South Park the Fractured but Whole is probably the most interesting game I’ve played in 2017. Not the best game, not the game of the year, just interesting. The gameplay is amazing however and while the story had its moments, I never knew how to feel about the game as a whole. Ultimately, South Park the Fractured but Whole is a solid RPG, despite having a few flaws.
I will offer full disclosure and say that I was a fan of the South Park series growing up. It was obviously heavily frowned upon due to its explicit language and controversial humor that featured dark comedic takes on seemingly “untouchable” societal issues. I’ve since learned that although I still find some episodes and quotes to be humorous, I’m not as big of a fan of the show as I thought.
Even with this in mind, I can honestly say that South Park the Stick of Truth, the predecessor to the Fractured but Whole, was a completely fun, entertaining experience that took gameplay very seriously. It was a full-fledged RPG, not afraid of applying some strategic concepts to an otherwise relaxed story. It didn’t stray too far away from its core plot and I didn’t find it’s humorous moments too intrusive or forced. It felt like South Park, at least the version of it that I remembered.
All things considered though, the story setups and some of the sub-plots within TFBW just didn’t resonate with me or even — do what it aims to do — make me laugh.
South Park the Fractured but Whole does what a good sequel should do; include quality of life changes, show progression in gameplay and expand on the good aspects of its predecessor. There’s a lot to like about it and the presentation alone will make fans of the show feel like they’re watching an entire South Park season unfold. All things considered though, the story setups and some of the sub-plots within TFBW just didn’t resonate with me or even — do what it aims to do — make me laugh.
South Park the Fractured but Whole continues to further engrave the series as a legitimate RPG. If there is a positive to be found, most will find it in its gameplay. For starters, the battle layout has changed. Instead of sticking to a singular point on the battlefield as in the Stick of Truth, TFBW allows you to move your character throughout the battlefield, depending on the number of spaces your character can move of course.
You don’t initially feel like you need a broad range of heroes for combat but as you progress you’ll find that each hero provides a unique advantage in combat.
The combat continues to be smooth and thanks to the game’s superhero theme, it was fun and fairly creative. I especially enjoyed some of the heroes ultimate moves, which featured short clips of a hero performing their move in ridiculous South Park fashion. You’re allowed 4 party members, including your character, and you add superhero friends to your roster as you unlock them during your story missions. You don’t initially feel like you need a broad range of heroes for combat but as you progress you’ll find that each hero provides a unique advantage in combat.
Something new in TFBW that falls in line with many RPG’s is called artifacts and are treated as accessories that can be attached to your character via Epic, Minor, Major and DNA slots. These artifacts increase your overall might. Think of might as your power level and it’s used to increase stats like power and health for example.
Might also helps you determine whether or not you should be engaging in a particular combat, side-mission or main story quest. Each of the aforementioned items display a might level of their own and this should be used as a guideline to determine if you’re ready or if you need to buy or craft higher level artifacts.
There’s a lot that can be done in TFBW and it’s not lacking in content or customization. Costumes are plentiful, at least for the duration of the story. Some can be found by solving relatively easy puzzles, purchasing the recipe to create them or earn them through side quests and other means.
I had a bit of fun in the costume department, often thinking of different ways to mix and match costumes aiming to make my character as close to a superhero as possible. While many costume options varied between funny and weird, there was one in particular that made me feel uncomfortable. Needless to say, it involved your character in black face and that really rubbed me the wrong way, which in hindsight was probably the intention. I just didn’t like it, it felt wrong especially with the political and societal issues that are entertained in TFBW story.
When I mentioned that South Park the Fractured but Whole was a solid RPG, despite its flaws, the flaws I was referring to were mostly surrounding its story. It wasn’t so much that the writing was off or that it didn’t follow the South Park superhero theme, it was more about the confusion I felt because of its distracted and problematic nature. Look, I know what many will say: “That’s South Park what do you expect?” Well, I expected to not feel like the game was aimlessly stirring the pot.
Societal issues were at the forefront here. Which I understand is the main tune of South Park’s comedy. Though I’m not surprised that they’ve stuck to their controversial jokes and scenarios, I was upset with the lazy attempts at bringing up these issues. If this was done in a satirical way then I totally missed the point, though I strongly believe this isn’t the case.
What makes TFBW problematic is that it opens up the door for strong feelings of prominent societal issues to be felt. Instead of closing it out with a lesson to be learned, it leaves the player to its own devices.
What makes TFBW problematic is that it opens up the door for strong feelings of prominent societal issues to be felt. Instead of closing it out with a lesson to be learned, it leaves the player to its own devices. Meaning nothing is actually learned through this practice, instead, it leaves players who are subjected to these injustices in the dark and players who promote the hateful sentiment to laugh, having learned nothing at all.
I don’t expect South Park to teach anything valuable about political and societal issues that we go through today. I don’t think they have an agenda, political or otherwise. They make fun of everything and always have. Just this style doesn’t fit in anymore to me. It starts to open up as a teaching experience and walks away before any progress can be made on that front.
I can acknowledge that there were some scenarios that were funny in a very juvenile, teenage boy kind of way. It was full of ridiculous farting jokes and scenarios that put you in some nonsensical situations that I couldn’t help but laugh at. In the end, I feel that the story was okay given the meaningless and taunting scenarios thrown in between. It was a lot of fun to play and I enjoyed TFBW when it let itself play as a legitimate RPG. I’ll be okay not diving back into this one and if there is a sequel I may think twice about playing it.