Disclaimer: For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed from a purchased game. The fact the game is purchased does not affect my judgement of this game.
The Fractured but Whole continues straight on from its predecessor, The Stick of Truth following the adventures of ‘The New Kid’ and the rest of the South Park residents. This time around, the kids have moved on from the fantasy setting and have turned their attention to creating their own role-playing super heroes. The game opens with Coon and Friends discussing the major movie franchise they plan to create using their homemade Super Heroes before erupting into an argument and splitting off into 2 factions; Coon and Friends led by The Coon (Cartman) and Freedom Pals led by Dr Timothy (Timmy). The New Kid gets pulled into the civil war while also trying to solve the mystery of Scrambles, a missing cat with a $100 reward which the team need to start their franchise. In true South Park style, the game gets weird and wonderful as well as gross and disturbing as the kids fight their way through numerous crazy situations.
The story feels just like an extended episode and is full to the brim with in-jokes and references from the series. As a massive fan of the show, I found myself chuckling many times to a random piece of scenery or the name of a piece of junk I collected that reminds me of the episode it came from. I’m unsure of how much of this would be picked up by those who do not watch the show, however, most items or call-backs to the show are ridiculous and funny in themselves so will likely raise a laugh either way. Much like The Stick of Truth, almost every memorable character from the game makes an appearance and can be punched, farted on or spoken to delivering one liners and insults in return.
For those who are unfamiliar with the newer seasons of South Park, it may not be apparent that the show has moved on from random zany episodes and has become a lot more satirical, using real world events and controversies. This is translated into the game in exactly the same way with issues such as race and gender being used both comically and yet completely legitimately. The game allows you to pick any race and pretty much any gender which is not something seen every day in games. Of course, in true South Park style it makes a joke of the whole process but the choices are still there; how many other games can you play as a black Japanese, gender fluid pansexual in fabulous make-up dressed as Thor? Whether these decisions or jokes are seen as just poor taste or as a deeper statement on politics and the state of the world is a matter of opinion.
The Fractured but Whole is essentially an RPG in which player traverse the town of South Park, both outside and in, solving puzzles and mysteries while fighting a range of enemies along the way. The enemies can be seen before battle giving the player an opportunity to cause some damage or a debuff before battle commences. This could range from throwing a firecracker or a fart at the enemy to stun them or gross them out or dropping a piece of the environment on them to take a few members out completely. The enemies are much more varied this time around which is a welcome change to the fairly repetitive fights of the games predecessor.
Beneath the jokes and immaturity that comes with anything South Park related is a relatively deep and fun to play RPG which improves from the original in almost every way. The Stick of Truth played similarly to early JRPG titles such as Final Fantasy, with turn based combat at its core with the occasional well timed button press to deal more damage or block a hit. The Fractured but Whole expands on this and makes it much more fun and far less repetitive. The core turn based combat is the same but players now have an interchangeable team of 4 and the field of play is gridded to allow movement rather than the static play of the original. This allows for a much more strategic approach as players can move away from attacks or flank enemies in order to cause more damage, a feature sorely missing from The Stick of Truth.
Players pick a class for their character and as the game progresses, pick more allowing for a large range of combinations that are used to create a play style. Each class has a particular strength such as speed or range and can be customised further by equipping artifacts. Artifacts increase the teams overall might as well as increasing stats dependent on the nature of the item. These can be picked up throughout the town or are made using the newly introduced crafting system. The Fractured but Whole drops the weapon system of its predecessor in favour of superpowers but introduces a crafting system to create outfits, artifacts and items. Outfits are interchangeable and plentiful, with a large majority based on various DC and Marvel superheroes, although with a South Park spin of course. The outfits no longer do anything for the character and are purely cosmetic but the sheer choice had me changing every time I picked a new one up.
The Fractured but Whole looks gorgeous for what it is and captures the show perfectly in every way. There was not a moment in my time playing that I didn’t feel like I was immersed in an episode of the show. The HD graphics pop on next gen consoles and I didn’t experience any of the slowdown that hit the original. It is difficult to call the graphics good in the traditional sense of the word as they are not supposed to be, they are supposed to replicate a TV show that looks like it is made from cut paper, a task it does flawlessly. The game does the same as the show in terms of mixed media, with the occasional real FMV (Guinea Pirate!) entering the animation, another effect it achieves seamlessly. The sound is suitably grand for a superhero game, with dramatic scores used to make the action feel epic, often interrupted by a kid yelling ‘Car’, prompting the clearing of the battlefield, reminding the player that these are role-playing kids not real superheroes! The voices are well scripted and true to the show and the dialogue feels natural when talking to the myriad of NPC characters dotted around South Park.
For me, The Fractured but Whole ticks all the boxes as a tie in with the show but also as a fun adventure with enjoyable combat. The jokes are a little hit and miss but there are enough that most people will chuckle but it will very much depend on whether you enjoy dark and often twisted humour. For fans it’s a must play, it improves on the Stick of Truth in almost every way and incorporates the themes and jokes from the most recent series. For those not into the show, I would perhaps advise catching a couple of episodes before shelling out £50 as it will definitely not appeal to everyone.