When it comes to sequels many games are either hit or miss, while some live up to their predecessors success others tend to fall short. The Stick of Truth was the first time fans were able to see the world of South Park in new light, being able to explore the town of South Park like never before. Having a sequel being developed by a new dev team is something fans of the first game have been worried about ever since it were announced. While a new dev team were in charge of the sequel a lot of fans were wondering what could possibly follow the obscure story and humor of the Stick of Truth. South Park The Fractured But Whole is the type of sequel any game would be lucky to have, delivering on almost all fronts while being strong enough to stand on it’s own. The Fractured but Whole is clearly centered around fan service and catering to those fans like no other game has done before.
Welcome back to South Park.
During the Stick of Truth the boys were wrapped around a story and battle style that combined elements of D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) with classic turn based RPG mechanics. The Fractured but Whole builds on that concept with a few minor tweaks, gone are the D&D based story and instead the boys now enter the world of Super Heroes. Trading their wizard cloaks in for various gadgets and super hero abilities it’s clear to see that South Park’s latest game was influenced by the slew of comic based shows and films that’s currently popular. South Park has always been known for their up to date and crude take on popular media and news and the Fractured but Whole constantly reminds you of that throughout it’s journey.
While you take on the role of the “new kid” yet again, the Fractured but Whole instantly makes you feel welcomed from the get go. Once again you’re able to customize your character from the start of the game but this time with a twist. In true South Park nature the game isn’t shy from social commentary, when creating your character towards the end of the process you’re able to choose the difficulty setting for the game. Sounds fairly simple and straight forward right? Except the difficulty meter in this game isn’t what you might expect from a basic setting, shifting your characters skin tone to a darker complication is what sets the difficulty. It’s a small feature that not only is a classic South Park approach to humor but also one of the funniest sentiments in the game especially given Cartman’s commentary.
As the new kid in town you’re once again thrown into a new adventure as the characters abandon the Stick of Truth narrative for something more mainstream and popular. At it’s core the games narrative is fairly linear, the cats in South Park have gone missing and Cartman as the Coon, a wolverine meets batman like super hero sets out to find them. Unable to do it on his own he “time travels” back in time to speak to everyone still playing the Stick of Truth. The Coon tries to recruit everyone still playing the game of Stick of Truth into the “future” where heroes roam free. It’s a cute and fun intro that is fitting of the show’s nature to just shift perspectives. Just like that Coon and Friends are formed and seek to find the missing cats in South Park.
Since South Park The Fractured but Whole focuses on super heroes this time around, there was seemingly more effort put into the games core mechanics than the Stick of Truth. Throughout the game you’ll encounter numerous heroes and villians from Professor Chaos to Captain Diabetes and everyone in between. The Fractured but Whole may come across more linear than the first game but it’s filled with so many vivid characters that you kind of tend to let it go. Each hero you encounter in the game has their own set of powers that are both unique and fun that when it comes time to battle an enemy you’d be hard pressed to commit to only one formation in your team of four.
The battle system in The Fractured but Whole is simply incredible, fans of both the Stick of Truth and classic turn based RPG fans will instantly fall in love with the games polished classic RPG mechanics. While the Stick of Truth had a fun battle system of their own, the Fractured but Whole not only enhanced it but made it more compelling and fun. Strategy plays a major part in every battle, from crafting items to picking the right line up for your team to knowing which attacks to use to give you an edge in combat. The Fractured but Whole honestly blew my expectations out of the water when it comes to their battling system. Instead of just using my favorite South Park characters in my team at all times, I found myself revolving party members around to better fit the battle I was going in to.
Perhaps one of the best aspects of the Fractured but Whole is the games customization. South Park fully dives into the world of super heroes and their assigned hero classes are easily on the best improvements to the sequel. As the new kid you start off with one ability being able to choose between a speedster, brutalist or a elementilist projectile based hero. Pretty simple right? The three basic classes inspired by the likes of The Flash, Hulk and Human Torch/Iceman become your base power. Throughout the game you’ll be able to acquire more abilities ranging from numerous hero staples like Cybrog, Assassin, Psychic and more. At first it may seem a little hard to choose between but luckily South Park knew that there were too many tempting choices and leaves leaves all options open towards the final stretch of the game.
Professor Timmy (X) opens up the option to choose between all the abilities and customize your characters powers to point where you can mix and match from all of them. It’s a neat addition to the game and story and really makes you feel like a standout character (or Avatar). It’s moments like that which really make you appreciate the game and notice just how much effort was put into the game’s strategical aspect. Being able to choose your team members before every battle and alter your hero abilities at will before a battle make each encounter seem more thought out. As you progress in the game you’ll encounter various villains like the sixth graders and Crab People (“who look like crab, but kiss like people”), these battles you face are always fun and challenging in their own right but the games true excitement come from their over the top boss battles. You’ll never forget your encounter with former Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle….
As I mentioned earlier on, the Fractured but Whole is a game centered solely at fan service. There’s so much content in the game that caters exclusively to fans that if you’re a South Park fan you’ll be smiling from ear to ear. Once again the map of South Park is opened to players and you’re able to roam free and explore. Along the way you’ll encounter a lot of familiar faces and have some random but funny conversations with people. Easter eggs are spread throughout the game and die hard fans will notice them instantly. The catering to fans is something that’s made clear from the start and throughout your journey never seems to die down which is nice.
