In 2014, Ubisoft released the first ever South Park RPG — a title that took the gaming world by storm. In collaboration with the famous RPG studio Obsidian Entertainment, The Stick of Truth was definitive proof that a game does not need top of the line graphics to be a masterpiece. Behind all the fart jokes in that game was an extremely satisfying turn-based RPG with a surprisingly complex combat system and story.
Being a big part of geek culture, South Park didn’t need another game to cement its popularity. But Ubisoft knew that they were sitting on a gold mine given the success of Stick of Truth. And thus, South Park: The Fractured but Whole was released on October 18, 2017. Changing things up from the first game, the kids are now playing as superheroes. This new theme has seen the improvement of many features from Stick of Truth as well as the addition of numerous others, all while keeping true to the spirit of the show.
In this first ever article of The First 48, I will attempt to dissect this new game after spending 2 days with it. Any games played in this series of articles will be played on my own PC, and I’ll always share my specs for those that are curious.
The first thing that stood out to me was the overhaul of the combat system. While the first game’s combat was an homage to the tried and true turn-based systems of many classic RPGs, The Fractured but Whole takes a different approach. The new combat system feels more tactical as your characters can move around the battlefield. Additionally, your character’s skills and abilities have grid-based range akin to that of Final Fantasy Tactics. This makes for much more varied combat, as effective positioning is essential both for damage output and survivability.
Ubisoft San Francisco have clearly devoted most of their time and energy to this new system, especially considering the introduction of the Ultimate Attack. During combat, any damage your character suffers will charge your Ultimate bar. This is a shared bar that, once filled, will allow any hero in your party to unleash their Ultimate attack. This devastating attack comes with a fully-fleshed animation, and often with over the top special effects. Overall, it’s a very satisfying feature, especially seeing as you’re playing as a superhero. The flash animation you get when initiating an encounter was definitely a nice addition as well.
Moving onto gameplay, there aren’t many noticeable improvements over The Stick of Truth. You still create your own character, play as the new kid in the city, and go about your business one quest at a time. Exploration is still mainly done in the 2.5D environment that the first game was famous for, and it feels as good as ever.
With the introduction of crafting, your loot table has been slightly expanded to include crafting materials. Crafting is a nice addition to the game, but in my 48 hours of playing, I didn’t actually utilize it much. The rare times I did craft, it was to complete my collection of superhero costumes. All in all, if you enjoyed the gameplay in the first game, you’ll have fun with the gameplay here as well.
I also have to make mention of Ubisoft’s attempt at reminding their audience that this whole game takes place within the imagination of the kids. Every once in a while during combat in the middle of the road, there’ll be vehicles passing that will have everyone yelling “cars!” The combatants then move to the side of the road as the cars pass by, with the drivers yelling at them for playing on the road. This nod to everyone’s childhood is a welcome feature, and one that I’ve truly enjoyed.
For all its strengths, the game’s flaws are noticeable too. The first negative for me was how different the art style was compared to The Stick of Truth. The South Park series has always run with a unique art style, one that has survived the test time of time. Yet most of the colors here felt a bit muted compared to the Stick of Truth, and the background graphics seemed to have a lower resolution than the first game. This wasn’t something I noticed much in the early stages of the game, but it became more apparent later on. Fortunately, it was always countered by the excellent special effects that came with all abilities.
Second, it’s very obvious that Fractured but Whole was primarily designed as a console game and then ported to PC. The configuration options are fairly limited, with the only graphics settings being High, Medium and Low. The key-binding options are abysmal, so much so that you can’t even bind functions to your mouse beyond its standard buttons. The problem is further compounded as there are numerous quick-time events in the game that actually require you to utilize both the WASD keys and the arrow keys. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had to complete a quick-time event in a PC game where I had to move my right hand away from the mouse. In fact, one of your major powers can only be activated by using a combination of both the WASD keys and the arrow keys, while also pressing another letter key to execute. It’s complicated for no apparent reason and becomes cumbersome especially over time when everything should have been simplified with the use of the mouse. It’s not a huge annoyance, but if you have a gamepad, use that instead of a mouse and keyboard.
Performance-wise, the game was actually pretty solid. My system’s framerate is capped at 144fps, and at 1440p resolution and the highest graphics setting the game stayed at max fps without a hitch, even when there were a lot of flashy special effects happening. This shouldn’t come across as much of a surprise as The Fractured but Whole is not really a graphically demanding game to begin with. But pairing the smooth FPS with no crashes, it turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. There were some minor glitches I encountered, but nothing major, and definitely nothing game-breaking.
For comparison, here are my PC specs:
A True South Park Experience
Let’s face it, South Park has risen to fame because of its uncompromising crude humor and often over the top jokes. It’s not for everyone, and if you’re not a fan of crude humor, you likely won’t be a fan of this game. But for those who do enjoy it, Ubisoft has certainly managed to capture the essence of what makes South Park great. The humor has been dialed up from the first game, and is still on point. There are more uncomfortable and cringe-worthy moments throughout, and they really are unapologetic about them. Having Matt Parker and Trey Stone supervise the game has clearly had a positive affect on its quality. Also, all the characters in the game are voiced by the same actors as the TV series. Honestly, at times it felt as if I was just watching another South Park episode.
“A must buy RPG, especially for South Park fans”
If you’re a South Park fan, this is a must buy, especially if you enjoyed the first game. The flaws of the game are fairly marginal; the fun outweighs the issues to the point that you’ll quickly forget about them. That said, if you never played the first game, or have no opinion whatsoever about South Park, you might want to wait for a Christmas sale.
All things considered, South Park: The Fractured but Whole is a solid sequel to The Stick of Truth, which was already a great entry to the South Park series. Well done, Ubisoft!
+ Extremely satisfying combat system
+ True, unapologetic South Park writing
+ Animations and effects make you really feel like a band of superheroes
+ Crafting and artifact systems add a new layer to character customization
+ Lots of laughter
– PC controls can be awkward, and settings are limited
– Visuals are sometimes lower quality than the first game