SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH remains the best translation of a pop culture license to video game form in our opinion (Sorry Rocksteady). It was not a perfect game, but pretty much a perfect SOUTH PARK game, delivering everything one could possibly expect from a video game based on Comedy Central’s equal parts groundbreaking, satirical and morally questionable series. Even with a troubled development cycle (with Obsidian entertainment), it managed to defy all odds and please even the most cynical gamer.
It was also a home run for both fans and series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (avid gamers themselves), who were finally able to realise their dreams of making a true-to-life South Park video game (as if conquering movies, TV and Broadway with THE BOOK OF MORMON wasn’t enough). It was a stellar title that mixed an accessible/lighthearted turn based RPG with exploration and not to mention a fairly impressive translation of the entire town of SOUTH PARK , and all its’ idiosyncratic characters into a single disc.
It also broke ground by being one of the funniest games ever made. With an absolutely bonkers story-line that kept topping itself in terms of absurdity and offensiveness, every five minutes, as well as tons of series in-jokes, meta-jokes, contextual pranks and lots of Easter-eggs. In short, it was the show. If you were a fan of South Park, it was a manna from heaven.
Three years later, comes the sequel, and with it a new host of expectations. Parker/Stone have partnered up with Ubisoft this time to translate that same experience once again, and deliver eager fans (and newcomers) an even bigger dose of outrage, as well as a better gameplay experience. Expectations are sky high. So, do they deliver?
Read on to find out.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole is a 2017 role-playing video game developed and published by Ubisoft, in collaboration with South Park Digital Studios. Based on the American adult animated television series South Park. The game was released on PS4, Xbox One and PC on the 17th of October 2017.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
STORY AND NARRATIVE:
The game pretty much picks off right after the truth. Following an absurd, non-sequitur (and completely offensive) intro, the kids end up switching their central theme from sword and sorcery to superheroes (Regurgitating the popular ‘Coon and Friends’ episode from season 14). Ever the entrepreneur, Cartman now wants to fund his own superhero franchise empire, and as a result, hatches a bizarre scheme involving a missing cat (yep) and sooner than later, there is a ‘Civil War’ between ‘Coon and Friends’ and rival superhero gang ‘Freedom Pals’ (yup).
The good news for both fans and newcomers is that the story only starts getting absurd from there. THE FRACTURED BUT WHOLE, like the previous game, delights itself in throwing one preposterous situation after another at the player. As always, the game goes through a laundry list o targets/ topics to skewer. The tone of the game is generally in line with current darker,extremely cynical seasons of the show with most of the recent notable characters (PC principle for example) being present and accounted for. The game tackles topics like SJW’s, racist, homophobes and the black lives matter movement (among others) among the basic central parody of Captain America: Civil War, where two rival superhero teams are going at each other. It’s often haphazard and scattershot but it still makes you laugh.
Parker and Stone also delight in meta gags (as always). When choosing the difficulty, you can choose between skin colours, white (the easiest) and black (the hardest), with variable skin colours in between ( Get it? Ha Ha). They also take every chance to throw shade/sarcasm at the player, with loading screens that often mock the player and make dry puns on minute topics. You can defecate in the bathroom of every characters’ house (which acts as an in game challenge) with it’s own special title. In general, this game has a whole lot more jokes per minute than STICK OF TRUTH. A lot of them fall flat, but more than enough of them hit the home run, leading to moments where the player is not sure whether to laugh or drop his/her jaw in disbelief. It’s a madcap approach that fans of the show are already familiar with, and will probably get a kick out of it.
It bears mentioning that this sort of humour is subjective. South Park isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and if you’re someone who finds the show repellent, offensive and abhorring, you should not even touch this game with a ten foot pole (or it’s prequel). This is a show that’s delighted in testing the boundaries of the phrase ‘acquired taste’ for the last twenty years, and if you think Parker and Stone are going to go soft now, you’re mistaken. Nothing says WTF like a bunch of 7th grade kids engaging in a turn based battle against a group of over-caricatured prostitutes. If you don’t find that funny (like most people), stay far,far away. If you do, you’re probably a fan already.
