South Park: The Fractured But Whole Review
Disclaimer: PC Aficionado was provided with a code for the purpose of this review. All thought and opinions expressed in the review are the writers own and are not influenced by the developer and/or publisher in anyway.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole; there once was a time that I never thought I would play. Having been delayed more than once due to unknown reasons many thought the game would never release, never mind live up to the previous game, Stick of Truth. However, The Fractured But Whole released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One finally, on October 17, 2017.
I attended EGX Birmingham back in September, and the one game I was most excited to try out was this one. My partner and I went straight to the booth when we arrived and queued for around an hour for the chance to play it. When sitting down at our booth I was extremely disappointed with what was put in front of me. Granted I was playing on a PS4, but the game ran terribly. I left the booth feeling annoyed that I had just waited in line for an hour to play such a laggy mess of a game. This certainly left me with no hope for the game when it launched this week but alas, I wanted to give it another chance to impress. I am glad I did.
South Park The Fractured But Whole’s story is basically one long episode of the TV show. Cartmen’s superhero stable of “Coon and Friends” set out on their mission to grow their group into a multi-million dollar franchise, with films and Netflix series. The best way they can get that dream off the ground? Well there is a $100 for finding a lost cat. That seems like the perfect way. However that one lost cat turns into a spiralling and twisting story that allows The Fractured But Whole to take some truly South Park esk turns along the way.
Throughout the story you will encounter almost all of the South Park gang, with a few notably missing characters, but most are there for you to interact with in someway. Of course the writing is absolutely perfect in most parts, but some parts really require you to have watched the latest TV series’ to really understand some of the jokes. But the bulk of South Park’s humour is here in all it’s glory. Even though it’s a given for South Park. It would be wise not to play this in the vicinity of anyone who is easily “triggered”. The game does have a few small tie-ins with the previous game too. None that make it essentially to have played, but it will allow you to understand the context behind some of the dialog.
The story overall will leave you feeling like you want more. The South Park writers always know how to give the watcher what they want, without realising it. The way the story expands allows for plenty of room for more games in the series which I am elated to see.
There isn’t much to say about the game’s graphical points. You are essentially in a South Park episode. With all of the same character sprites and environments being thrust into a 2D environment for you to enjoy. I was a bit surprised to see that the game was made in the SnowDrop engine, the same one that Tom Clancy’s The Division was made in, because it certainly doesn’t require all of the bells and whistles that the engine has to offer. If you like the South Park style, which I am assuming you do given you are reading a South Park game review, then you will not feel out of place here.
Carrying on in the same vein as The Stick of Truth, your characters are this time Superheroes. Each of the characters have their own persona that tries to match up with their own personality. Each of these superheroes have their own costume which look brilliant. You as the player are able to customise your costume whenever you like, and you are able to unlock more costume parts as you progress in the game.
The technical side of the game was a slight disappointment though, and I have a horrible feeling that this was down to the Denuvo DRM. I experienced around 5 or 6 crashes to desktop throughout my play through. Some of them were just straight exists with no error messages, whilst others gave the generic Windows “Something has gone wrong” popup. These crashes tended to happen during combat, but thanks to the game’s “revolutionary” save system, I never lost too much progression when they did happen. Of course I would prefer they didn’t happen at all though. These sort of crashes can really ruin an experience because you never quite know when they will happen next, so you are always on edge. In terms of general game performance though, playing on 1440P with graphics ramped up to full, I had 60 FPS constantly; no surprise given how little graphical power is being showcased though.
The game took me around 15 hours to complete, this was with completing a good portion of side missions and hunting for collectables along the way. Around the 10 hour mark it feels as if the game is winding down in terms of reaching the endgame, but after you defeat what appears to be “the final boss”, you still have a good 4 or 5 hours worth of content to continue playing through. Some may feel they were happy to end there, but for me I was so happy with the core gameplay mechanics that I was completely fine with another portion of the game still to play.
The bulk of the gameplay remains the same as the previous game, but with a few tweaks. The main combat system is played out in a turn-based style. Controlling a party of 4 super heroes, each with their own unique spell powers, lets you build a classic RPG team of different classes. The combat is played out in a grid system. Where attacks and abilities can only hit enemies or heroes within a certain number of squares. It did become apparent at the start of the game that you can only hit enemies with regular attacks if they are in the same horizontal grid system to you. You can’t turn your character 90 degrees to hit an enemy above you, you have to manoeuvre your character around the side of a foe in order to strike them. This mechanic did leave me feeling annoyed sometimes, but you do get used to it as you play the game.
All of the abilities have their own special effect, some can be AOE effects, whilst others can leave a status effect on the enemy, such as bleed or burn. How you build your team around these abilities, and making sure they all compliment each other will be important towards your levels of success. There’s no good having a team full of heroes that specialise in burn mechanics as you may come across enemies that are immune to burn (trust me…I know). Not all fights require you to simply lower your opponent’s health to zero though. Some have special objectives, for instance when you are in the old people’s home, you have no choice but to try and escape due to there being a never ending stream of old people wanting you dead. So rather than standing and fighting, you have to move your heroes to the other end of the combat grid to escape. These special objective fights are few and far between, but they do offer a good change in pace and will stop combat feeling repetitive with putting a unique spin on things.
When out of combat, you come across plenty puzzle solving opportunities. The puzzles aren’t all mind boggling difficult, as most of them require just pure common sense. Making use of your characters special powers, and being able to call in for help from your other super hero friends also adds a different level of thought process being required.
The South Park map is as open as the previous game too. Allowing the player to really explore at their leisure. Of course some areas are blocked off until you unlock certain abilities, but you are ultimately allowed to roam the town at your will. You can pretty much walk into any building you choose, and loot it at your will. All of the staple South Park locations are available for you, with a couple new areas to explore.
One of the things that annoyed me when playing the game at EGX, was a clear lack of any tutorial system. The demo booth was set up at a scene a few hours into the game, so you had clearly missed all of the tutorials up to that point, which surprised me as to why they didn’t have a special demo setup to have some tutorial popups but that is beside my actual point. The Fractured But Whole does a good job of explaining mechanics from the start of the game, and continues to explain new mechanics as and when you encounter them. You don’t require any prior knowledge of this sort of genre to grasp it, and if you are new to the genre, you can just stick it on easy to purely breeze through the combat and enjoy the South Park story.
Ultimately the gameplay felt much more fluid whilst playing on a controller. I did start out using keyboard and mouse, but the 2D side-scrolling style movement really does lend itself to being a better experience with a controller. That’s not to say a controller is a must but I certainly preferred my time with a controller over keyboard/mouse.
South Park: A Fractured But Whole is a worthy successor to A Stick of Truth. With all of the South Park goodies there for fans of the franchise, and some neat little tweaks to series that keeps it feeling fresh. If you enjoyed the previous game, you will not be disappointed. I would be a little wary of keeping an eye on technical issues however. I would hope that Ubisoft will remove the Denovo DRM once it has been cracked, so most of those problems will go away soon anyway. As of right now though, South Park: A Fractured But Whole is a excellent game worthy of your time and money.
- South Park humour
- Combat system
- Denuvo DRM causing technical issues