as was the argument in their notorious Muhammed episode)…yeah, and?

    • WrenBoy says:

      I used to live with neo nazi paedophiles. In a lemons to lemonade spirit I made the most of it by regailing my friends with stories of their antics. I have found that the nazi stories are always good for a laugh. Paedophilia is quite the conversation killer though.

  33. horsemedic says:

    Regarding the story critique, it would have been risky and/or foolish to attempt topical satire with a project that spent two years in development (and probably plans on a 1-2 year popular lifespan). An homage to the show’s timeless moments and characters is exactly what I’d want from a game (though I’ll trust John that the execution was hit or miss.)

    Frankly, I’ve found South Park unwatchable for a few seasons now, ever since it abandoned absurdism in favor of unfunny extended metaphors on last week’s news. Hooray for the return of the Underpants Gnomes, who so far as I can tell symbolized nothing and were just damned funny.

  34. nmarebfly says:

    Fourish hours in, haven’t run into a single bug yet. I know this sort of thing is anecdotal evidence at best, but so far things are rock-solid.

    No issues with the tutorial at all, though I’m using a 360 controller. Everything was explained exactly as it needed to be, and the button prompts come up basically every time you use a skill even after the tutorial. The ‘magic’ attack being tutorialized with stuff you don’t need to do in the game was a little odd, but I’m sort of glad, to be honest — seems like it would get onerous if it did.

    What sort of display options would be necessary, here? If the stated goal is to have a very specific graphical style that exactly mirrors the show, giving options to toggle effects seems sort of silly. I mean, I guess it would be nice to be able to run it on even the oldest PC, but the requirements here are pretty minimal and at some point you have to make concessions. This isn’t a graphical showcase, and if they want it to look a specific way I think that’s their decision. Do you knock a game like Braid (I want to say Rayman here as a closer parallel, but I’m not sure what options it presents) because it doesn’t have any extra sliders for toggling effects? South Park is a 2D game where they spent a ton of time getting it to look exactly the way it does — the call for them to give you the ability to screw up what they worked to perfect isn’t really reasonable.

    • Lemming says:

      Absolutely agree with you about the graphics comments.

    • dmastri says:

      Yeah this seems like a silly game to get on about graphics settings. Not sure what they could even change.

      I just completed the tutorials on PC using mouse/keyboard. No problems here. I would like to hear more about John’s specific experience.

  35. Enkinan says:

    Will buy on sale. Kinda bummed about the combat (lack of) difficulty though.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      It’s okay if played on hard mode, but I’d love them to patch in another difficulty or two.

  36. Reginald XVII Archduke of Butts says:

    I glossed over the complaints about the “abortion room” scene, since, as an Australian, my government has decided I shouldn’t see it anyway.

    (I could pirate, but if I couldn’t be fucked pirating Saints Row 4, I sure as hell can’t be fucked pirating this)

    Come to Australia, it’s like Germany, but more dangerous and expensive.

    • Lemming says:

      PC version should be censorship-free. or alternatively, if you have a PS3, those games are region-free so you can import.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        Australia’s PC version has been censored. Their draconian ratings board demanded it and the board gets what it wants.

  37. HisDivineOrder says:

    This is Obsidian we’re talking about.

    Obsidian. They’re the masters of having a great game and NOT quite finishing it, not even if you give them as much time as any developer ought to ever need.

    They have a long, long storied history of this. Look at Alpha Protocol. Look at Knights of the Old Republic 2. Look at their Dungeon Siege. Is it any wonder that Sega–forced to choose between Gearbox or Obsidian and two absurdly delayed games by developers who have a penchant for not turning a great idea into even a good game–chose to go with the developer who’d just finally broke through with the fun if flawed Borderlands instead of Obsidian?

    Even with the promise of an Alien-franchise-based RPG by Obsidian, they chose …Aliens Colonial Marines. Think on that. They chose Aliens Colonial Marines over whatever Obsidian was doing at the time.

