Who knew there was so much to be done in a quiet, little mountain town? Obsidian Entertainment’s freshly released South Park: The Stick of Truth gives the hit Comedy Central series from Trey Parker and Matt Stone a fresh RPG treatment. It’s a superb game, with the script, voice acting, and creative input from Parker and Stone delivering what amounts to a 10-15 hour interactive episode of South Park. There’s a fair bit of complexity on the game side as well, and that’s thanks entirely to Obsidian’s extensive background crafting this style of game.
For regular console/PC gamers, picking up on the nuances of The Stick of Truth‘s gameplay systems comes quickly enough. There’s a broader audience of South Park fans, however, and Ubisoft no doubt wants to bring them on board. The less experienced gamers in that group might feel a little lost when first sitting down with the game’s relatively traditional RPG interface. We’re here to help. Read on for some tips on how to make the most of your time wandering through Parker and Stone’s newly interactive, “quiet” little mountain town.
No need to stay classy
There are four character classes to choose from in South Park: The Stick of Truth: Fighter, Mage, Thief, and Jew… but there’s not really much of a gameplay difference between them. Each has five unique powers that unlock and can be upgraded as you level up (you start with one as soon as the opening tutorial is complete), but your choice is more a matter of personal preference. Class-specific abilities all work a little differently, so one might deal out Bleeding damage (a status effect that drains out a bit of health every turn) and another might do Burning damage. The class you pick also influences some of the free gear and customization options that you get as the story unfolds, but there are no class restrictions on what each character can purchase and wear. Just go with whatever sounds entertaining, as each class has an assortment of jokes tailored around it.
Whichever class you choose, upgrades work the same. You level up as you earn experience in The Stick of Truth, and each new level gives you one point to spend on an ability upgrade. You’re only able to put these points into your starting ability early on, but each of the other three abilities unlocks as you rise through the levels. You’ll never be able to upgrade all four completely since the level cap is locked at 15, so take a look at the upgrade paths for each of your abilities before you start spending points. You’ll get 14 upgrade points over the course of the game (your first upgrade is at level 2), and each ability can be upgraded four times. Focus on maxing out your favorites first, then assign the rest of the points however you like.
You also make friends as you play through The Stick of Truth, slowly growing the total count of your Facebook Friends List. This serves a functional purpose in the game, with various friend count milestones allowing you to unlock a new Perk (one tab over from the ability upgrades menu). You’ll only be able to unlock around nine or so of the Perks over the course of a given game, so look them over carefully and pick the ones that fit with your style of play. If you don’t use a lot of magic, for example, then you’ll want to skip all of the Feats that link various types of bonuses with magic usage. Early on, anything that helps your health or combat acumen on a basic level is a good place to start.
Setting up your created character’s weapons and armor is simple. You’ve got three slots for armor – covering headgear, gloves, and body – and one slot apiece for melee and ranged weapons. All of these appear on the left side of your character inventory. The clothing slots on the right side of the menu are purely cosmetic. Throughout the game you’ll collect items to change your Hair, Eyewear, Makeup, and Facial Hair. These alterations don’t affect the gameplay, but they do give you some funny options.
Most armor and weapons can be upgraded by applying “Equipment Patches” and “Weapon Strap-Ons,” respectively. Almost every piece of equipment you pick up has one or two slots for these upgrades (though some have none). To see what each add-on does, just choose the armor or weapon you want to add to, then hit the “Modify” button (“X” on an Xbox style controller, Square on a PlayStation style). You can then scroll through the options, and apply it by hitting A/X. You can remove these modifiers at any time, so if you have one you like make sure to strip it from an older weapon before upgrading to a new one. From the add-on inventory menu menu, you can also hit Y/Triangle to remove all patches from weapons or armor. These patches will come in handy, so pick them up and purchase them often – and don’t just look for more powerful attack or defense (although those are great). Add-ons with status effects can be especially useful when you are in an area populated by a specific type of enemy, weak against a particular type of effect.
The other noteworthy portion of your inventory to keep an eye is the section labeled Junk. As you explore South Park and poke around in the various containers, you’ll find an assortment of objects that don’t have any real use. They’re often fun, little Easter eggs, and it’s often worth reading the item description if you’re a fan of the series – but look at your Junk as money and nothing more. Whenever you visit a merchant, be sure to sell everything off. There’s no “sell all” option, but you can spam the Y/Triangle button to sell full stacks (useful when you have more than one of a particular Junk item). Just keep spamming the button until the list is cleaned out.
