South Park is known for its raunchy and no holds barred satirical humor. The TV series has received several controversies throughout its existence so when Ubisoft announced that they were working on a game with collaboration from the creators of South Park, it was naturally going to get a lot of attention from fans. The first game was The Stick of Truth, developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Ubisoft, and it was a decent success in term of the critical and commercial reception. However it was not without its flaws ranging from some technical issues to monotonous combat system.
South Park The Fractured But Whole is the sequel to The Stick of Truth and continues the story directly from the first game. If you haven’t really played The Stick of Truth, the continuity might be lost for you, but it is not really something necessary here since aside from the opening prologue, the game starts completely fresh again by revamping the gameplay mechanics and story ideas from The Stick of Truth. In South Park: The Stick of Truth, the focus was on a medieval setting while The Fractured But Whole changes it to a superhero adventure with emphasis on their super powers. It is a nice change of pace coming from the first game and it also expands on the gameplay in several ways.
The first thing that you will notice with The Fractured But Whole is that the technical flaws from the first game are now completely gone. Load times are shortened to the point that you won’t notice them at all. This makes exploration a breeze and even if you include Fast Travel, you will hardly notice the loading screens. Secondly aside from one major save related bug that I only encountered once, majority of my experience with the game was mostly smooth without any issues that hindered my progress.
The story in The Fractured But Whole is set after the end of the first game. You are still the new kid in the Town and have ascended to the throne as a king making you extremely powerful in this process. The game begins while still assuming the medieval settings from The Stick of Truth. The setting changes once the kids of South Park decide to start role-playing as superheroes instead of wizards and warriors. This prompts Eric ‘Coon’ Cartman to create his own “Coon and Friends” group of superheroes however due to a disagreement with making a movie franchise for their superhero universe, some of the kids split up to form a rival group “Freedom Pals” lead by Mysterion. The game ties with an episode of South Park Season 21 which also acts as a prequel so if you haven’t seen it, it is recommended to check it out in order to understand the motivation and backstory of the characters before jumping straight with the sequel.
There are some major changes to the gameplay this time around. To start off, the character creation process now gives you the choice of a gender. The story and dialogue can change depending on your gender so this is perhaps the most important change so far. The gameplay manages to retain its turn-based approach but to eliminate the repetitive nature of the combat from the first game, the developers have now implemented grid-based attack mechanics while you are free to roam the combat screen. The attacks work like they do in the Mario RPG series where pressing the button at the right time triggers a more critical form of the attack. There are variations to these critical attacks but all of them work on the basis of a timed button press.
The grid-based attacks have changed how battle plays out now. Your attacks are limited by grids and some moves target a specific grid making you hit multiple enemies. The placement of enemies on the battlefield along with your character is an important aspect of how each battle plays out. The attacks are now all classified by various super powers. Some of these can also have an effect by knocking down the enemy thus pushing them further back on the battle screen, or inflicting them with a status effect that damages them over time or slows them down. The knockdown mechanic has resulted in an interesting combo sequence where strategically placing the party members around the enemy can make short work of them. Overall, I feel like the combat here is a major improvement and helps in solving the repetitive nature of the battles from the first game.
If you are not a fan of the show, then there is a good chance that the writing in South Park: The Fractured But Whole will be offensive for you. This show is not everybody and if you keep this in mind, some of the jokes in South Park manage to offer a clever social commentary on issues that are currently in the media. Even the gaming industry is not free from these jokes and you will find plenty of hilarious dialogues poking fun at game development. The satirical take on the superhero genre and its current craze has managed to transition really well for the game and makes up for some amusing scenarios. As an example, your main character has to decide between a superhero class in the beginning of the game and Cartman, who acts as the leader, has to assign your superhero a backstory, weakness and super powers. I thought it was well integrated into the actual game and really enjoyed these segments whenever you received a new superhero class. The classes that are featured here include Brutalist, Blaster, Speedster, Elementalist, Gadgeteer, Mystic, Cyborg, Psychic, Assassin, Commander, Netherborn, and Karate Kid.
Even if you have multiple classes, you attacks are limited in the way you can utilize their powers in battle. You will have to use the moves that work best for you in combat while you can change them at any point before or after battle. The level up mechanic has been replaced with a hero rank that still needs experience points but the way you gain them now is different. You will have to perform a set number of tasks since battles are limited. These tasks can range from simple ones like finding artifacts to defeating a certain number of particular enemies. You still gain experience points from regular battles though, but these are usually not sufficient enough for your hero rank to level up.
There are a lot of ways to customize your characters. You can craft your own costumes or find them throughout the game. They are also rewarded by doing missions or hidden across the world map. They don’t really give you any advantage aside from the change in appearance but they work along with the new Coonstagram mechanic. This requires you to take selfies with the people of South Park and while some people will gladly take a selfie with you, most usually have a requirement that ranges from specific costumes to requests leading to sidequests. The selfie mechanic is used to increase followers on Coonstagram which is also a requirement from Cartman that he assigns right at the start of the game. To improve your stats, you will need to equip artifacts. These can be purchased from shops, crafted through recipes using items or rewarded by doing missions.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole will keep you hooked throughout the game. The game never felt like it was slowing down or feeling like a chore. It was hard for me to switch to another game because I was really enjoying what I played. This has more to do with how the progression works now since you will gradually unlock more of your powers and content as you make you way through the story. Exploration is also rewarding and the new farting powers have some cleverly designed puzzles around them letting you reach secret areas. Despite this, the game is not overly long, neither it is short. You will be able to complete it in 20 hours depending on how much of the sidequests you are able to tackle along with the story.
South Park The Fractured But Whole Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: South Park: The Fractured but Whole is an upcoming role-playing video game developed and published by Ubisoft, in collaboration with South Park Digital Studios.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole feels just like an animated feature from the TV series with the same lewd jokes, satirical social commentary along with an improved combat and exploration system.