Obsidian Entertainment teamed up with Ubisoft and Matt Stone and Trey Parker to turn their legendary television show into a computer game. I know that there has been many South Park games out over the years, but other than the FPS on the N64 (its quality was questionable at best if you think back), most of these games weren’t all that. But in 2014 they released South Park: The Stick of Truth, which was an action fantasy (at least themed) RPG that looked exactly like the TV series.
The story followed a new kid (the player protagonist) who comes to town and joins in with the kids as they play fantasy make believe, and you play a nice basic turn base RPG. It was hilarious in places and some of the scenes were outrageous, just as you would expect. It was actually a really decent game with many memorable bits throughout (see: anal probe and the abortion clinic adventures). It pretty much struck gold. I don’t know a single person who has played it and not enjoyed it, even people who had not watched the show for years. This was a key thing as you don’t want to JUST make it solely for people who are up to date with the show. South Park has changed dramatically a number of times over the course of its 20+ years on our television, and people just joining in would automatically feel alienated and not get most of the references. Of course there were things in there for long term fans of the show to enjoy, but I did feel that even if you haven’t watched South Park in years, you could still pick it up and enjoy the story as its own individual entity, which is one of the flaws of the sequel.
In 2017 Obsidian and South Park Digital Studios attempted to recreate the magic that was The Stick of Truth with a direct sequel: The Fractured But Whole.
This time the kids are playing superhero. Those up the to date with the last few seasons of the show know about Coon and Friends (Cartman’s superhero persona and his Avenger group). You play the Buttlord, who was the King at the end of the last game but now is the new farting vigilante who is joining the Coon and Friends in there mission to find out what has been happening to all the cats in South Park. As you would expect the story goes out of control, dealing with Ninja’s, the Mafia, Mutated 6th Graders, and Crab People.
You pick which type of superhero you want to be out of about 3 or 4, and unlock more throughout the story allowing you to multi-class and mix and match the ability of your character.
I will start with the bad stuff, so not to let this review end with the feeling that I did not enjoy it, as this is simply not the case. It is just TFBW is just not as good as the original, although it is close.
I just finished this game last night, which I got for Christmas only 2 weeks ago, so this shows us that the length of this RPG is about the same sort of size as its predecessor. It is much shorter than any other type of RPG you have played, but that works fine for this type of game as it does not outstay its welcome. This was a big factor for me with TFBW as, at times, I did feel that I had to force my way through it.
The comedy is just as good as anything Matt and Trey have produced on the small screen, and there were times that really did make me laugh, but sometimes the gameplay did feel like a bit of a drag. There isn’t as strong a story as there was in The Stick of Truth, and that really does let it down a bit, although a lot of the plot was intriguing and I did want to find out more, however the overall storyline was no where near as epic as the originals.
One major issue, not for me personally, was that this game followed on from the most recent season of the show. If you have not seen it, or the seasons before it, then you will struggle to understand some of what occurs in the game. Whereas TSOT did feel like a self-contained piece of work, TFBW carries on things that were established in the TV show (sometimes only weeks before the games initial release) and if you are not up to date then you will struggle with it.
As I said this was not an issue for me, but I can imagine that this will effect a lot of people’s enjoyment of the game.
My last negative point is that the original game was a streamlined RPG at best (similar to how you would say Assassin’s Creed is an RPG), but TFBW streamlined it even more and made modifying your character down to just selecting the artefact with the higher value. The RPG element of the game is near enough non-existent. Instead what we have is the ability to change the player character’s powers, however since you can only have 4 of them (and one of them is your special ultimate limit break power, and you often spend that on Tweek and Craig’s Ultimate Power move), you really only get to pick three moves to play with.
Having said that, you are given a lot more choice for people you can use in battle this time around, having multiple people in a fight on your side, so you do get to have a mix around then to find the best combination for your team.
So, gameplay wise it plays exactly the same when out of battle, you explore the town of South Park, which is the exact same map as the last game, only with the places updated and slightly different. You search around for anything marked yellow to search, automatically picking it up rather than having to select it as you did in TSOT, so this streamlined addition has made an improvement. You also find things such as lego lava blocking your way, or electronic locks that you cannot get past, which means that you need to return to these areas once you have unlocked the buddy ability. As you go through the game, at certain points in the story, other characters help you outside of battle to clear away obstacles and what not in order to allow you access to these areas. Sometimes a few of these are present at one location, and since you have to scan it (searching for the correct buddy) and then the player avatar has to use his phone to contact them, it can take a little bit too long to get through these areas. A few of these puzzles are well done and may take you a little while to figure out, but more often than not, it can be quite an annoyance.