Learning how to fight
Combat in South Park: The Stick of Truth is inspired by traditional JRPGs and their turn-based battles. Each combat turn for you and your buddy – you’re accompanied by one of several familiar faces for most of the game – consists of two phases: one for using items (and certain Buddy Commands, such as Butters’ Healing Touch) and one for attacking. It’s important to remember that your turn always ends on an attack. If you want to use a consumable – whether it’s for healing, support, or offense – you’ve got to use it first. Stock up on support consumables like “Speed Potion,” which give you two attacks in a single turn, or the “Water Balloon,” which removes enemy bonuses.
You can also swap buddies in and out of most battles at any time (lowermost option on the radial menu), but note that switching leaves the new buddy unable to act for the rest of the turn. Note as well that while your buddies improve over time, you never have any control over how they level up or what equipment they’re using; you simply manage their actions in combat.
The attack phase is where things get a little tricky. Depending on which weapon or special ability you’ve chosen to use, a prompt appears at the bottom of the screen telling you what you’ve got to do. Some weapons leave you with an option to perform a light or heavy attack, or to amp up your attack a bit by enhancing it with your magical fart powers (once you’ve unlocked this). Others give you no choice; they’re designed only for light or heavy attacks (A/X and X/Square buttons, respectively). The on screen prompt is always your guide, so be sure to read it when you’re using something new. Some attacks require nothing more than a bit of button-mashing, and others require a bit more timing. For timing-based attacks, you’ve got to hit the desired button right when you see a flash of light and hear a high-pitched tone. Some might find it easier to simply listen for the audio cue. Be aware that some weapons and abilities have more than one strike, so keep watch for multiple flashes.
Defending against incoming attacks works in a similar manner. When enemies attack you during their turn, you’ll have a chance to block. Time it right, and you reduce a chunk of the damage you were going to take – usually a sizable chunk. The trick is to watch your two characters and hit defend (A/X button) as soon as you see a circle icon appear below the targeted character’s feet. This gets a little tricky, as you’ve got to get the timing just right and you’ve got to watch both characters simultaneously to make sure you see the circle at the moment it appears. Just like your own attacks, certain enemies strike you more than once during their turn. You’ve got to defend against each individual strike. Don’t worry about watching what they’re doing; keep your eyes locked on your characters’ feet, and you should be able to block most of what the game’s enemies throw at you. Once you get a sense of the rhythm of these attacks, get in the habit of hitting the defense button multiple times, even if there’s only one attack.
It’s worth taking a moment to talk about Summons as well. All of the Summons are favors earned by completing sidequests for certain characters all around South Park. These Summons are one-use-per-day propositions and you can’t use them during boss fights. Both of these factors significantly limit their usefulness, since most of the standard fights in The Stick of Truth present little challenge. To be clear: they’re fun, and funny. You’ll want to use them all at least once just to see the ridiculous things that happen. Just note that if you use a Summon and want to get it back the next day - The Stick of Truth‘s story unfolds over several days – then you’ve got to go visit the person you got it from in the first place and talk to them in order to “recharge.” There are four summons to find throughout the game, and you’ll earn them easily enough by completing the related character’s side quest.
The world of The Stick of Truth starts with you stuck in a relatively small space, but it quickly expands to allow for exploration of most of the locations we’ve encountered during the TV series’ 17 seasons. A good thing to keep in mind: if you see a location or treasure that you’d like to get to, but can’t, it’s probably because you don’t have the tool necessary to get there. For example, the swarms of mice blocking certain paths can’t be cleared away until you possess fart magic. Little, grey antenna-like things can’t be interacted with until you have a teleportation device (you’ll know when you do). Pieces of the environment with a red-glowing crack can be destroyed by swatting it with your weapon, but green-glowing cracks require a powerful fart spell that isn’t obtained until later in the game. There are also small holes and gaps in shrubs that are far too small to enter. Remember where those are, and return when you get the specific ability related to those. Again, you’ll know it when you see it. Fortunately, backtracking to most locations is a snap.
The bulk of South Park and the surrounding area is accessible using Sir Timmy’s fast-travel locations, which appear in the world as a short flagpole with a honking bicycle horn and a red flag attached to it. Interact with one to bring up a city map, at which point you can travel to any other fast-travel location you’ve unlocked by selecting it. They’re all very clearly marked with red flag icons, and you can find all of the but one as soon as the game allows you to explore (the final flag unlocks during the story). You also aren’t able to return to a few of the game’s “dungeons” once you’ve completed them. If you’re going for 100-percent completion, be sure to thoroughly scour any and all dungeons before you face its final boss. You can also check the map to see if that location has a collectible. Just hover over the location in question, and it will tell you.
Beyond that, just explore. You’re able to interact with or search anything with a gold-colored handle, doorknob, or the like, so do that. No one’s going to give you a hard time for stealing, so loot everything, everywhere. Remember to revisit old locations when you get new skills over the course of the story and be sure to poke at every nook and cranny in search of useful stuff.