Three and a half years have passed since the surprisingly solid launch of South Park: The Stick of Truth. When that game launched, it quickly became a surprise hit for the way that it captured both the television show and its vibes along with the RPG genre as a whole. Now, another entry in the South Park series, The Fractured But Whole, is out, and despite some issues that the game suffers, it is another solid entry in a series that is slowly becoming a must play for any fan.
As soon as you start The Fractured But Whole, you’re hit with what the game is all about: superheroes. Instead of taking on the world of fantasy in this game, the kids of South Park quickly realize that superheroes are what’s in style. Thus, the game quickly picks up on the genre in which it will be parodying right away. Thanks to the multitude of superhero films and franchise out now, the game has plenty to pick from in terms of mockery and does a fine job doing it. There are constant quips about movie franchise, the kids making “billions” from their ideas, and how stupid certain movies are. All in all, it’s an easy genre to make fun of, but one that is still funny enough to be mocked.
As far as the game goes, it unfolds in pretty much the same way Stick of Truth does. You’re still the new kid on the block stuck between two warring factions of friends (this time between Coon and Friends and their rivals, the Freedom Pals). You’re also still wandering around the town of South Park, which still looks exactly as it does on the show, and getting into turn-based battles in order to complete various quests. The cast is still voiced by series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, but there does seem to be a lot more dialogue in the game, which is a great treat for fans of the show. The show’s official writing team also was on hand to help develop the plot and it certainly shows.
Thankfully while much of the gameplay has stayed the same, fighting has not. Instead of the overly simple turn-based combat of The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole gets a bit more complex. Now, all battles take place on a grid of squares, and each characters’ attack blast out in a certain pattern of some sort (either horizontally, vertically, etc etc). Players can choose from a ton of melee and ranged abilities to create a unique lineup of attacks, and then go to town fighting. While the combat isn’t any harder (due to how easy the AI seem to be), it’s still a bit more challenging in terms of figuring out how you want to attack an enemy. How you arrange your characters matter now, and since characters can only move so many squares each turn, strategy does play a crucial part in figuring out how to emerge victorious.
While the battles have gotten a bit more complex, they sadly haven’t gotten any harder. When a tactical RPG is at its best, it’s asking players to choose whether or not to attack in favor of buffing or manipulating other things. Unfortunately in The Fractured But Whole, fights are usually limited to just attacking or healing yourself, which often leaves battles feeling pretty slow and simple. After your first couple of fights, the battles quickly become “move your character here, attack, and repeat” until the fight is over, and the fact that some battles are copycats of each other doesn’t make this any more fun. After some time, you’ll notice a lot of the bad guys are the same, and continue to yell the same thing at each other.
Elsewhere as an RPG, the game is still enjoyable, if not a bit slow. There were a lot (and I mean a lot) of fetch quests in The Fractured But Whole, and this time your progress could be stopped if you didn’t complete some. While the game does offer players the ability to fast travel eventually, the locations aren’t really convenient, and you’ll still find yourself slowly moving through the town of South Park on your way to fulfill quests. Unless you truly love the idea of walking through the same town over and over, it can get boring pretty quick. Unlike in The Stick of Truth, the side-quests don’t have the same level of comedy as the main story. Some of the side quests feel like they were either thrown in for filler purposes or simply because they might involve a popular character from the show. Boring side quests are almost an inevitability in an RPG, but in a game that prides itself on mocking the genre, it’s sad to see that they might have fallen victim to some of its most notorious pitfalls.
The side quests may not all be funny and worthwhile in The Fractured But Whole, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t filled with jokes. While not all of the big joke’s land as they did in the first game, it’s still more or less one of the funniest games of the year. Fans of the show will likely appreciate all of the crude humor found within (including the ridiculous amount of poop and fart jokes) and even non-fans might appreciate some of the more long-form jokes. The lengthy cutscenes do a great job of presenting themselves like a real South Park episode, and it’s easy to find yourself getting lost in them and enjoying the game as if it was just something you came across on television.
When all is said and done, I still greatly enjoyed The Fractured But Whole, despite some of the issues I spoke about in this review. The game does a great job of once again taking the RPG genre and sticking popular, licensed characters into it. While the fighting and tedious side quests might get boring, the game still nails the style and feel of a traditional South Park episode. South Park: The Fractured But Whole may fall short of its predecessor, but is still a worthwhile game and is easily a must play for fans of the show.
This review was based on a digital review copy of South Park: The Fractured but Whole for the PlayStation 4 provided by Ubisoft.