When you do unlock a new buddy ability, it can be quite refreshing as you remember a lot of the obstacles you couldn’t figure out how to get past that you can now access, so it does pay to go back and explore, unlocking new costume cosmetics for your character, or items you will barely use.
It is mainly here in the buddy system that a lot of the shows toilet humour is in play, as your character has the special power to do incredible farts (as he did in the last game), which allows you to combine this with Stan’s sand blower to blast away debris, or to fart in Scott Malkinson’s face in order to make him go into a diabetic rage and clear certain obsticles for you.
If you add this to the fact you can take a dump in every toilet in South Park, which results in a minigame which is more difficult depending on the toilet’s level, then you can see that TFBW does a lot more toilet humour than the previous game.
There is a crafting system (which I am not sure if it was in TSOT) and that allows you to make better artifacts to boost your character or to help out in battle, as well as occasionally being a required mission item, but most of the time this screen will be unused.
There are a few side missions in the game, but most of these turn out to be actual missions that you have to complete in order to proceed. I completed the game in 13 hours with only about 2 side missions needed to be completed, everything else (bar one or two) felt as if they were essential to the story at the time and required in order to proceed, which do not count as being a side quest.
The battle system has change from the last game. As I mentioned before you can have a party of 4 now in battle, including the player character (classic Final Fantasy style), however these other characters do not change throughout the game and only level up in terms of the amount of damage that they deal out.
Instead of the old Final Fantasy battle system where everybody stands staring at each other until it is someone’s turn, TFBW now has a chess style square gridded board which allows the characters to move around the battle area to optimise their attack. It means that sometimes you need to spend turns getting into the right area so you can attack on the next turn, and other times it means you can utilise that group of enemies clustered together by using an Area of Effect attack and hitting them all.
It works well at times, especially when more environmental factors come into play (explosive barrels and trap doors), but because every characters’ abilities have set areas in which they can attack, some of the characters are quite ineffective unless the enemy is directly in front of them, which makes you decide to swap that character out and never use them again.
My team, myself, Mysterion (Kenny), Wonder Tweek (Tweek), and Toolshed (Stan) I picked because I felt that I had a good rounded team that could hit in a variety of different directions depending on how the enemy were spaced out around the board.
Sometimes you do have to skip a turn, or use a summon, to actually be able to do something on the turn you have just moved to get into position.
Some abilities, such as Mysterion’s, allow you to move enemies into places (if optimised correctly), to help out theirs positions for your next character’s attack, so it can be quite tactical at times.
Another great tactical point is when you start multi classing and combining powers with others. You can make a really overpowered hero towards the end of the game.
At the end of the day, The Fractured But Whole is more of the same as what we have previously seen before in The Stick of Truth. If you enjoyed that game then you will most certainly enjoy this one, even if it is maybe not as memorable as its predecessor. The same brilliant South Park writing is here and will have you laughing out loud at multiple points throughout the game.
The only thing I would say is that if you are not up to date with the TV show, then you will feel a little left behind with some of what is going on, or some of the references that frequently occur throughout the game. If you are a long term die hard SP fan like myself, then this will not be a problem and you will get along with the game fine.
For the old school fans of the show, there are loads of fun to be hand here. Especially when you return to the genetic engineering labs and see the animals with multiple asses as this is a great throwback to the very first season of the show over 20 years ago! Which I still feel as if it was not that long ago, causing me to show my age a bit.
Overall The Fractured But Whole is a fun and enjoyable adventure into the TV show that maybe feels a little watered down, streamlined, or otherwise repeated version of what we have already seen before with the previous game. Although the story makes a nice change by mixing up with the Coon and Friends arc, the overall plot isn’t anywhere near as strong. Although there are a few memorable bits, fantastic summons and some genuinely funny moments, I did feel myself pushing myself through some parts of this game.
The references to other comic book hero movies and Netflix seasons is fantastically done and I do feel that this game was catered for someone exactly like me; a 30 year old geek, old school Final Fantasy lover, South Park veteran who still watches it today, and Superhero film fan who is up to date with all the Marvel and DC films. If you are not one of those people, then you might struggle a bit with this game, but you will still have a lot of fun with this 12 hours game, even if it might be a bit forgettable a short while down the line after finishing it.