The success of South Park: The Stick of Truth was something to behold, with the game earning excellent reviews and a strong following of fans. When a follow-up was therefore announced, South Park; The Fractured but Whole, the gaming world was very excited to see whether the brilliance of the first game could be transposed into a sequel, or whether the game was something of a one-off moment of triumph.
Thankfully, South Park: The Fractured but Whole does more than just follow in the footsteps of the first game. In fact, the title manages to build upon what worked in its precursor, and use it to create something that, although familiar, actually feels a little different both in tone and how the gameplay works.
Although much of the overall play of the game is certainly similar to the first, following the same questing mechanics, it’s in combat where changes truly take hold. The battle system in The Fractured but Whole is changed slightly this time around, with the pure turn-based strategy of The Stick of Truth taking on more of a tactical RPG bent in the sequel.
The biggest change is the implementation of a grid system in combat, with players able to control their team of four characters in a small arena when fighting enemies such as Sixth Graders or the minions of Professor Chaos. This means that area of effect attacks and ranged attacks add a whole new dynamic, and players will also have to watch out for their team being pinned down by attacks from behind. All in all, this grid system is a very nice addition, and actually helps create more fluidity in the gameplay.
This matches up incredibly well with the shift of plot, from the high fantasy of the first game to the super hero story of the second. Rather than a Lord of the Ring-esque adventure, this time The New Kid joins up with the superhero group Coon and Friends, as they try to solve the mystery of cats going missing across South Park.
This being South Park, however, there’s a slightly more ignoble reasoning for Coon and Friends to take up this mission: using the reward money to kick off a Coon and Friends superhero movie and television franchise. Along the way, of course, it all gets tied up in a greater story, aping on the Marvel universe through a civil war between rival super hero factions and a dark conspiracy behind the scenes.
If that all sounds too heavy for a South Park game, though, don’t worry. The Fractured but Whole deals in the same kind of humor as the first game, never quite letting the player forget that they’re a kid in a costume playing dress-up, with powers that revolve around the passing of gas. It’s all tied up in the series’ trademark vulgarity, this time uncensored worldwide.
To put it bluntly, most of the comedy in The Fractured but Whole is puerile in the best possible way. Many moments of the plot specifically revolve around toilet humor, as do several of the side quests, and although there are occasional throwaway moments of South Park‘s biting social commentary, such as the difficulty slider jokes, on the whole it’s all on the sillier side. This means that The Fractured but Whole is not exactly pushing any boundaries for South Park, but it’s still very much on point from a humor perspective, and there will be multiple laugh-out-loud moments in every play session.
Indeed, The Fractured but Whole‘s view of South Park as a location seems a little bit different from where the show has been in recent seasons. There’s little of the political satire that has cropped up of late, perhaps in-keeping with Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s desire to move away from that line of thinking, instead taking on a lighter tone. However, the town is certainly up to date with the events of the show, and so Memberberry fans will certainly find a subquest of their own to complete.
Although the show’s version of South Park may be a little more simplistic, it seems as though that satire has been turned inwards towards the idea of super heroes, particularly the current trend of movie adaptations. It’s a hilarious romp that spends a lot of time looking at the big business of super heroes, with even the building of the player character’s abilities and own personal ‘Kryptonite’ taking a tongue in cheek look at the practice in general.
Alongside this, The Fractured but Whole also spends a lot of time poking fun at practices within video games, in a similar way to The Stick of Truth. Everything from the loading screens through to the mini-games make fun of gaming in general, and this actually makes some of the game’s rather traditional gameplay feel all the better. It’s a title that, at its core, relies on such disliked general mechanics as quick time events, collect-a-thons, and fetch quests, but The Fractured but Whole deals with them in such a way that even completing the most minor of missions is an enjoyable experience.
It’s this humor, and this deep knowledge of the highs and lows of video games, that really makes The Fractured but Whole a great game to play. Comedy is hard to do in video games, particularly when it is used as a title’s defining feature, but once again South Park has managed to break into the gaming world with relative ease in an enjoyable way.
All in all, it’s fair to say that South Park: The Fractured but Whole stands as a great follow-up to The Stick of Truth, and a game that fans of the TV show are bound to appreciate. It may have been a long time coming, but The Fractured but Whole is certainly worth the wait, particularly for those who want to have a bit of light-hearted fun with their RPG gameplay.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole releases on October 17, 2017 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided with a PS4 code for this review.