South Park: The Fractured But Whole Review
When South Park: The Stick of Truth came out back in 2014, I had rather low expectations for the game. After playing it, I realized both Obsidian and South Park Studios had delivered one of the sleeper hits of 2014. Having achieved both commercial and critical success, it was quickly announced that there would be a sequel dubbed South Park: The Fractured But Whole. This sequel spent three years in semi – development hell, but is finally out. Was it worth the wait? How does it hold up to The Stick of Truth? Here is my South Park: The Fractured But Whole review.
What is South Park: The Fractured But Whole?
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is the sequel to the 2014 released South Park: The Stick of Truth. The game is based on Comedy Central’s hit series South Park. In the game, players take on the role of a ‘new kid’ who moves into South Park and experiences the craziness of the town first hand. Since the events in The Stick of Truth, the gang has moved on from medieval role playing to the more popular superhero genre.
If you played through South Park: The Stick of Truth, you will immediately be familiar with the core mechanics of The Fractured But Whole. Basically, the game can be neatly divided into two main pillars: Combat and Exploration. Of these two pillars, combat has seen the most refinement and change from The Stick of Truth.
Combat in South Park: The Fractured But Whole sits comfortably within the turn based, grid movement genre. The turn based aspect of The Fractured But Whole remains relatively true to the systems found in The Stick of Truth. You and a party of teammates (now four teammates per battle instead of two), take turns attacking, defending, or using items during your allotted turn. There is minor control input during things like attacking which impact damage (think something like Paper Mario). This aspect of combat plays very closely to The Stick of Truth, but introduces a new wrinkle with the grid based system.
In South Park: The Stick of Truth, characters were fixed in place during combat. South Park: The Fractured But Whole changes this by adding a grid based system which introduces movement as well as limited attack range and attack patterns to combat. As a fan of the simplicity of combat in South Park: The Stick of Truth, I was a little bummed by the new addition of the grid system. By introducing the grid, players now need to strategize more. From a purely mechanical perspective, the grid systems work well, but it’s just not really my jam. Instead of enjoying the combat, I found myself just sort of trudging through it.
Although South Park: The Fractured But Whole features revamped combat mechanics, I still found the game’s difficulty to be rather easy. I suck at strategy games so I played through South Park: The Fractured But Whole on Normal. In total I died a whopping five times throughout my entire playthrough. Again, your experience may be different, but overall it just seems like the grid system doesn’t add all that much.
While I was fairly lukewarm on the combat in South Park: The Fractured But Whole, I really enjoyed the other pillar of the game, exploration. South Park is an absolute joy to explore. Many of the shows iconic landmarks can be visited and explored. Having the freedom to do this is a joy. I also found that running into characters from the show; collecting costumes; collecting Yaoi photos; and completing side quests delivered hours of enjoyment to me. Honestly if they dropped the combat and just let me run around South Park, I would consider this a near perfect game.
Overall Thoughts on Gameplay
My thoughts on the gameplay of South Park: The Fractured But Whole were mixed, but mostly positive. The combat did very little for me and often felt like a chore, but the exploration I loved. This criticism largely comes down to the style of games I personally like to play. If you like turn based grid combat, you will like the combat here. I won’t dock any points for not liking the game’s combat, but I thought I would share my experience with the system.
When I played through The Stick of Truth I was blown away by the game’s production value and design. The same compliments can be used here. South Park: The Fractured But Whole looks exactly like the show. It’s actually amazing to see how close the animation is. I was completely blown away with how everything looked. The immersion the top tier design created was huge for my enjoyment of the game. Everything from the look to the sound of South Park: The Fractured But Whole appears to have been hand crafted and should be applauded. Really. It looks and sounds exactly like the show.
Story + Humor
I played through The Stick of Truth in preparation for The Fractured But Whole and feel it actually hurt my experience with the game. South Park: The Stick of Truth feels like they pushed the story and humor as close to the upper limit on an M rating as was possible. The Fractured But Whole on the other hand, feels a bit muted in comparison. While there were moments I found funny, I never was shocked like I was in The Stick of Truth. I want to be shocked!
South Park: The Fractured But Whole ran flawlessly for me. I had no issues with the game. As a PC gamer, this was a nice bonus as often PC drops can be rather unpredictable.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is a fun, but flawed gaming experience. Changes to the combat system and the story/humor had me somewhat disappointed, but the overall experience I had with most other aspects of the game were positive. If you are a fan of South Park, this game is a no brainer to pick up.