This is a game I have been looking forward to for a long time, because I had such a great time with The Stick of Truth, probably one of the last comedy games that actually made me laugh. But my excitement came with a caveat as it’s been some time since I’ve watched and enjoyed the South Park TV Show and I was afraid I would end up having to endure that Mr. Garrison as Trump shite. As it turns out I needn’t have worried because Fractured but Whole is great, in fact it’s possibly one of my favourite games this year.(I can’t quite explain why though.)
Set in the titular town of South Park literally the day after the events of Stick of Truth, you once again take control of the “New Kid” to south park, a silent protagonist with super farts. Unlike the first game however this time around you and your friends decide instead to play superheroes, with the hopes of getting your own media franchise. But when the group of heroes are unable to decide who will get a movie deal and who will get a Netflix series, they are split into two factions, Coon & Friends and the Freedom Pals. The former decides that in order for them to succeed they will need to raise their profile and some money, so they set out to find a missing cat, but end up stumbling upon a larger conspiracy.(No not “that” larger conspiracy)
This maybe one of those rare occasions where I find myself liking the sequel more than the original, because I certainly had more fun with Fractured but Whole than I did with its predecessor. Not that the original was bad it’s just that this one seems more polished, particularly the combat, as it has had a complete overhaul. Unlike in Stick of Truth where you only had one teammate and were forced to use a clunky, inconsistent, pain in the ass quick time event to block or do critical damage that made combat feel like a chore, this time around you make up a team of four and use a movement grid to avoid incoming attacks or to get in a better position to deal damage. And let me tell you figuring out the best combination of teammates, each with their own ultimate finisher is a lot of fun. You can also use the environment around you in battle to get an advantage, adding another strategic element to combat.
I also enjoyed how varied the Boss battles were in this game, where as some games fall back on the old “bigger version of an enemy with more health” trope, that’s not the case here, some bosses require you to end the fight by escaping, some you have to hurt with the environment and some you have to get stoned, no I’m serious. It is clear a real effort has been made in FBW to make each boss encounter feel unique.(I mean what other game has a boss fight like this!)
The writing in Fractured but Whole is also a lot better, while Stick of Truth was funny and well written, I found it relied a bit too heavily on shock humour and gross-out jokes and by the end it seemed they were just trying to make it as ridiculous as possible to appear ironic. But it’s clear they have taken the criticism on board because the humour in FBW was a lot subtler (for South Park anyway), nothing felt like it was being dragged out or hammered home to the point of exhaustion and the plot was, while still ridiculous, well told and polished.
And for those worried about “getting” the humour, don’t, there are also far fewer “in jokes” in this one, leaving it more accessible to those that may not be up to date with the TV show and the few that are left in, are still quite funny without context.(Childhood diabetes, that’s comedy gold!)
I’ve heard a few complaints about the gameplay area itself, saying that you explore essentially the same town and similar environments. And while that is true to an extent I found it no less fun to explore because given that there are new enemies with different powers this time around, some with the ability to block off exploration, you are forced to find alternative routes and paths, which allows you to experience the town in a subtly different way.(You never know what you might find)
Despite my high praise and the undoubtedly high score I will inevitably give this game, I do have one or two issues with it, such as the lengthy, unskippable cut scenes that follow each summon and team members ultimate finisher. While they are all brilliantly unique and funny, after the 20th time they start to wear a bit thin and despite them ostensibly being included to end battles quickly you find yourself not using them entirely just to save time.(This is not one of them however)
There are also one or two battles towards the end of the game that bring the pace to a screeching halt and honestly, they seem like nothing more than padding, which is unnecessary because unlike it’s predecessor Fractured but Whole is already a substantial length.
South Park: Fractured but Whole is a stupidly fun game, a true successor that improves on the original in every way possible, better story, better comedy and substantially better gameplay. If you like RPG’s you’ll love tinkering with your combat strategies until you get the perfect team, if you like comedy games, this one will have you laughing out loud for hours, if you love fun, this is the game for you.