South Park: The Fractured but Whole is the newest RPG developed by Ubisoft San Francisco, as a sequel to their largely popular Stick of truth. Following on from the previous game, we play as the New Kid in South Park, just as the kids are playing their fantasy larping game, however, Cartman has other plans as he decides to jump ship from fantasy to superheroes. With the rest of the gang following suit, we must learn new mechanics, new rules and make South Park bow down to the king once more.
We start off our journey on the Kings Throne, with a short premonition to what Cartman has up his sleeves as he decides to travel back in time to save the city. After flushing your business, you head outside to South Park to see a war raging on in the streets as kids fight for control of the Stick of Truth from the previous game, but just as we get close The Coon jumps into the fray to warn all the kids of a danger ahead, a missing cat, whose capture could reward the heroes $100 to fund their superhero franchise.
It isn’t long before all the main kids are convinced, bringing in Kyle, Jimmy, Cartman, Craig and more to Coon and Friends to work together to find the missing cat, all the while going against their rivals Freedom Pals, led by Timothy. You’re sent on quests to help your fellow superheroes, restaurants and snap selfies with the residents to gain followers on Coonstagram.
As you get closer to finding this cat you will go on several character arcs, from helping Clyde with his weakness to girls or Stan helping with his drunk father. Along with character arcs you will also help local shops with their troubles with Crab People or even a Gay Fish with his mother. The story is packed full of references to the show and general media, turning this game into a 10-hour long episode of South Park that you can interact with.
The main story will last you around 12 hours, with several more hours of side quests, collectables, side bosses and optional content, easily bringing the game upwards of 20 hours. There isn’t too much point in replaying the game itself, besides the optional difficulty options and choices in dialogue, but for the most part a lot of dialogue options only give instant gratification and no real long-term changes.
The Fractured but Whole plays very similarly to Stick of Truth, you have a battle map set on squares and you take turns in combat based on your speed. The main difference is the scale of combat, difficulty curve and ability to control the battlefield itself. Attacks have certain ranges, shapes and effects, pushing you to think more tactfully. Bosses and larger enemies also use more telegraphed attacks, forcing you to move around the battlefield and resort to buffing or healing turns between your barrage of attacks.
Each character has their own class and set of skills, picked from 10 superhero classes, from the Brutalist that deals in close physical attacks to that of the Blaster who deals in ranged power attacks. You start the game off with only being able to choose from 3, with a couple added with story progression, along with being able to multiclass, allowing you to mix and match abilities from several classes.
Besides being allowed to change your powers at will you can also dress up your character with varying skin colours, which also changes your parents, hair, eyes and makeup along with their colours, costumes and more. There is so much to change about your character that it puts some other games to shame, even going so far as adding in several religions, ethnicities, gender identities, sexuality and more. I am still a bit jaded that English/British was not an option but Irish and Scottish were but I guess American will have to do… god, I need a Tea and Crumpets right now.
Outside of combat, you have almost free reign of South Park, entering almost every building you can see to ransack the place of loot or take a selfie with the residents inside. As you travel, battle and complete quests you will earn materials for crafting, money to spend at shops and levels that unlock artefact slots on your character. Artefacts can be obtained from battle, looting or crafting and improve your stats in various ways, with a max of 8 slots at the end.
One of the most important reoccurring mechanics is the ability to take selfies with anyone you meet, either on talking to them or completing a quest beforehand. As you get selfies you will gain followers, which unlock certain missions, cutscenes and even improve your stats with certain artefacts equipped. This is also a very story-centric mechanic, so you won’t be ignoring it either.
The Nintendo Switch version offers everything the Xbox One. PlayStation 4 and PC version offer, apart from, you can not play anytime, anywhere, thanks to the system portability. Both Docked and Un-Docked offer a great gameplay experience, with all the South Park humor and style you would expect from the franchise. If you live South Park and own a Nintendo Switch, then this is a game you should go out and buy without a doubt.
Overall thoughts and feelings
The soundtrack in this game is very fitting, from short tunes that come straight from the show to battle tracks that instil a sense of heroism and Netflix series hype. It also has some tracks that reminded me of older films like the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films of 2002 to newer films like Avengers. Orchestral sounds, elongated notes and epic crashes all meld together to make this a beautiful fusion of South Park and Superhero. There are some times where the music does become quiet or non-existent as characters talk or you walk around, which is a bit distracting as the silent background is a harsh contrast to the brilliant soundtrack.
The graphics aren’t really a point with South Park as it is a stylised paper-cut-out cartoon style, but the graphical effects for powers and takedowns take this colourful yet plain style that much closer to being movie worthy. Animations are smooth, if somewhat straightforward at times, but it does the job well enough and sticks to the house style of the South Park show.
Humour in South Park has always been controversial, self-referential and crude, with plenty of people not really understanding or appreciating it. This game continues this format, if going a bit too hard on the self-referential as many times you will either feel left out of a joke or nostalgic as the game references an episode or joke from the show. Plenty of jokes will fall flat or make you laugh out loud and that is the risk you take with most comedy, but South Park has to rely on both fans remembering the show and finding the joke funny in the first place.
One of my favourite aspects of this game is the smooth difficulty curve, fixed immensely from the previous game. Enemies get harder, have new attacks, bosses have telegraphed moves and higher stats and strategy becomes more and more prevalent as the game goes on. On the other hand, progression feels a bit too stunted, as levelling becomes irrelevant past level 9, which you will reach by the end of the game easily. Crafting skill only goes up to 20, combined with the low soft level cap there isn’t any real way to grind to godlike power like other RPGs.
Overall South Park: The Fractured but Whole gets a 9/10, the humour is great for those who meld well with its style or if you’re a fan of the series. The gameplay has improved greatly from the first game with more strategic thinking being required for later parts of the game. The dungeon maps are longer with more puzzles, if a bit fewer in numbers in comparison to the first game. I found no errors with any part of the design, though I have heard from others it does suffer from glitches and crashes.