Personally, I loved the Stick of Truth it was one of the funniest games I have ever played and kept me constantly laughing throughout my play through, unfortunately I can’t say the same thing about the Fractured but Whole. Don’t get me wrong, the Fractured but Whole is funny and it did get some genuine laughs out of me but throughout my play through a lot of the jokes were misses and I found myself having more slight chuckles than belly laughs. When it comes to comedy the first South Park had some of the best jokes that were filled with both social commentary and classic mishaps through the characters lives. A lot of the jokes in the Fractured but Whole may be funny to some but I found myself kind of just sitting through them.
The Fractured but Whole is not a bad game by any means, it’s simply one that isn’t as funny as it’s predecessor. The Stick of Truth had a lot of elements that made it work, puzzle solving, comedy, familiar characters making cameos (that underpants gnome encounter) and some hilarious summons. The Fractured but Whole more often than not tries to recreate some of those moments but manage to fall short. The summons in Fractured but Whole are fun to use but lack some of the humor or over the top execution that made them so much fun to use in the first game. During the Stick of Truth you’re not only exploring South Park for the first time you’re also seeing a new side of characters and going through a story that’s insanely obscure.
Those elements are what made Stick of Truth so charming and funny, the Fractured but Whole on the other hand abandons those elements in a way. Unlike it’s predecessor this sequel feels more linear and straight forward. Sure you can explore the town again but after already doing so in the Stick of Truth there aren’t enough changes made in them that you really feel compelled to do so. A lot of the humor seemingly didn’t phase me this time around and while there were some moments that had me laughing like Randy with keys, most of the times I was just trying to get through a mission and didn’t really chuckle. Content heavy is one of the best ways to describe the game but it’s also one of the best ways the game tends to hold itself back. There are so many little side missions you can take on that a lot of them begin to feel more like a chore rather than fun side mission or reward.
The mini story between Tweak and Craig for example feels incredibly mundane as you just run back and forth between the two doing errands for one another. While on the subject of Tweak of Craig, the game’s fixation with Yaoi (boy on boy anime action) is one of the funnier moments in the games side mission aspects. However it tends to overstay it’s welcome by having you hunt down numerous portraits of the two. The Fractured but Whole is filled with moments like that, things that start off funny but kind of get ridden into the dirt after being too frequently referenced and used. Moments like this don’t exactly help the games overall appeal, outside of the battle system there isn’t much improvement over the Stick of Truth. The game puzzle solving aspect to gameplay seems a little dumbed down from the first and really simplistic which makes solving them easy but going through them a bore.
South Park the Fractured but Whole is by no means a bad game, it’s also not a great game by any means either. As far as a stand alone game goes it’s funny and charming but not nearly as funny and charming as it makes itself out to be. As a fan of the series I have enjoyed my time with it but as a gamer playing an RPG I found myself needing breaks and kind of pushing through it. Fan service and great core mechanics are the games saving grace but the linear story and basic puzzle solving elements really weigh it down at the end. The Stick of Truth was filled with charm and genuinely funny moments through it’s entirety, the Fractured but Whole unfortunately doesn’t fall under the same spectrum.
The characters of South Park are charming in their own crude way and there are moments of genuine laughter to be found in the game, it just so happens they fall far in between one another. South Park and their dev team have potentially one of the better up and coming RPG series under their belt. If given time to breath and develop further the South Park series could have one of the better RPG series in the genre today. The combat system is great and the characters are the constant highlight of the game, with a little more polishing the third installment could potentially be the best in the series. Personally, I enjoyed the time I had with the Fractured but Whole but even I know it was mainly because of the curiosity as to where this story was going. The Stick of Truth had me hooked on laughs but this sequel had me going back hoping things would better/funnier.
After finishing the game, I can honestly say that unlike Stick of Truth I don’t think I’ll be returning to the Fractured but Whole any time soon to start a new journey. The game tends to drag on a little and takes some time to pick up steam. Sure of the references are funny with Jimmy being a speed based hero named Fastpass and of course my personal favorite Captain Diabetes. But the mundane moments of the game like the puzzle solving and constant new kid fart jokes make each in between moments feel longer than they should. There are some genuinely memorable moments and honest laughs to be had in the Fractured but Whole, I honestly just wish they were more frequently made.
Even for those who may not be a South Park fan will have fun time with the game, there’s enough content and customization options in the game to keep things interesting. Especially if you’re a fan of RPG’s. At the end of the day however the Fractured but Whole feels more or less like a sequel focused on making fans happy rather than giving gamers something better. While there are improvements in the Fractured but Whole that make the Stick of Truth feel more basic, it’s just not enough to keep you consistently invested. The character of the new kid is fun to explore and develop, but given how the character is essentially mute and relies solely on his farts to express his true power it does get a little boring and old fast. The Fractured but Whole may cater to fans like no other game has before but for those outside the spectrum of super fans, there’s simply not enough interesting elements and humor in the game.