South Park: The Fractured but Whole: Take me ass in time
I am a fan of South Park, I think I would like to start with that as the opener. Please consider the fact to be my admission of bias towards both South Park games. That is not to say that I am going to waste your time drooling over the game uncritically. South Park: The Stick of Truth was a pretty good game but was mired by extremely unchallenging gameplay and rather uninteresting combat. The Fractured but Whole thankfully improves on most of the issues (god that was a loaded statement) and is a much better game overall.
The Fractured but Whole picks directly where The Stick of Truth left off. The kids are still playing as their fantasy personas until Cartman surprises them with the news of a missing cat. Whose 100$ reward will get them (supposedly) to kick-start their superhero franchise and make tons of money. There is also another plotline of a career criminal raising crime in the town to become major. As to be excepted, the lines between reality and fantasy blur, and hilarity ensues.
South Park's humor
The reason I love South Park is that under the fart jokes and shock humor is a surprisingly intelligent satire on life, the universe, and everything. Normally, South Park tackles whatever issues are currently plaguing American social-political-economic life in their irreverent way. This can be anything from that one time when (post 9/11) Matt Stone and Trey Parker turned Osama Bin laden into the victim of loony tunes short or their thoughts on World of Warcraft. This time the two whippersnappers have turned their attention to the glut of superhero movies. The humor can be very off-putting sometimes and can make you uncomfortable. This is a game where you (a ten-year-old child) gives a lap dance to a drunken man in a stripper bar.
But that is juxtaposed with one questline that involves crooked, drugged-out cops feeding black people to a Lovecraftian god (Shub Niggurath). This is a quest line so unusual and memorable that it wouldn’t seem out of place in a Jordan Peel production. So where am I going with this? I honestly don’t know, humour is very difficult to criticize as it is so subjective. I laughed at the absurdity of racist cops locking up black people to appease an elder god. The lap dance scene cringed the hell out of me. But I was always having fun. I didn't care if the set up for the jokes was a little telegraphed, it still brought on the laughs. I would suggest you watch some episodes or check out the trailers beforehand. You need to decide if South Park is right for you.
The writing as a whole
One of the best aspects of The Fractured but Whole’s writing is the character interactions during gameplay. Whenever someone misremembers Cartman’s Coon and Friends as “Coon Friends” He gets upset. Showing his narcissism at not being able to own and feel superior to everyone else. He insults Wendy “Call Girl” whenever she is in combat. South Park puts it’s character’s personality in full display, making the world feel alive.
Cartman, Kyle, and Tokin, etc feel like real people with real personalities. The world brimming with people with agendas and lives that interact with one another, they are people who invest you in the game. You want to see what these strange kids get up to next. Will Tweak and Craig get back together? Will they beat their relationship problems in the face and hold hands? I wanted to know dammit! The characters drive the plot and drive the player to keep playing.
In stark contrast to Stick of Truth. The Fractured but Whole is a turn-based grid RPG, instead of the static plane of its predecessor (think Final Fantasy 7 or 6). This is a massive improvement over Stick of Truth in many ways, from offering the player a wider range of tactics and play styles to the enemy behavior and abilities. The game however is a little disappointedly easy, even on the harder levels.
The map is still very small but quite explorable. The content outside the quests are very disappointing and lacking in substance. They normally amount to collecting x amount of stuff to get points. It is rather underwhelming, cause if you are going to have a smaller open world map then the least you can do offers the player something interesting to do. Collecting Yaoi art while I am questing is a nice extra feature but I wouldn’t go out of my way to for it.
Same with the cats or the member berries, I like catching them while doing the story but the reward for 100% completion is the stuff that I either have in abundance or badges that become useless extremely fast. I would have loved for more high-quality side quests involving the South Park denizens, cause there are simply not enough, Craig, and Tweak get a fun little storyline where they make up and fight their respective expectations and relationship problems. But there could have been more storylines than just placing a failed comedian's poster on billboards.
Here, have a badge
There is a badge system, which influences all members of the party. These carry many benefits that influence anything from status effects to combo damage to knockback. The problem is that when you realize that it all comes down to whatever badge has the highest number. The effects mentioned increase in tandem when the number of the badge. Not to mention that better numbers flow through steadily and easily. Crafting is practically an overkill as better ones are always around the corner. Don’t get me wrong, the badge system is a good idea but it is way too simplistic.
The battleground is made up of a grid, where you can freely move (within a certain amount of squares), each attack affects several squares. Status effects apply debuffs or buffs which affect the target at the start and end of the turn. You can also knock back opponents with certain attacks and they can do the same to you. I love the combat, I love that you can move, I love the status effects and the ability to force your opponent around the battlefield.
The combat just feels more alive, I have the strategies you can come up with your skills (unlike Stick of Truth) you have access to a wide array of different abilities to fit any sort of playstyle. You are encouraged to experiment and it is fun to find the best selection that befits your play style and situation. The fact that you can knock back a foe into an ally who scores a free hit is great. The fact that Henrietta casts a spell that heals then casts an AOE life steal opens up opportunities for combos with melee teammates that were simply not possible in Stick of Truth.
I normally play games on the difficulty that it is meant to be played. This tends to be normal. But in the first few hours, I didn’t die or even got seriously injured. Fearing that this was going to the Stick of Truth all over again (too easy) I bumped up the difficulty to hard. Thinking back, I should have taken it up to the highest level. Even though there I had to think on my feet, the curve can be very unstable. Shub Niggurath went down like a wet fart while not Michael-Jackson wiped the floor with me. There was no difference between power levels as enemies are scaled slightly above or equal to your level. I think the difference is one of boss behavior, Shub Niggurath had very predictable patterns and a clear goal.
Cory Haim (not Michael Jackson) has a complicated attack pattern with a ton of variables, from the number of vampires to ally placement. But then again, towards the end of the game (the final mission infect) the boss fights were absurdly easy. But the boss fight with Jared Fogle (brilliantly portrayed in the best way) was strangely difficult, with Jared Fogle instant killing my teammates. Oh, and please note that this boss fight was before Shub Niggurath. How on earth is a pedophile a harder boss than a cosmic deity? I also dislike the Jared Fogle boss fight because of the instant death attack, that is a cheap difficulty. It also doesn't help that I had healing and revival items coming out of my ears. The game hands you so many healing items (along with crafting) that it quickly becomes overkill, it reduces the difficulty.
Art style and Graphics:
The Fractured but Whole has more expressive animation than the previous entry (in keeping with the TV series bettering animation). The New Kid is so expressive in several ways. Like the cheeky smile he makes when improvising the farting trumpet, or the sadness expressed when eating alone. He is characterized purely through his facial features and it’s brilliant.
I had a blast with this entry, just about everything is better. I just wish there was more a challenge offered, I would suggest the highest difficulty to stimulate skill. But overall, Matt Stone and Trey Parker deliver the goods and sometimes even more. I highly recommend this one.
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