The long wait is finally over, it’s finally here. The guys over at Ubisoft released their follow up to the wildly successful “South Park: The Stick of Truth”, which sold over 5 million copies, entitled “South Park: The Fractured but Whole.” As per the usual, with Trey Stone at the helm of the writing staff, the game has done nothing to tone down the fart jokes, violence, social commentary, adult-centric humor, or the over the top facetious tone that has made the show, and the previous game such, a popular commodity. Previously, I had published a short piece (link here)on this website highlighting some purposely controversial pieces of the game that has to do with how the game treats the idea of your characters race, and gender. But holy christ, is that just the tip of the iceberg. I’m only about halfway through this game, but I’ll be damned if it hasn’t already been one of the most enjoyable, ridiculous, and “what the fuck” inducing gaming experiences of 2017.
The game starts with a monologue from “The Coon”, Cartman’s super hero alter ego, about how crime in South Park has been on the rise for a while, and only Coon and Friends can stop it. Without spoiling the story too much, the game actually uses a specific catalyst form a reasonably old episode of South Park, as a reason for all the crime. The throwback is pretty god damn awesome if you ask me. Regardless, Cartman plans to go back in time so that he can gather up the South Park gang, who are currently stuck in the medieval times of the first game, still playing the narrative from “The Stick of Truth”, and change the game they are playing so that they can use their super powers to stop crime. It’s as dumb as it sounds, and it’s amazing.
From here, Cartman gathers the kids of south park and launches a plan into action to garner them money and notoriety so that they can get the “Coon and Friends” franchise off the ground, which is in conjunction with an episode from earlier this season entitled “Franchise Prequel.” It truly is amazing how flawlessly Trey and the writing team manage to make everything in the game feel relevant in reference to everything that’s happened in the TV show thus far. The amount of references and throw backs to the actual show, during the storyline and missions of the game, are staggering, if not impressive. That said, the kids are on a mission, a mission to save the missing cat “Scrambles”, get their $100 reward, become heroes, and launch a franchise to rival the MCU.
This new installment in the franchise really goes out of it’s way to improve upon everything in the first game. First, the combat mechanics have been completely overhauled, without compromising the ridiculousness of combat, that was so charming and fun in the first game. Instead of the traditional RPG turn based mechanics of the first game, where you attack, then they attack, then you attack, and your characters just kind of stand still, they’ve mixed it up. Now, all the battles take place on a grid, which during your characters turn, you can move them a set amount of spaces on, before committing to an attack. As you unlock “battle buddies” (other heroes), you can switch out the heroes who are helping you at any given time, outside of battle. This system also comes with a small turn order icon in the bottom right portion of the screen, so that you can see who’s turns are coming up, and plan accordingly. On top of this, since combatants are just normal characters who are in town and will walk up and attack you to initiate a battle, you have a few options before you enter most battles. You can walk up and punch an enemy to gain initiative and initiate combat. You can far on an enemy before you punch them to give them the status affect “grossed out” which causes them to throw up on their turn and does damage over time during the actual combat. Later in the game, once you unlock the skills, you can also throw fire crackers to stun the enemies to make sure you get advantage in combat, or you can have captain diabetes push over objects on occasion that crush one of the enemies, giving you the advantage of having one less enemy once combat starts.
Also, one small thing that they did here, that they didn’t have to, is added the idea of “cars” when the kids are fighting in the street. From time to time, during a battle, a kid will yell “Car!”, and everything stops. They all slowly move to the sidewalk and just hang out for like 10 seconds as a car drives by, typically yelling something at them. As a world building idea, I think it is an unnecessary thing, that ends up adding an additional layer to the fact that these are still just kids playing superheroes in their imagination.
Before you get into the meat of combat, and really get to a point where you’ve got access to your full arsenal of ridiculous crap that you’re going to have by the middle of the game (Ex. You’ll get a mega fart that turns back time and negates an enemies turn), you’re going to go through some growing pains. First, continuing as “New Kid” from the first game, before Cartman will accept you into Coon and Friends he will ask you to choose a class, and then present you with your back story. The backstory takes place at your childhood home, and you’ll be fending off intruders with your “newly found powers.” No matter what class you pick, Cartman will burden you with the horrible realization, and catalyst for your characters pain, that your Dad fucked your Mom.
When the game starts out , you only have access to three of the games classes, each of them with their individual skills. Every character that you befriend in Coon and Friends will also have their own skill set to aide you in battle. Hilariously enough, Jimmy, who is crippled from the waist down, is a speedster who is able to run at very high speeds. If you try to pick this class in the beginning of the game, Cartman will exclaim, “Speedster huh? We already have one of those, he might not be happy about it.” I chose “Blaster” which is a ranged type, whereas “Super Craig” for instance, is a melee type and typically needs to get closer to enemies to damage then. Don’t stress out about the choice too much though. Later on in the game you get to pick a second class, as Cartman feels your character needs to be more interesting. From here, you can mix and match different attacks from each class. For example, you can choose two attacks from the blaster class, and an attack from an elemental class, as well as the “ultimate” from the elemental class.
As far as the ultimate attacks go, during a battle, any time you damage an enemy, it builds a bar at the top of the screen that fills up to 100% over time. It does not carry over from battle to battle, but it’s easy to fill it up during most battles for a few reasons. It also fills up when enemies damage you, and if you press a within an allotted time frame after taking damage, you’ll gain bonus charge for the attack. Every character has a different one, and typically they do a medium amount of damage to most enemies, as well as inflicting severely damaging status effects to them.
