There was a time when nobody thought a good South Park game could be made, and then, in 2014, The Stick of Truth was released. After receiving raving reviews and praise for The Stick of Truth, South Park series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker vowed to never work on a video game again. The development process for the game proved to be much more physically and emotionally taxing than the duo originally expected. So after the release of The Stick of Truth nobody expected to hear about another game in the series. Fast forward to the Ubisoft conference at E3 2015, and lo and behold, we got a trailer for South Park: The Fractured But Whole. After two years, the follow up to The Stick of Truth is here! Hit the jump to read on!
Taking place just one day after the events of The Stick of Truth, South Park: The Fractured But Whole once again has players taking the role of King Douchebag as he/she is thrust into an adventure of epic proportions. Somebody has begun kidnapping the cats of South Park and it’s up to the two warring superhero franchises, the Freedom Pals and Coon and Friends, to get to the bottom of the mystery. Donning the mantle of the Butt Lord, players join the ranks of the Freedom Pals and Coon and Friends as they investigate the weird happenings around town with the goal of ultimately starting a Netflix super hero franchise (yes, this is actually the plot of the game).
The Fractured But Whole is a turn-based tactical role-playing game. The moment to moment gameplay mostly consists of traveling around the small town of South Park, Colorado and fulfilling various quests for rewards. These rewards range from crafting materials, costumes, and artifacts – items used to power your character up. As you travel around town you’ll come across objects that can be interacted with by throwing a fart at them, throwing a firecracker, or by getting an assist from a buddy. However, the real game begins as soon as you engage enemies in battle. Battles take place on square grid-based arenas with the player’s characters on one side and enemies on the other. However, in some cases the player characters will begin a battle in the center of the arena surrounded on both sides by enemies. At the bottom right of the screen, a timeline is displayed that shows the order of turns. Both the players’ characters and the enemies’ turns are displayed on the timeline. Battles are then played out in two phases: the offensive phase and the defensive phase. The offensive phase has the player choosing one of four actions a party member can execute during his or her turn. The player has the option of customizing what abilities their Butt Lord will have, whereas the rest of your party members come with preset abilities.
The true depth of Fractured comes from mixing and matching abilities the player’s Butt Lord has equipped and pairing them with the abilities of the other party members. Much like in Stick of Truth, the party members you bring with you in battle pretty much determine your play-style for each battle. The biggest difference this time around is that as soon as a battle starts, and you pick your party for that battle, you can’t switch them out until the battle is over. Knowing what your characters can do is essential for victory, but there are a few moments throughout the game that absolutely require you to plan for the unexpected. This is especially apparent in Mastermind difficulty, the game’s hardest difficulty setting that makes all enemies encountered in the main campaign more powerful than you and your party. In order to mitigate the difficulty of battles, Butt Lord is given the ability to cancel one enemy’s attack every three turns by using a fart power. These powers let you either glitch the timeline by reversing an enemy’s attack while advancing the timeline forward, effectively skipping the enemy’s turn. You can also freeze time for a short period and attack frozen enemies, or briefly create a fart clone.
Although the game itself has a few difficult fights here and there, it was ultimately pretty easy. The handful of times when I actually died in the game were mostly due to fights that unexpectedly added more enemies than I initially thought there would be, or an enemy had an ability that stacked status ailments that drained my character’s lives faster than I could heal and cure them. Those moments aside however, there was never really a moment where I thought I was never going to be able to win a fight no matter how hard I tried. This is the same issue I had with Stick of Truth: both games are very easy. However, the only thing that really pushes Fractured ahead of Stick of Truth is that the battles often times have extra conditions that need to be met in order for victory to be achieved.
Another aspect that sets Fractured apart from Stick of Truth is the inclusion of a rudimentary crafting system that lets players craft items to aide them in battle, costumes to customize the player’s Butt Lord, or artifacts that are used to power up the player’s characters.
Artifacts are used in place of armor and weapons in Fractured. Each artifact has a power level assigned to it and a set of attributes that positively affect certain aspects of the player’s character while negatively affecting other aspects. You can have one artifact that strengthens abilities that fall under the intelligence umbrella while weakening health and brute force for example. As players make their way through the game, they’ll gain access to more and more powers and thus more opportunities to customize their battle loadouts and artifacts. Ultimately though, artifacts don’t matter too much in the game. All you really need to do is pay attention to the power level it grants you as a whole.
The strongest aspect of Fractured lies in its humor. South Park is a series known for its crude but biting commentary on pop culture, politics, foreign affairs, and just about everything else. So it comes as no surprise that Fractured is steeped in the same humor and perspective as the show. Although, Fractured‘s sense of humor feels slightly less varied and “punchy” as its predecessor, the game itself has many more moments of raw emotion. For a lapsed fan like myself, playing through Fractured was a welcome return to the world of South Park. It feels like it hasn’t changed too much since the last time I watched the show, but there are differences.
All-in-all, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is a delightful romp through a small mountain town that’s filled with ninjas, mutated six graders, and literal crab people. If the humor of South Park is your thing, then this is definitely a game worth playing. The gameplay mechanics are shallow so if you aren’t particularly great at video games, or if you’ve never played a grid-based tactical role-playing game, this is a great introduction into the medium and genre.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is available now for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.