Tag Archive: Obsidian Entertainment

Tanks, but no tanks

When I heard that the RPG specialists at Obsidian Entertainment were making another game, I already had images of mana pools and character-progression pages forming in my mind. I couldn’t have been further from the truth, however, as Obsidian wants to show everyone that even a decade-old studio can learn a new trick with Armored Warfare.

I admit that, going into my hands-on session, I didn’t know much about the project, since it had only been announced the day prior. With a name like Armored Warfare, though, I figured I could safely rule out ponies and princesses from the range of possibilities. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was the World of Tanks clone Obsidian had produced. The only discernible difference? Armored Warfare uses modern tanks—instead of those used during the mid-20th century—and a better graphics engine with CryEngine 3.

This isn’t to say Armored Warfare is a bad copy of Wargaming.net’s F2P sensation—but Obsidian scores no points for originality here. Armored Warfare’s PvP modes, multiple tiers of unlockable tanks, customization/upgrade systems, and even their F2P model are already seen in World of Tanks and feature no noticeable distinctions. What’s more, the PvE mode and destructibility in Armored Warfare will be seen in World of Tanks’ upcoming spring update, which will be well before Armored Warfare plans on hitting the market sometime in late 2014.

The PvP side of things includes the options you’d expect from a tank battler like this, highlighted by team deathmatch. There’s also a mode called Territory Wars, which encourages players to join clans. Their performance in battles while representing their respective clan then influences a metagame map as their group tries to conquer entire regions, which ups the stakes of your standard PvP fare in a similar fashion to Call of Duty: Ghosts’ Clan Wars mode.

Some originality does bleed through in PvE, at least, since there’s a loose story based around the idea of players taking on the role of a tank pilot for a massive private military contractor. With new conflicts popping up all over the world, business is good. So good, in fact, that your company has a fleet of war machines always ready for you to ride into battle to help keep your pockets lined with cash. As you earn money, both here and in PvP, you can unlock bigger and better tanks from the fleet and customize them as you see fit. And, although details are currently sparse, you’ll also be able to develop a relationship with your tank crewmembers, giving the tiniest glimpse back to Obsidian’s RPG bread-and-butter.

I tried one of the PvE missions during my hands-on time and confess to being pleasantly surprised by the gameplay. There’s an unexpected amount of balance for a game that hasn’t reached its closed beta yet. The controls felt smooth as I slid from a third-person view to a first-person angle to take careful aim down the sights of my cannon and blow up enemy AI. My tank handled well and felt very responsive as I rolled across various kinds of terrain (as responsive as a lumbering mass of steel and rubber can feel, anyway). The power of CryEngine 3 also really came through: The tiniest details were crystal clear on my PC monitor, and the destructible environments really helped convey the power of my tank as I bulldozed my way through brick buildings in a Western European countryside.

Despite the fact that the demo played really well, though, I don’t know if there’s enough in Armored Warfare, from what I’ve seen so far, to make players jump ship from Wargaming’s offering. If your biggest complaints about World of Tanks is its look and having to use heavy armor from 70 years ago, then Armored Warfare can help with their modern, CryEngine 3–built tanks. Aside from that, I’m at a bit of a loss. No matter what side of the fence you’re on, however, the fact remains that Armored Warfare is going to have a steep hill to climb as Obsidian continues to target a 2014 release for the suddenly crowded action-MMO, tank-battler genre.

Gonna have ourselves a time

Sick and tired of licensing out their beloved series to game developers who constantly failed to capture the essence of the show, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker eventually decided that the only way to do it right was to do it themselves. Enter The Stick of Truth, a project the comedic masterminds helmed from the get-go. They handled all the writing, personally picked a developer, and even navigated the bankruptcy of their first publisher, THQ, and the transition to Ubisoft—all in the hopes of finally conquering the last realm of media they hadn’t been able to strike gold in.

One big reason The Stick of Truth works so well? Parker and Stone penned a tale that puts players themselves in the middle of the crazy Colorado mountain town. As the New Kid, you’ll begin your adventure with the most innocent of tasks: making some friends. And it’s not long before you stumble upon Cartman, Kenny, and all our favorite foul-mouthed youths. Because you refuse to speak, however, the boys resort to calling you “Douchebag” in lieu of a real name.