    Is it any wonder that when Ubisoft bought the South Park game and the contract with the developers, they were saying how they’d get the game out within the same time frame as THQ had originally scheduled? Then a few weeks later, they were delaying the game for–as it turns out–an entire year just to get it TO THIS STATE.

    Imagine the game that THQ in their desperation would have shipped. That’s because Obsidian cannot finish games. They really should have a developer that comes in and finishes their games for them. Let Obsidian start them and then have someone reliable, someone like a Raven Software maybe if they weren’t owned by Activision, just come in and be the closers.

    Because anyone expects anything except a buggy mess that you go, “Hey, this is buggy and I hate this and this and this, but damn I do like these other ideas and I wish they’d taken ‘just a bit more time’ to polish this up because it’d be great!” well, you’re going to be disappointed.

    Because I said that about Alpha Protocol and Knights of the Old Republic 2. That’s Obsidian’s claim to fame.

    Just imagine how “great” that Kickstarter game is going to be…

    • Premium User Badge

      xao says:

      Ok, I’m looking at Dungeon Siege 3. It seems… finished. Not a great game perhaps, but polished and well tested.

      So, really, you’re ranting about two games, one of which is almost a decade old. I guess I’m willing to take my chances on Pillars of Eternity if that’s the sum total of your evidence against Obsidian.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        I don’t know what’s a worse insult to Obsidian. Considering Dungeon Siege 3 unfinished, or saying that it’s done and that’s really what they WANTED to make. Either looks incredibly bad for Obsidian as a developer.

      • malkav11 says:

        Dungeon Siege III is finished, polished, and though it’s less ambitious than most of their oeuvre it’s still a fantastic game with the most legitimately challenging and interesting gameplay I’ve ever encountered in the loose orbit of the ARPG subgenre, a surprisingly thoughtful plot with an incredible sense of history and legacy, strong writing throughout, and gorgeous visuals. It’s not completely without flaws – the loot is confusing and not all that exciting, which many people consider to be important for an ARPG; the coop is enjoyable but has some puzzling design decisions, most notably tying everyone to the same screen even in online play; the mouse and keyboard controls are apparently somewhat suspect (I played with a 360 gamepad, which worked great); and it’s strongly linear most of the time and occasionally a bit cheap with the encounter design. But it’s a hell of a game even so.

        It is -not-, however, much of a sequel to the previous Dungeon Siege games so I can completely understand fans of the series taking issue with that. Or I could if I could understand being fans of the Dungeon Siege series. But I can’t – they were awful, and DSIII is a huge improvement in literally every respect.

    • Artea says:

      Yeah, no, this is just a bunch of nonsense. Dungeon Siege III was completely bug-free and polished. So is this game apart from some minor issues – lack of keybinding is bad, but it’s not a bug, there are no graphics options because it already looks like the show and there is nothing to improve. It’s been getting 9′s and 10′s from other sites – hardly the sign of a bug-ridden mess. Been playing for hours and had zero issues. And the game was mostly delayed due to THQ”s bankruptcy.

      Citing Kotor 2 as a sign of Obsidian’s failure just shows how ignorant you are. It’s a game that had its development time cut by half at the last minute and was rushed out the door in less than a year – and it still managed to be one of the best Star Wars games ever made.

      • Geebs says:

        Maybe if they had spent less time writing far too many goddamn WORDS and coming up with a bunch of really dull earlier levels, for KOTOR2 they might have had time to actually finish it.

        KOTOR1 was great after you leave not-coruscant. Kotor2 was interminably dull and self-obsessed and the only reason it has this untouchable reputation is that it didn’t get finished.

        • Philomelle says:

          You don’t seem to realize how early into development the game has been cut. What happened is that less than halfway into the game’s production phase, the suits showed up on their doorstep and announced that the entire Star Wars business plan is being changed, so they have two weeks to compile the game and push it out.

