The reason we all love South Park is their ability to parody everything. Nothing is off limits and in the PC world we live in, sometimes it’s best to draw attention to sensitive social issues with the tact of a sledge hammer and just confront it head on. Admittedly we may be a little late on the ball for this one, but with the release of the Casa Bonita DLC we’ll be exploring next week, it’s time to take a look at South Park: The Fractured But Whole.
If you’re anything like me, you would have played The Stick of Truth and thought. “Hey, this is pretty good BUT…” There was just something missing. It was a great game, hilarious story and had characters we all know and love. It just had quite a few “buts” that held it back from perfection. In no way was it a bad game, quite the opposite in fact, it just had a somewhat lacklustre combat system and felt as if it could have been well suited to a mobile platform.
So diving into The Fractured But Whole, I retained a healthy amount of skepticism and thought this was just going to be a new story for the franchise. I was wrong.
Using the remnant forces of the Stick of Truth as a tutorial, we bid farewell to the fantasy realm of Zaron that it was set. The Coon teleports in with a new game; find the missing cat, collect $100, kick start an epic superhero film franchise.
Of course that’s a very simplified over arch, because if you’ve seen the anarchy that follows any South Park episode, you know that’s only the beginning. From rescuing Mosquito from the honey trap that is Raisin Girls and the ongoing feud between them to fetching “medication” for Classi (with an I and a little dick hanging off the L fuckin the SHIT out of tha ASS). The absurdity escalates as you progress, typical yet I’m so into it!
Where do I fit in South Park?
You are still the New Kid, of course just because you rose to the dizzying heights of King Douchebag doesn’t mean you’re just allowed to play superheroes. You’ve gotta earn that right. Starting out; Cartman sets you up on Coonstagram and you have to select a class. There’s three to choose from initially; Speedster, Brutalist and Blaster. As you progress you unlock more and can mix up power abilities between them.
The levelling system is pretty unique. Instead of a level by level incremental increase in powers and buffs, you unlock artifact slots which you use collected or crafted (yes crafted) items to slot in which grant a multitude of different buffs. Of course some are more useful than others depending on what classes and powers you’ve decided to add to your arsenal.
It’s actually a really good way of keeping the game fresh. In many RPG style games you can quite quickly tire of the same animations and moves. Yeah they may be your strongest abilities but shit it gets tedious. That’s no longer a real concern here, with a bit of tweaking you can utilise a huge range of abilities and swap out artifacts to buff them. Overwhelmed yet? Yeah it’s a little confusing to wrap your head around but Cartman holds your hand through it and it’s quite a simple process.
Much like in the Stick of Truth you’ve got a huge variety of costumes pieces you gather along your travels. Some of which are from the fantasy realm too! You can also freely customise your base character with the usual South Park aesthetics hair, makeup and features. I chose to make my wee 4th grader as a tribute to our own fearless leader Michael.
Nothing is really set in stone from the character creation which is actually kind of nice for the completionists like myself, wanting to explore every aspect that would otherwise be locked off. You can visit the school councilor Mr Mackey to learn about gender and sexuality and change them at will. Be warned however, the town rednecks “don’t take kindly” to whatever you choose. You can also visit PC Principal at the local microbrewery to learn about micro-aggressions and change your ethnicity.
Fitting with the title, The New Kids powers stem from mastery of the sphincter. You unlock along your travels, four TimeFart abilities.
- TimeFart Glitch outside combat allows you to reset some objects back to a previous state helping to solve puzzles and gaining access to new areas. In combat it’s even more useful, you can use it to skip a particularly tough enemies turn. Forcing them to wait a full cycle for their next chance to hit you with an ability.
- TimeFart Pause Unlocked by crafting a particularly potent burrito, you gain the ability to stop time. Outside combat it allows you to pass through electrified obstacles, around enemies and is required for some tasks such as catching Craig and Tweaks guinea pig stuck in the middle of their love feud.
- TimeFart Summon This one is an optional extra ability that’s easy to miss and I only found it when looking for crafting materials. I’m also not going to tell you where because *spoilers* A clue would be you need to purchase a recipe for a new burrito “with a fart potency immeasurable by modern science”. This ability has no real use outside of combat but within you are able to “sear a hole in the fabric of your personal timeline” and summon another version of yourself to fight alongside.
- TimeFart Shift The last to unlock and can be pretty useful in certain circumstances. Outside combat it allows you to shift between day and night time. During combat it’s used in some particular boss battle.
The combat system in The Fractured But Whole though shows some semblance to The Stick of Truth, is miles ahead. No more just spamming abilities until your foe is dead. This time you have to think strategically. You now have a movement period at the start of your turn to get into an optimal position to unleash your fury or retreat to safety. A roster in the bottom right lets you anticipate enemies and control the battlefield so much more effectively.
It’s really created a far more active experience during combat incursions. In The Stick of Truth I found myself tiring very early of battle and avoiding it any time I could. Now I happily stride in with my team mates to wreak havoc. One drawback however is the unskippable 10+ second ultimate cutscenes. Though very entertaining the first few times, I do tire of seeing diabetic Scott Malkinson scoff back sugary treats to enter a “Diabetic Rage” and unleash on enemies time and time again. Other than that? Nailed it. It’s a proper RPG.
Should You Buy it?
Look. I’ve rambled on long enough and I’m gonna cut it short with a recommendation before I ruin the story with spoilers.
Yes. Yes you should buy it. I was undecided for a long time whether or not I was going to commit nearly $100NZD at launch but after playing it. Hell yeah it’s worth that. Right now if you’re quick you can pick it up from the PlayStation Store for $54.95. It’s often on sale with Steam so add it to your wishlist if PC is your preferred.
Also while writing this I learned it’s actually coming to Switch on the 24th of April too! Keep an eye out for it hitting shelves.
Reviewed on the PlayStation 4, but available on Xbox One, PC and coming soon to the Nintendo Switch.