The refusal to speak isn’t some cruel joke, though. It’s intentional from a game perspective and helps portray your avatar as somewhat of a blank slate. This allows you to customize your character and have some say in how he’ll look, as well as which one of four classes (Fighter, Thief, Mage, or­—appropriately, for the series—Jew) he’ll represent. I ended up making my particular “Douchebag” a Fighter that looked like Walter White from Breaking Bad for most of the game. The only typically standard customization feature locked in stone? Your character must stay a boy, even if you want to dress him up as a girl. Before you get up in arms, this actually makes sense when you analyze it from a plot perspective, because pre-teen boys (especially Cartman) would never want to play make-believe with girls.

After your class and customization options are set, the boys welcome you into the fold with the official title of “Sir” Douchebag. Being named “Douchebag” and having Cartman tell you that if you choose to be a Jew, you can never be true friends is just the beginning of a near-constant barrage of crude humor that might rub more casual fans the wrong way. But as a huge fan of the show, I laughed throughout. Every story beat helps The Stick of Truth feel like an extra-long episode and makes for a joyous celebration of what’s kept South Park such a cable staple for nearly two decades.

The writing isn’t the only thing that makes the game match the mayhem any fan of the show would expect. Parker and Stone clearly spent copious attention on even the tiniest details—you’ll be amazed at how much the animation and art style resemble an actual episode. So much so, in fact, that I actually felt I was a part of the town as I explored familiar landmarks like City Wok, South Park Elementary, and Stark’s Pond.

The old-school, turn-based combat, meanwhile, took me back to my days playing Super Mario RPG, complete with similar timing-based blocks and attacks. Each character has hysterical special attacks appropriate to them, like Cartman farting on a match to roast the entire field of foes. The New Kid’s comparable flatulence-based abilities, meanwhile, can be used as standalone attacks or to bolster normal moves, providing a bit of nuance to what starts out as a simple, straightforward system. But the more I battled, the more I noticed the lack of balance caused by overpowered status effects. If I didn’t knock enemies out in one hit, they’d often die after their first attack due to all of the freezing, burning, bleeding, and “grossing” (the game’s equivalent of poisoning) I’d stacked.

The New Kid’s farting is at its most interesting outside of battle, however, providing four of the ways you interact with the world. “The Sneaky Squeaker,” for example, can be used to distract enemies, while the “Nagasaki” can break down obstacles blocking your path. I just wish it were easier to switch between the different abilities. I’d have preferred if this mechanic were handled by the D-pad, which is instead used to quickly open up tabs in the cluttered menu screen.

The Stick of Truth offers other ways to feel immersed in the South Park universe beyond how well you can clench your sphincter, though. Some are simple, such as firing your toy bow and arrow to hit far-off switches. Others are more complex, like activating an anal probe to teleport between two points (OK, so even some of your other powers deal with your butt). When you use these abilities in tandem with your farting prowess, the world in The Stick of Truth opens up and shows a lot more depth than you might see on the surface.

The only thing about The Stick of Truth that left me truly disappointed is that it’s easily the shortest RPG I’ve ever played. I was able to finish nearly every sidequest, the main campaign, and max out my abilities in only 10 hours. The story felt like it had a natural ending and didn’t feel rushed at all, but I sure do wish there were more to it. If they left me begging for more, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, right?

The Stick of Truth is finally the game Parker and Stone have wanted to represent their beloved comedy series. Not only does it pay tribute to some of the show’s best moments, but it also builds new lore on top of that. As a game—and not just a story—it certainly could be better, but South Park fans will still feel immensely satisfied with the effort.

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment, South Park Digital Studios • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 03.04.14
Finally, fans of South Park have a game worthy of the TV show. The writing, animation, and little details are all outstanding, and while a few balance issues surface during combat and the main quest is a little short at around 10 hours, those aren’t dealbreakers. No South Park game has captured the sleepy Colorado mountain town quite like this, and show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker delivered on their promise to create a gaming experience that matches the Comedy Central hit.
The Good The Stick of Truth is a game finally worthy of the South Park name.
The Bad A bit short, a bit easy, and a bit unpolished.
The Ugly The poor odds of getting a sequel.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for the Xbox 360 using a retail code provided by Ubisoft.