Combat has seen a revamp from THE STICK OF TRUTH. If the prior game was a light turn based RPG, this one forms itself as a tactical/strategy RPG. As a result, the combat system digs a tad deeper than the first game. There are more variable to keep track off (buffs, debuffs, positioning, powers) and the roster of characters goes much, much bigger than before (with about 12 possible team members to recruit). Most of the characters have their own specific special abilities (be it attacks, buffs, debuffs or healing) and a big part of the strategy is trying to build an ideal team for each situation to fit them around your player character for different combat scenarios.
Character development also works a bit differently than the previous game. While you choose one archetype at the start of the game, later on you get the ability to mix and match other classes abilities into your build. There are ‘artefacts’ that you acquire over time, and can be put into slots to affect your level and status. This thing brings it in line with more detailed RPG’s, and provides you flexibility in how to form your team.
There is increased strategy overall than STICK OF TRUTH, and the combat takes place in a grid (like most tactical RPG’s) and there is a genuine emphasis on the player to use all the special moves, attacks, knock-backs, buffs/debuffs, summons (that are built up throughout combat) and to keep note of player positioning to emerge victorious in battle. The system is just complex enough to both be accessible and reward strategic thinking. Overall, it’s a blast and ensure fights remain fun and dynamic throughout. Although, it is to be noted that the ‘summon animations’, whilst fun to watch the first time can get old by late game. It’s not too bug of a crutch, but it still annoys near the end, when you just want to get the game over with. There are also a lot of environmental puzzles that pay a lot of emphasis on farting (It’s South Park) and using a teammate of yours. These are good for a chuckle, but grow really,really thin over time. Immaturity is fine, but It’s hard not to wish the game could have been more subtle with it.
There’s a more social aspect to the game as well, with the ‘Coonstagram’, a mobile app where the player character can take selfies with various characters around South Park to increase his/her ‘influencer rating’. A lot of your selfie friends will require a certain condition to be met for them to take pictures with you ,and working towards doing that brings the player a sense of accomplishment. There are plenty of in-joke updates, hashtags and posts by the characters that keep things engaging at all time. It’s always fun to pop open the phone and read charming (and often absurd) musings by your favourite South Park characters.
The town of South Park is still what you remember from the last game but thankfully, there are new areas you can explore. Some places that should have been in the first games like Raisins, are present and accounted for (Even though we mostly love hanging around Shitty Wok), and navigation has seen some changes, with an improved map system and to our delight, the absence of a mission waypoint. Personally, we find it a lot of fun to check our map for directions. It makes exploring in RPG’s fun and rewarding.
The Fractured but Whole looks like THE STICK OF TRUTH, which means it looks exactly like the show. To be frank, that’s what’s you were expecting anyway. It does such a bang on job of replicating the purposefully crude, basic-looking animation of the show that it could very well pass off as a legit episode when you’re not playing. Just like the original, it stands tall as one of the most accurate depictions of any pop culture property ever.
The stuff apart from the character and the world also looks nice. The crafting and stats menus look clean, with plenty of appropriately placed bars and (mostly) easy to read text. The screen is a lot busier in this game, that it ever was in the first one, but most everything seems to have been placed at the right area to make things not too distracting. There are more stats and titles to keep track of this time and the interface (aka the cellphone) is easy to access. You will be swapping character equipment and switching between party members from here, so it’s great that it’s fun.
THE FRACTURED BUT WHOLE is a worthy continuation of the STICK OF TRUTH. It delivers a more fleshed out, longer, more ambitious game experience, with plenty of fan service and the show’s trademark charm, obscenity, irreverence and pointed social commentary. It’s still not for the overly sensitive and the faint of heart but for fans of the show, Parker/Stone and Ubisoft have once again delivered the South Park game of your dreams, and one of the most entertaining RPG series around.