You will also run into boss fights from time to time during the game, where you fight an enemy who has an unusually high amount of health, and typically attacks much faster than most of the normal enemies throughout the game. I’m not going to lie to you, I just wrote this specific paragraph as an excuse to throw in this amazing picture of Randy Marsh before one of the games absolutely hilarious boss battles, all stemming from the fact that Captain Diabetes wouldn’t let Randy drink and drive. Through waves of slurred speech and screaming “Gimmie, my fuckin, KEYSSS!” you’ll be fighting off an absolutely SAUCED Mr. Marsh at some point in the game, and it’s, to quote Bobby Roode, GLORIOUS!
Early on in the game, before you have access to a fart that lights people on fire and makes them puke, one of the main tasks of the game that Cartman gives you, is taking selfies with people around South Park, to garner a following on “Coonstagram”, the social networking program around South Park. As you gain more friends, you’ll hit thresholds for every x amount of people who follow you on Coonstagram, which garners you XP or costumes that you can change out at any time. As you gain more followers early, the Coon will start to give you more missions. Eventually, they’ll see you as a valuable member of the team, and you’ll become a full fledged sidekick during one of the games more hilarious missions. The fun part about this mechanic, is that, in the spirit of true RPG’s, there are going to be times where you have to do quests, or figure out puzzles to earn your “follow”. You can also just take selfies whenever you want, but I don’t see the value in it when I can just be self absorbed in real life.
The game is also filled with a ton of side quests to keep you occupied, outside of the main story, which typically also give you access to new clothes, XP, or money. A few great examples of these side quests are, unlocking all the “fastpass” locations around South Park. They are used as fast travel locations around the map. Jimmy will show up in a blur, similar to “The Flash”, and take you to any other location you’ve unlocked. There is a character who asks you to put his head shots up around town, toilets in nearly every house and some buildings in town for you to go play a pooping mini game in, being tasked with catching and calling out micro-aggressions enemies deliver verbally during battle, collecting Yaoi of Craig and Butters, and so on. Oh yea, you can also collect member berries too. You memba those? I memba!
There’s also a very mild but fun mechanic in the game for how you level up your character. Whenever you defeat enemies, or complete side quests you may gain experience points. Once you gain enough to level up, you unlock what is called an “Artifact” slot. There are tons of artifacts to collect in the game. Each of them have a base stat called “Might”, which is kind of like your overall level. For instance, if you have 60 might, and you try to fight 6th graders who have 100 might, they’re going to do SIGNIFICANTLY more damage to you than you will to them. Each artifact typically has secondary stats as well, that increase things like, elemental damage, knock back damage, health, toughness, etc. As the game progresses you will also unlock DNA strands which give you one of various boosts to your character.
Finding artifacts in battle, or around the world map aren’t the only way to acquire them, however. The game actually has a pretty straightforward, slightly better than bare bones, crafting system in place. With the right materials you can craft new outfits, food, healing items, and new artifacts for your characters. Much like a lot of the other stuff in the game, this is something you will unlock as you complete the main story quests and grow your super hero powers and arsenal. When you first learn how to craft things, it’s Morgan Freeman who holds your hand through the crafting process, helping you to craft the byproduct of combining an enchilada and a burrito, the Enchirito. This item lets you unlock the first of several special fart moves, that affect the world around you, and can have interesting special affects doing combat.
One of the other mechanics about this game that I feel is an improvement, is the world map, and where things are located. You’re going to see some locations from the first game return, as well as some new ones. You’ll also see construction in some areas of the game that didn’t exist previously, as the television series has added things to the town over the last few season. Considering that the layout of the town has kind of been fluid over the course of the show, it’s weirdly comforting knowing exactly where everything is in reference to each other. All of your quests are marked on the maps with icons, if you hover over a house you can also see who’s house it is, and you can always see where the fastpass locations are, in case you don’t feel like walking all the way across town. Moving around town is very similar to the first game, you’ll be moving in a 2.5D, very similar to old style arcade fighting games, as you move around town.
Visuals and Final Thoughts
As far as the visuals go, this game isn’t going to win any awards for it’s graphics. But, here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to. This game is based around a specific art style from the show it is based off of, and the game imitates this so well, it feels as though you are just playing a massively extended episode of the show, as a video game. Except, that’s EXACTLY what you’re doing, it’s immerses you into the universe, and it feels amazing if you’re even a small fan of the series. That said, even though it’s not a graphical master piece due to the core art style, the colors pop, everything looks sharp and clean, and the animations stay true to the show, in hilarious fashion. They could not have knocked this more out of the park if they tried. The ONLY thing in this game that has even remotely irked me, is that sometimes you have to walk quite a bit between quests, even with fastpass. However, there’s ALWAYS someone to fight, something to scavenge, or something to explore in between. If you’re even remotely a fan of South Park, you enjoy RPG’s, or you just have a gross sense of humor, this game is for you. It’s fun, it’s stupid, the mechanics are solid, the story has clearly had a lot of love and care put into it, and the voice acting is stellar throughout. Even with all the focus on improving the core mechanics of the game, they haven’t forgotten what makes this universe so compelling. However, make no mistake, this is an A+ game, even if you don’t give a single crap about South Park. They hit a home run with this, and I’m not talking about down the right field line of Tropicana field, I’m talking, they went YARD over the green monster in Boston here. BUY. THIS. GAME.
I’ll find you Scrambles!!! I’ll find you!