It goes without saying how hugely anticipated the release of The Fractured But Whole has been.
It’s been a long 3 year wait for the sequel to Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s co-written South Park games, but before you swap the Elves and Wizards for a Super Hero adventure, I highly recommend you watch the prequel episode of the show aired alongside the game’s release.
It isn’t essential viewing to be able to play it, but, like The Stick of Truth, the game hugely relies on players picking up the casual references and nostalgic details from the show.
Giving some background to the story, The Coon and Friends are Super Hero vigilantes of South Park who are on the hunt for Scrambles, a missing cat with a reward of a whopping $100. As part of the Coon & Friends, you (The New Kid, Butthole, Douchebag, or whatever other name Cartman wants to attach to you) and your buddies uncover a sinister underlying plot involving more missing cats in town.
The storyline itself at first seems a lot less crazy in comparison to The Stick of Truth, with fewer similarities drawn to this game which involves battling against Nazi-Zombie-Fetuses, or being anal-probed on an alien spaceship. Having said that, there’s a task which involves lap-dancing-fart-twerking and Mexican-armored Professor Crab people taking over the mobile network, so the sheer ridiculousness that South Park is so well known for has been far from lost.
One thing I loved about the story was that it, on the whole, felt like it played into the innocent children aspect a lot more that The Stick of Truth. Combats randomly pause mid-way to let through passing cars – reminding you you’re just kids beating on each other in the streets – and red LEGO bricks acting as ‘lava’, blocking paths around town or burning you if you try to walk through them.
It was surprising to see how many more episodic mentions they were able to introduce in the story too, given the first game seemed to cram all of the good ones into it. Of course, there are additions to the game from the newer seasons, including PC Principle and Yolanda, alongside new appearances of references from the earlier seasons, including Mitch Connor and The Raisin’s girls.
One major improvement in The Fractured But Whole is the combat system. It’s a lot more strategic as you command your character and up to three of your fellow Super Heroes on a battling grid. Adjusting from a fantasy-genre RPG to a Super Hero theme, the new battle system focuses on solely magical abilities; there are no melee or bow weapons in this one.
As your journey progresses, you will eventually choose three different Super Hero classes ranging from Psychic to Cyborg, each with different abilities familiar to RPGs. The combination of three also means you can select a variety of abilities, or put your power all into one – again, depending on the type of RPG Gamer you are.
The number of enemies and foes on the battle grid at one time has increased massively when compared to the old battle system, meaning some of the bigger storyline battles are actually pretty hard at times, unlike The Stick of Truth.
The new battle grid enables certain moves to affect multiple characters, meaning there’s a lot more strategic thinking involved for not just battling enemies, but also for positioning your teams to avoid damage. Overall, battling feels a lot tougher and last a lot longer.
Or perhaps I found this game noticeably more challenging because of the difficulty level I chose at the start of the game. I selected my character’s skintone to be bi-racial, which translates to slighty difficult; the darker your skintone is the harder the game’s difficulty is.
Although Cartman’s prerogative voice-over at this point of the game does indicate that “the combat won’t be harder, only your life”, so more likely this is just more controversial humour thrown into the mix.
However, the game does appear to have more than one playable storyline. As part of your character profile building, you choose traits including race (Black Chinese), weakness (Crab People), power source (Anal) and gender (Pansgender Trigender), and depending on the answer you chose for each, this spurs a new direction in the story.
As a proud and newly discovered pansgender trigender person after a counselling session with Mr Mackey, my character got attacked by a bunch of Rednecks because of my gender. This game seems to be worth completing more than once to get the full experience of the multiple subplots that are prompted from different choices.
The general feel and movement of the game is very familiar, especially as a player of the first game. You can take a shit on toilets in different buildings through town, which now require extra skill and acts as a mini-game.
There are hidden collectibles in the form of Memberberries and Yaoi posters for Craig’s dad, with some of these unattainable should you miss them past certain checkpoints. And of course there are hidden treasure chests, drawers, lockers and other containers of consumables, items and junk. Junk can be used for crafting different things with other junk or items found along the way to become useful healing and battle items, including Macaroni and Junk Food in order to summon Moses to heal you and your buddies in combat.
Surprisingly, outfits only serve for aesthetics in The Fractured But Whole, and holds zero benefit to improving your character class. Abiding by the generic conventions of Super Hero narratives, your character’s abilities are customized and improved through DNA.
The more you progress in the game, the more ability slots you unlock. This can at first feel like there’s less customization, but the real magic happens in choosing your superhero class, what super hero powers your multiple buddies have to battle with, and staying true to the Super Hero theme. Speaking of abilities, The New Kid’s farts are by far the strongest asset, with the ability to now pause, rewind and glitch through time in and out of combat.
As a whole, The Fractured But Whole is an incredible sequel packed with memorable references, nostalgia and classic South Park humour, with a noticeable increase in skill level needed to complete the game. It’s more challenging than The Stick of Truth, and in turn much more fun and rewarding, giving the game a more entertaining RPG status.