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Biggest Surprise - South Park: The Stick of Truth

Biggest Surprise

Second Place

Third Place

The best way to describe South Park: The Stick of Truth is as a miraculous oddity. It's doubtful that many expected a South Park video game, especially one with such a troubled development period, to also be a high-quality, faithful adaptation of the long-running and controversial animated series. There were times we were uncertain that The Stick of Truth would even see the light of day, considering the dissolution of its original publisher, THQ, and the five years it spent in development hell. Surprisingly, this latest visit to Colorado's most fictional town may very well be the most impressive licensed video game ever released as well as one of Obsidian Entertainment's greatest accomplishments.

With series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone penning The Stick of Truth's script, voicing a number of the beloved characters, and being consulted on nearly every element of design, this turn-based RPG mimics the television show to the point where you may forget you're playing a game at all. The satirical humor the series has been known for has not been toned down in this release, with you playing the role of the New Kid while interacting with Nazi zombies, alien anal probes, crack addicts who deal to coffee roasters, Mongolian raiders, and a number of other oddities that thankfully haven't been censored out. The gameplay mechanics themselves are somewhat reminiscent of Paper Mario, but the simplicity of combat belies the game's greater accomplishment of complete immersion. The transition from action to cut-scene is near seamless, and you really do feel as though you are a part of South Park's world. Truly, The Stick of Truth is a treat for lovers of turn-based RPGs and a gift for series fans. Unless you're easily offended, you have no reason not to try it.

The action RPG series Divinity fell into the depths of mediocrity after its first game, Divine Divinity, released in 2002. So when developer Larian Studios ran a Kickstarter campaign for a new game in the series, focusing on a tactical, turn-based combat system, many were skeptical. Yet Larian Studios pulled off an excellent game that takes a number of risks that pay off nicely in Divinity: Original Sin. Similar to Beyond Divinity, the game features two protagonists. This allows one to play with a friend or run solo from the perspective of two different personalities. In combat, combining and abusing elemental terrain features and spells results in gratifying victories against overwhelming odds. Yet, for others, the writing is the biggest surprise. While the main plot is a bit cliché, dialogue between characters is fresh and oftentimes quite humorous. These strong points overshadow the few shortcomings found in the game, making it a pleasant surprise to many, especially the old-school RPGamers. Even if you didn't enjoy games like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights in the past, give Divinity: Original Sin a try. You might be surprised too.

Anyone looking for a game that feels like Planescape: Torment has their eyes firmly fixed on Tides of Numenera, and this indie gem unexpectedly slipped right into our gaze last year. The story is one of civil strife in fantasized medieval India from the perspective of two teenage girls and two middle-aged men as they muddle about, trying to keep themselves and their ideals safe as the plot drives events from bad to worse. Unrest delivers on amazing dialogue, consequence-driven gameplay, and a unique setting.

by Trent Seely, Phillip Willis, Scott Wachter

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