Originally due for a December release this year, South Park: The Stick of Truth has been officially delayed for the third time since it was first announced in 2011. The current planned release date is set to be March 4, 2014 in North America and March 6 in Europe.
If there’s one thing that inspires dubiousness in gamers, it is the quality of video games based on movies and popular TV shows. With strict deadlines, shoestring budgets, and a general lack of serious care put into making many of them, it’s no surprise that many movie/show tie-ins such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead (the show tie-in, not the Telltale game) are terrible and pointed out as the fanboy money-grabs that they are.
But sometimes this kind of game will manage to surprise you. There have been good, even great games based on other popular media – Telltale’s The Walking Dead was superb and hearkened to both the comics and the TV show, and who could forget how surprised we were that the Lord of the Rings games actually turned out to be pretty good? We also can’t fail to mention the Batman: Arkham series that currently has the internet machine buzzing with the release of Arkham Origins and was born from the re-imagined The Dark Knight movie trilogy.
Now we don’t know for sure, but South Park: The Stick of Truth looks like it may be one of those prized gems in the latter category. Originally set to be published by THQ, Ubisoft bought the rights after THQ went under. Developed by Obisidian Entertainment, it is written by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker – a definite plus. The two have been a large part of the project since the beginning and are determined to keep The Stick of Truth as true to the show as possible.
In fact, that dedication to keeping it up to par with South Park is the reason for this latest release push back. From the Ubisoft blog:
“We always wanted the game to feel like you’re actually in an episode of South Park. Getting the game up to the crappy standards of the show has been a real challenge and we’re excited to say it’s taken way longer than we thought it would.”
And that’s a shame.
I had the chance to check out Ubisoft’s promo booth while at New York Comic Con – a snaking line that wrapped around the party-colored setup and a tiny, dark, claustrophobically hot room crammed with about five other people around a TV screen.
From the short video combining cutscenes and gameplay footage, it looked to me exactly like the staple mix of juvenile humor and comedic satire we’ve come to expect from the long-running South Park show. It had many of us heading straight for the preorder table – and not just because they were handing out incentive goodies for doing so.
Hopefully, this latest delay for a long-delayed game is not the death knell some pessimists are suggesting but a ray of hope – that Ubisoft and Obsidian Entertainment are trying to take South Park seriously, even if South Park doesn’t take anything seriously.
Why the new delay? Well, when Ubisoft picked up the game, we thought: Easy. We’ll put some marketing muscle behind Stick of Truth, toss some additional development resources at it, then take it to the finish line with Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The game’s almost done, anyways – so what more could we do?
“Within three weeks after acquiring the game, we sadly realized we had to turn this thing upside down if we hoped to deliver the experience everybody wanted,” says Ubisoft North America’s president Laurent Detoc. “It’s been such a major overhaul to get to the point where we are that we couldn’t let it go, even if that meant missing December.”
For fans of South Park, or even those who have a sense of humor about gaming tropes, it’s time to buckle back down for another long waiting season – but game quality is looking sky-high, and in the meantime, we can console ourselves with the trailers: