South Park: The Fractured but Whole is the sequel to The Stick of Truth. Like its predecessor, the Fractured but Whole is a story driven RPG. Set in the fictional town of South Park, it focuses on the “New Kid.” The story starts off right where its predecessor finished. The New Kid retains his title of King and is awakened by his followers. The New Kid is told the Kingdom of Kupa Keep is under attack by the “moors.” After the New Kid fights his way to Kupa Keep, Cartman, in true Cartman fashion, conveniently decides to change the game from fantasy to super heroes. Having no super hero persona, the New Kid falls to the bottom rung of the social ladder. Forced to create a new persona, the New Kid must complete his character sheet so that he can play in Cartman’s game. Cartman graciously allows the New Kid to join Coon and Friends so that he may complete his character sheet. But, in typical South Park fashion, the boys’ game quickly get blown out of proportion.
Initially, players can choose from three classes: Speedster, Brutilizer, and Blaster. More classes become available later, allowing for players to combine skills from different super hero classes for use in combat. The skills choice allows player’s final build feel more unique than in the Stick of Truth. By the end of the game, there are ten different super hero classes with four skills each. The combination of attacks allows for a lot of trial and error in exploring which ones work best together. This is a much welcome change, which some players may find adds to the game’s replayability.
In addition to skills, the New Kid’s appearance can be modified at any point in the game. A plethora of cosmetic decisions are available for players. Unlike other RPG’s, player decisions in the beginning of the game are not permanent. New clothing can be easily found or crafted. Like the Stick of Truth, costumes are not class specific and may be swapped freely. The new kid’s background story can be easily altered too. Hate being a cisgender female? Tell Mr. Mackey you now think your gender is “other.” Tired of being a white? Tell PC principal you want to alter your appearance to a darker skin pigment. However, this lack of permanency of player decisions means players may not take decisions as seriously as they do with other RPG’s.
Combat is conducted on a grid system. The grid can be as small as 6 x 6, but in some instances can be very large. Each character is given a certain number of squares to move each turn. How far they can move depends on their speed trait. Combat skills have either area of effect or single target damage. Some skills have additional status effects, causing enemies to lose turns, lose movement or health. By pressing the A button at specific points during combat, damage can be either boosted or diminished. All of these factors lead to some fun combat encounters. However, combat is never that challenging. Even on mastermind difficulty, there are only a handful of combat encounters which cause any difficulty. But these are mainly boss encounters with different mechanics from normal fights.
While in combat, players have the option to attack, skip their turn or to use a consumable. Attacking requires players to choose from one of four attacks and confirm by pressing A. This can be clunky at times, especially when combat timers are added to the mix. Choosing an attack or swapping through consumables is not any easy task when players are given only seconds to choose. But combat timers don’t happen often enough to ruin the combat experience.
Out of combat, players have a simple choice of farting, punching or investigating as they explore South Park. Farting is accomplished with the right trigger or the Y button. Punching can be initiated with the X button and initiates a first attack in combat. When investigating, players are on the lookout for objects to interact with or collect. Interacting with objects requires the help of the New Kid’s friends. In the beginning, the New Kid only has the help of Captain Diabetes, but eventually may receive help from up to four different friends. The investigation element is actually fairly fun and enjoyable, requiring players to continually visit different locations so that they can collect objects which were previously inaccessible.
Health is non-existent unless the boys are in combat. Each combat session is independent of the last. This means that each combat instance gives players full health for their team. This is an interesting and gracious design decision by Ubisoft, but it would have been nice to have manage the new kid’s health between fights. A large part of an RPG experience is the challenge of managing health between combat by scavenging healing kits or finding healing stations. With the abundance of supplies in this game, it wouldn’t have been hard to add a continuous health element.
The fast travel system is a nice addition. The town of South Park isn’t that big and can be traversed in only a few minutes. But those few minutes add up when constantly going back and forth. With the fast travel system, it takes a three second load screen to go from the school on one side of town to Tweek’s Coffee Shop on the other. By the end of the game, the system saves players an immense amount of time when completing quests.
Graphics in South Park games have never been astounding. The Fractured but Whole follows suit. But the allure is that players feel like they are playing an episode of South Park. The switch between watching a cut scene and being in control of the New Kid is flawless. Players will enter a door and enter instantaneously into a cut scene which sets up the next fight. The only giveaway that the cut scene has ended is the grid system’s outline superimposed on the background for combat. The Fractured but Whole feels more like a Telltale game than an RPG in this regard. But instead of making dialogue choices, players are required to control characters in combat.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker do most of the voice acting like they do with the TV show. This adds to the feeling of being in an episode of South Park. The Fractured but Whole does an excellent job of providing an experience for fans of South Park. Throughout the game there are references to past episodes. Walking into a store, players may hear Faith +1, the Jonas Brothers or Kanye playing in the background. Looking in the closets of kids reveals items from earlier times. True South Park fans will enjoy all of the Easter eggs. This doesn’t mean players who are not South Park fans will not enjoy the game. But to say RPG fans will have the same experience as South Park fans would be a complete lie.
The typical South Park humor is prevalent throughout The Fractured but Whole. But the humor seems to have been toned down from what it was in the Stick of Truth. The predecessor had moments that left players genuinely shocked. The Stick of Truth had players killing aborted Nazi fetuses, performing abortions and exploring Mr. Slave’s colon. None of this shock humor was in The Fractured but Whole, which hangs its hat on fart jokes mostly. If the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, there are too many fart jokes to count. By the end of the game, the fart jokes are more annoying than funny.
The Fractured but Whole is somewhat replayable. With the high amount of hero abilities to choose from, it could be fun to play through the game several times with a different combination of classes. However, the game is fairly linear. While the game encourages players to explore South Park by the end of the first playthrough, players will have explored South Park ad nauseum. Achievements can be completed in a single playthrough and players can wrap up any ones they missed after the main story is completed. This is a nice change from the Stick of Truth, where several achievements were easily missed, requiring another attempt by starting a new game. A skilled player may be able to complete the Fractured but Whole with 100% completion in a mere 15 hours on the hardest difficulty.
Written by Michael Trosper
Micheal resides in a small town in eastern Montana. As an attorney, he has an interest in the intellectual property issues facing the gaming industry. He’s been a gamer since the age of 6, when his dad gifted him a Sega Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog for his birthday. Gaming has been his passion ever since. His favorite game is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which he has completed an unreasonable amount of times.