          The “vanilla” release is at most 60% of the actual game. Part of the reason why many locations are so empty is because their content simply hasn’t been linked up due to lack of time. In addition, an entire planet is completely missing from the finished game. Piles upon piles of content are just sitting there, lost within the code and inaccessible because the developers were forbidden from completing the game.

          The catch here is that kind fans actually managed to hack into the game’s code and restore the missing content via a patch. A lot of us played the result and can confirm that KOTOR2 would have been a masterpiece if the developers were only allowed to finish it.

          • malkav11 says:

            And even unfinished it was still better than the first game, which I loved.

          • Geebs says:

            I played that fan patch. Then I got bored and quit because the plot was going nowhere, the locations were bland closets with none of the spectacle of the original, and there was SO much TALKING, all of it about nothing.

          • Philomelle says:

            So wait, are you saying that reading in a genre largely defined by complex narrative is unenjoyable for you?

            …then why in the seven hells do you bother playing narrative RPGs? Go play a lootfest or a roguelike.

          • Geebs says:

            Hang on, did you just tell me not to play any more narrative-based games on the basis that I didn’t like one example of the genre (with awful pacing, a terrible case of logorrhoea and whose only narrative conceit was “hey this light/dark thing sounds a bit absolutist”, therefore blowing the minds of expanded universe wonks and precisely nobody else)?

            You lose :-)

          • Wulfram says:

            I also found KOTOR2 fairly mediocre. Philosophising was boring, characters were mostly unlikable or uninteresting, gameplay was mediocre KOTOR1 with added annoyances, story was meh and roleplaying was screwed up because you didn’t know the main characters backstory.

            Though maybe the version without the fan patch would have been better, since I think it would have had less of the tedious “play that annoying character you never bothered equipping” sections.

  38. Iskariot says:

    It is always the same with Obsidian. They have good ideas, but are unable to execute them well.

  39. Lemming says:

    I suspect (having looked at other reviews), I’ll find this more enjoyable than John has. When he says ‘Mario & Luigi games’, I’m assuming he means Paper Mario? As the combat system seems to be like that, unless there are some other Mario rpg-like games I missed. I was also perfectly ready for this one to be a joypad game for that exact reason, rather than fighting with a keyboard/mouse combo for it. Its satire/origins are based in older console lite-rpgs rather than PC full CRPG ones, which may have been lost on John.

    It’s also Uplay-free for anyone who cares about such things, like myself.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Yes, the combat is VERY Paper Mario inspired. I really dig it except of course for the difficulty issue that Mr. Walker pointed out.

      I do think he’s overstating some things about the game (which is fine, as we all have our opinions,) but he’s right that the game is too easy overall.

    • sweerd says:

      There’s actually a series of ‘Mario & Luigi’ games on GBA and DS. They’re pretty much Paper Mario games, just add Luigi and remove Paper.

  40. Ghoulie says:

    Quite a way into this one, and I have to say that John is really overstating the technical issues.

  41. dethtoll says:

    I’m surprised John didn’t just lambaste the whole game for being so very offensive. Was he a fan of the show before he became a trying-too-hard social justice creampuff?

    • The Random One says:

      Why, it’s almost as if he can form an opinion and is capable of parsing things that are meant to be offensive! But surely a social justice creampuff would be completely unable to do this, and surely anyone who disagrees with your personal stances is a social justice creampuff, so this mystery shall remain unsolved for ever.

  42. darkhog says:

    South Park games were always of abysmal quality. Don’t get me started on N64 title ;). This one is mediocre at best.

    Come on, South Park creators, even I could make better South Park game than this.

  43. LVX156 says:

    I had no problems at all with the tutorial – the buttons were the right ones and they worked just fine. Don’t quite know what was going on with your copy.

  44. Shieldmaiden says:

    The tutorial made perfect sense to me and I was using a mouse and keyboard. So either I’m a genius, they patched it, or John is spouting bollocks, possibly as the result of head trauma.

