With already one game in the modern era, and decades of episodes created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, you – like I did – already have some preconceived notions about South Park The Fractured But Whole. They will likely serve you well. Some of my preconceived notions also came from the first game – South Park: The Stick of Truth – a game I loved for its resemblance to the long-running show.
Once again, Ubisoft and South Park Digital Studios make a game that feels like you are a character directly in a long and interactive episode of the South Park show. You continue the story as the “New Kid” and begin The Fractured But Whole as the king amongst the 4th graders fighting your war in the game of high fantasy you waged in Stick of Truth. It’s a clever device to show you combat ropes and introduce you to the new game the children of South Park Elementary are playing – Super Heroes. Desiring to make millions on their newly-invented superheroes, Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Kenny, et al. begin their franchise, only to be driven into civil war, which you find yourself in the middle.
The story itself is one of the weakest parts of the game, especially when it lets itself become convoluted and slows to a crawl. Though in its defense, South Park is always heavy on characters, jokes, and social commentary, and not so much on plot.
The battle system is improved over Stick of Truth with a tactical RPG mechanic. This works well in the universe as it blends both a level of reality and make-believe into an understandable and workable system where damaging enemies with fire coming from your hands or your butt is just as likely as the battle being temporarily halted by an adult passing through in an automobile. The character moves and attacks are not particularly complex, as most characters are limited to three attacks and one special move. The combat shows more depth in capitalizing on its 2D aspects making placement and attack type more than a passing concern. The combat system is not particularly deep, but it is entertaining.
Besides the main quest, there are plenty of side quests and collectibles that will vie for your time. There are mountains of costumes you can collect and craft. You also spend a lot of time creating your character sheet (aka building up RPG elements) including using artifacts and choosing your race, sexuality, religion, etc. The game uses choosing a skin color as a way to denote difficulty with pale white being the easiest mode and a person of color being the most difficult. For this review, I chose the 2nd whitest, and right as I was about to write this, I almost wrote “I didn’t notice any effect of any of these choices” …and that’s the point.
South Park The Fractured But Whole Review Final Thoughts:
Overall, South Park The Fractured But Whole is excellent as both a game and an episode of South Park. Bringing it back around to your perceptions and preconceived notions, if you don’t like South Park, you will not like this game. No amount of combat system enjoyment will change that. But make no mistake, this is not for only the hardcore South Park fan. The game is very accessible for an adult. That said, this is South Park. The game is irreverent, cringe-worthy, and at times, downright disgusting. This game is not for children or those of a delicate fortitude. I realize that’s a lot of caveats, but if you can keep it in perspective, The Fractured But Whole is a fantastic game and I strongly recommend it.