Its quite something that South Park: The Fractured But Whole manages to deliver a really entertaining super hero themed turn-based RPG, whilst constantly and mercilessly mocking super hero franchises, and turn-based RPGs.
Throughout the game you’ll encounter combat in the streets of your quiet mountain town, and just when you’re beginning to take the grid-based battle seriously, you’ll be interrupted and scorned by passing cars yelling for you to get out of the road. Its an occasional friendly reminder that many of the game’s enemies are just children with tinfoil on their head, and there’s something very endearing about watching them break character mid-battle to scurry out of the road.
Knowing South Park, I guessed Cartman’s passcode & it accused me of cheating, called me Tom Brady.. I love it already #TheFracturedButWhole
— Alice Edwards (@alucye) October 17, 2017
The Fractured But Whole is full of these moments, from the name itself to the items you collect or the powers you amass. That isn’t to say that the game is suddenly a sweet, nostalgic dive into childhood make-believe – rest assured it is still very much indicative of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s sharp, satirical humour. Whatever your background or beliefs, this game is out to insult and offend you in the most inclusive way possible.
Boss fights don’t get as dark as the zombified aborted foetus of a reality TV star (an actual enemy in the first game), and this time round no scenes warranted European censorship, but Fractured But Whole has its moments. Among the worst of these are scenes in a strip club and a church, though I’ll refrain from spoiling just how terrible they are.
If you’ve played the Stich of Truth, you’ll be familiar with all this, but the sequel builds on its predecessor by expanding combat and adding enough content to almost double the length of the game.
The biggest upgrade is in the game’s new grid-based combat, which adds greater complexity to the turn-based mechanics introduced in Stick of Truth. The moves are still largely fart jokes, true, but the system itself has matured to give the player greater agency over play-style. New considerations for your team’s moves based on positioning, range and knock-back potential gives the combat the depth it was missing in the last game. These mechanics also evolve throughout the game, introducing more moves and demanding more from the player, with real-time timers that endanger or incapacitate multiple team members in a set zone and enemy summons that prolong the battle. There are also several battles that include swarms of enemies that don’t stop coming until you make it from one end of the battle to the other, to escape the battle. It doesn’t do much for the game’s difficulty but it keeps battles from getting too stale as the game progresses.
Equally you unlock more options for your team, each with a specialised set of moves to try out. Knowing the strengths and styles of your teammates is vital, and it fits in perfectly with the narrative of the show. The (slightly) more considerate Kyle has a focus on shielding your team and pulling them close to heal, where Clyde’s moves are largely centred around grossing out your opponents, and the seemingly immortal Kenny’s are typically rash.
One of the things I found most impressive around this is the tailored banter between the characters. It gets repetitive if you continually use the same team as is often the case with RPGs in this style, but each of your team mates has dialogue specifically targeted toward certain members. Super Craig might single out the Human Kite during a fight to call him lame, whereas you would get entirely different dialogue if you swapped one for Cartman or Clyde. It’s a clever touch that makes each team feel fresh.
You also have a similar level of customisation with your own character development. Armour and clothing continue to be largely cosmetic, but Fractured But Whole introduces new ways to tailor New Kid to your play style. You begin with choosing a class of hero from three distinct styles based on speed, strength and range, but you can return to Cartman to amend this even in the early game. As you go on however, you have access to a greater range of choice and can mix and match within that selection, including Cyborg, Elementalist, Psychic.
Rather than levelling up in the traditional sense, your level is based on artefacts you assign to your character. Starting off you have one slot, but this expands to multiple slots each with greatly varied options. You can choose artefacts that not only increase your overall level, but buff your abilities in particular moves. You could choose moves that focus on knock-back for example, and select artefacts that give a boost to knock-back damage.
Despite the added complexity of combat, it is at times a little too easy. Personally I didn’t find this to be a negative thing, as the variety of experience is still engaging and the hilarity of writing kept me hooked, but if you are someone who needs a challenge to keep you interested you may find this somewhat lacking even on the most difficult setting.
This is also true of the game’s ‘puzzles’, which given their simplicity shouldn’t be considered puzzles at all in the sense you might expect from an RPG. It reminded me a lot of Zelda games, not for clever memorable dungeons design but for those moments where you notice a hookshot target early on but don’t have the right equipment yet.
That said, there is a lot to keep you interested outside of actual gameplay. Exploration of South Park is still entertaining as ever, with plenty of inside jokes to stumble upon or familiar characters to seek out and take a selfie with. Mini games like this will appeal to completionists, as will collecting costumes or seeking out memberberries. Its not that they’re exceptional side quests but they give you an excuse to go out an explore every inch of the town, which will expose you to how much effort has gone into hiding jokes in every corner.
If you’re a South Park, fan you should absolutely invest in this game. It isn’t your average licensed game, like some of the early South Park titles. As someone who played South Park, South Park Rally and Chef’s Luv Shack on the N64 in the late nineties, I know what happens when you lazily slap a well-known-name on something that’s below average. This is a world apart from those early games, and its very apparent that a great deal of work has gone into this both from the studio and Trey Parker and Matt Stone themselves.
Essentially what you’re getting for your money is an epic, twenty hour episode of the show wrapped up in a parody of super-hero films and turn-based RPGs. If you’re a fan of all three, you’ll be blown away.
- Combat is more complex, with new grid-based mechanics
- It is likely the funniest game around, both in narrative and dialogue
- Looks and feels like you’re in a South Park episode
- Fairly easy and unchallenging
- Less daring than the first game, in terms of dark humour (this could easily be a pro depending on you)