    Complaining about the lack of graphical options is utterly ludicrous. As previously mentioned, it looks like South Park. All the sliders in the world couldn’t make it look any more like South Park. Criticising a lack of options for a game that looks exactly as intended on pretty much any machine you run it on (including my ancient box with its 8600gt) is rather disingenuous.

    The lack of key binding options, on the other hand, is just weird.

  45. cylentstorm says:

    Ummmm…bugs are bad, m’kay? But…I have yet to run into ANY of the aforementioned technical issues. Yes, seriously. The “tutorials,” although unnecessary, were pretty clear. Then again, I actually own a gamepad or three, so perhaps that changes things. Dunno. It’s a basic RPG based in South Park. If you don’t like South Park, then you should probably go play something else. I love it. I needed a less heavy-handed story and game system to kill a few hours, and I’ve been chuckling ever since. Good stuff–probably not quite worth the asking price, but so very little actually is these days. Cheers.

  46. Premium User Badge

    sibbs says:

    Having played three or so hours you can take my opinion with a grain of salt but I feel a lot of the technical issues that are mentioned in the review are no big deal.
    While initially I was a bit baffled by not having any graphical options, once I got in game and playing the more I realised that it made no difference to me as this game looks so much like the cartoon that graphical options seem a little moot the more I played it.
    I didn’t find the game that difficult to navigate with a controller, and given the complaints in the review about using a keyboard I couldn’t imagine really playing this type of game with a keyboard and mouse as they don’t really seem like a great fit, outside of the sightly awkward menus.
    I also had not a single issue with the tutorials, which worked perfectly fine with a controller, as mentioned above. Although funnily enough the ‘farting’ tutorials were actually for their ‘over world’ implementation, I believe although I have to admit that that part of the tutorial was a bit confusing and fairly poorly explained.
    Overall my admittedly short experience makes me think that the issues highlighted in the review have been a bit overstated but as always mileage per person may vary on these issues.

  47. jarowdowsky says:

    Loving this so far, about nine hours in and adored pretty much every second.

    Playing with a controller has been fine, not sure if that tutorial has the wrong keyboard mapping as it all worked fine for me?

    Only thing I found confusing was the way Ubisoft won’t let me buy the game till Friday, hey, if they don’t want my money then their loss.

  48. Zekiel says:

    Obsidiannnnnnnnn!

    Oh dear. This is what I feared. Uneven difficulty. Uneven pacing. A fair share of bugs. All those things that can so easily be hidden during development and only come out when the final game is released. This makes me very fearful for the quality of Pillars of Eternity.

    Obsidian I love and hate you so much. Why must you torture me so? Why can’t you do whatever it is that enables other development studios to release polish products with reasonable difficulty curves and (half-) decent pacing?

    Glum.

  49. Artea says:

    It’s interesting how all the comments agreeing with the review are from people who haven’t played the game, while the people who have played it are all pointing out that the game is in fact very polished and bug-free.

    • Zekiel says:

      That is a bit odd. I tend to trust the John reports things truthfully as he experiences them though.

      • HothMonster says:

        Finished the game last night, not a bug in site for me. Review code maybe?

        Not sure what John is on about with the tutorial either, but I played with a controller so I am guessing it’s M+K related. Everything made sense and the buttons did what they said they would.

    • MattMk1 says:

      Yeah, the negatives mentioned in the review aren’t meshing with my experiences very much, if at all.

      The echo-chamber BS of “Oh noes, I knew it was going to suck because it’s yet another Obsidian game” is becoming pretty annoying. Have I seen more polished games? Yeah. Does South Park really stand out in a negative way among other $60 titles? Not really.

      I was expecting real problems, and was surprised at how completely painless it turned out to be in reality.

  50. MichaelGC says:

    You don’t have the right to be offended; it’s just that no one else has the right to tell you you shouldn’t be.

    Which obviously comes to very much the same thing, as a practical matter.