One of the biggest comedic giants out there is “South Park”. If you have a vulgar sense of humor then you are probably a big fan of the show. In terms of gaming, it has had its fair share of games in the past. In 2014, Ubisoft teamed up with Trey Parker and Matt Stone to create “South Park: The Stick of Truth”. The game was a huge success that made every fan of the show so happy. It felt like the player was inside of an episode of the show. Full of the same satirical humor and the art style, it fit so perfectly. After many delays, we finally got the sequel, “South Park: The Fractured But Whole”. Does this game meet the hype and reach the high bar as did its predecessor? Well, it gets a bit complicated with the games pros and cons.
The story takes place right after the first game. The first game had the main kids including your character playing a fantasy style game. Cartman is sick of it and wants to play superheroes. So, the game stops making fun of “Lord of the Rings” and then turns to making fun of the big superhero cinematic universes that we have currently. He convinces his friends to join him to save the town from the increased crime rate in which a cat is missing. The reward for this missing cat is $100, so in any child’s mind, that is enough to start their own billion-dollar superhero movie franchise. You later discover a giant conspiracy that is set up to create a crime increase and to replace the mayor. Only you, your friends, and your farts can save the town of South Park. I love the story. There are so many things that happen that will surprise you. Personally, I enjoyed the story of the first game more, but that does not take away the writing of this game. I felt that the jokes were better in the first title. Some jokes did not work as well and even felt like it was too much. Even then, those jokes that did not work so well were only a few times. The amount of time spent to complete the story and side missions only took about 20-22 hours roughly. The story felt slower and I was waiting for things to pick up a bit more. A bit short for a $60 game, but I felt satisfied enough that I got my money’s worth.
The biggest difference in this game is the gameplay. Exploring South Park is the same as the first with even more to do. There are side quests to complete and items to collect. Side missions were weak. After finishing the game it felt good, but I wish there were more variety in side missions. Most of them just introduced the collectibles around the map to get a reward. I wish this aspect were fleshed out a lot more. The most significant change is the combat and loot system. Combat takes place with a playing field divided up by squares, while still being a turn-based style. You get to move your character to where you would like to strategically place them then choose which of three moves you would want to use. Pressing the indicated button when being hit will build up a meter for a special move. Each character has a unique move that is unique to them. Some are more useful than others, but it is fun seeing the different kinds of abilities. Each fight you get three companions so you can switch them out each battle to decide who you like the most. Most of your choices are great with only a few characters I did not enjoy playing as. If you play right, you can be tactical to stack effects to make enemies bleed or be grossed out to cause extra damage. Summoning has made a return to having a character come in to heal your whole team or deal damage to all enemies. These supportive characters that come in to be summoned are far less exciting and helpful than the first game’s summons. For some reason, there are way fewer characters to summon. “Stick of Truth” had 11, while this has only 4. I wish there were way more characters to summon to add more variety than the same couple of people. This combat is fun, but something about the simplicity of the first game made it more enjoyable. I will get into what played into making the combat less fun in a moment, but it felt like a chore sometimes. Depending on the difficulty will change your view towards the combat. I recommend playing on the medium difficulty, but you may find that to be too easy. Maybe try the hardest difficulty to give yourself a good challenge. The final act does get much harder which I enjoyed a lot. The easy portions can get a little boring. For the player, you can choose between three classes at the beginning which determines a play style and particular move set for that class. Later on, you will get more to choose from that allows you to swap out different powers. This aspect is great. Taking the class idea from the first game and expanding it.
The loot system is different. There is a linear, but useful crafting system to make items for gear, healing, and other supplements for battle. Getting the supplies to craft will take looking through openable containers, destroying objects, and buying them. I like this system, it is easy but works well. Getting gear is my biggest issue. There are artifacts that are unique that will make you and your team more powerful. This felt so unrewarding, which goes into battles becoming a chore and less fun. You can go into a big battle and get an artifact to help you. The problem is that it is not as satisfying. The first game you could have a new piece of armor or a weapon that is unique looking and to build you up. This variety of gear made it much more interesting to see what you were getting and would make you feel like you got a greater reward. I felt more powerful with getting this better gear. The artifact system did not make me excited or even feel like I was getting that much stronger.
The town has expanded overall, but still quite small. Exploring throughout South Park to find characters to interact with, take selfies with to make them a follower on social media, to find collectibles, find artifacts, and to find more costumes for your character. Like said before, all gear is useless except for certain supplements and artifacts. So, changing your costume is purely cosmetic to make yourself look cooler or funnier. While exploring the world and doing missions you will find these little puzzles in which you can have a companion to push over an object or help you over an object to get to a new room or uncover a hidden item. This is used heavily in both exploration and story missions. I got bored of this after a while. It got so annoying seeing the same animations and hearing the same little phrases after doing these puzzles so many times. The added fast traveling makes it easy to get around the map instead of walking around everywhere which can get so tedious.
Character customization is well developed and can change the game slightly. A variety of costumes with colors to change to give yourself a unique look. A character sheet that will have your religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender. Sadly, there is not a huge difference in how you identify. This can cause some battles to occur with rednecks who hate you for identifying one way or another. I wish there was more variety on this, but I still love it. Hearing them go on about wanting to hurt me for a long list of reasons. You can be a gender neutral, black, Canadian, Jew that they feel does not belong in the USA. Even if you are a white, heterosexual, American, Christian, those characters will react the same way pretty much. That is what we expect out of South Park, being as offensive as possible and I love it.
I do love this game, but it falls so short of the previous title. Lack of rewards makes it feel meaningless when you explore and win a battle. Jokes that fall flat and even dragged on made the writing feel worse than the first game. Combat can feel annoying with little enemy variety. The variety you get is not even worth it most of the time. The story is so much slower and does not have enough pay off in the end. I managed to feel satisfied, but in some aspects, I wanted more out of the game. Poor side quests that could have made the game longer and more interesting, but felt more like a chore than anything. More interesting loot that was more meaningful would be motivating to go and explore. Almost every quality is weaker than “The Stick of Truth”. “South Park: The Fractured But Whole” is fun, but was a big disappointment despite my positive feelings.
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Image via Ubisoft