It’s been a long time since I’ve managed to successfully play a game to completion. By which I mean I finished the storyline, and not the obsessive compulsive “FIND FUCKING EVERYTHING!” way of gameplay Jirard The Completionist has apparently made a thing over on YouTube.
The last time I ever managed to start a game, and see it all the way to the end, Catherine was the hot new thing everybody was obsessed with. Before realizing it was just a really pretty tower climber with anime graphics, getting bored, and moving on. I liked Catherine, but trust me, if I reviewed that game here, we’d be here all night.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole (heheheheh) officially holds the distinction of being the first game in six years I’ve played from start to finish. Even Killer is Dead couldn’t accomplish that, and Suda51 is pretty much my video game god in adulthood.
The funny thing, though, is I never finished The Stick of Truth: the game that came before this one. I played it, I made some pretty decent progress… But then I got beamed up onto The Visitors’ ship, and I distinctly remember that being the point where I decided I’d had enough. I don’t know if it was a heavy reliance on point-and-shoot puzzles, or if the visitors puzzle was so frustrating that I got annoyed and moved on to… Whatever I ended up moving on to (2014 is kind of a blur anymore). I distinctly remember the fart controls in that game being way more complicated than they needed to be. Oi, the things you think you’ll never say out loud. And this is coming from a guy who once proudly owned a Sega Genesis game by the name of Boogerman.
Fortunately, I found that you don’t need to finish The Stick of Truth to understand what’s going on in The Fractured But Whole. The parents appear to hate each other a lot more compared to the first game, but the storyline with the titular Stick of Truth is abandoned completely in favor of playing superheroes.
In all honesty, I never really liked the superhero characters in South Park. Granted, the Coon and Friends trilogy wasn’t nearly as tedious and painful to sit through as the Imagination Land trilogy, but I just didn’t get into it. The fact Mentberry Crunch ended up being the savior of mankind was great, and ended up saving the entire thing from being a chore, but honestly, I have little desire to sit through it again.
All that being said, somehow, the superhero characters work better as video game characters. Maybe it’s because we’re seeing all this from their perspective, and from their perspective, the battles and the overall adventure is loads more epic. Or maybe I just didn’t give the superhero characters their due the first time around. Maybe I SHOULD watch that trilogy again.
The combat in Fractured But Whole is an improvement. Rather than rip off Paper Mario, they decided to… I want to say rip off Mega Man Battle Network, but I’ve heard others compare the combat to XCOM, and to a similar extent, Mario Rabbids Kingdom Battle. The latter basically being both an XCOM ripoff, and being the ultimate crossover game that literally nobody asked for. Seriously, when was the last time the rabbids were relevant?
In any case, combat is based around selecting an attack, and positioning yourself on a battle grid. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is reposition your party, and other times, you can unload some serious whupass on some sixth graders. There’s definitely some thought that goes into each battle, and I found it to be a major improvement. If it ever got tedious, it had less to do with the combat itself, and more to do with the people I was fighting.
Another feature that becomes available in combat is the “microagression” mechanic. Characters in this game have a lot to say, and if they drop a slur like “queer”, “sissy”, and “pussy”, you can declare microagression, gain a free hit, and negate their turn completely. It’s amusing enough, although I have to question how I didn’t get a microagression opportunity when one character called me a “homo”, and yet it declared microagression when Butters declares “I’m a healer, not a fighter, although I can do both.”
The story… Is South Park. Much like the first game, it’s got some pretty generous amounts of fan service that only long-time fans of the show will really appreciate. Not to mention they added in tidbits from the last couple of seasons that came after Stick of Truth. IE, the song “Where My Country Gone” playing over the musack machine in some of the stores.
Once again, you play as a created character, but this time, you can decide what gender they are, what race they are, what religion they are, whether they’re cisgender or transgender… I get the feeling this was Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s answer to the people griping about how you could only create boys in Stick of Truth. That, or the addition of PC Principal to South Park canon warrented some PC humor, and this seemed like a good way of shoving it in. I’ll believe either one, honestly.
Apparently, the game becomes more difficult if you decide to make your character black. I don’t know HOW exactly, on the count I wussed out and played a white kid. However, if playing as a cisgendered girl proved anything to me, it’s that it really doesn’t have any payoff what you pick.
My only real gripe with Fractured But Whole is that The cut scenes, near as I can tell, are unskippable. Not great for when you’re stuck on a boss, and find yourself losing multiple times in a row.
You can turn down the difficulty, or turn it UP if you’re psychotic enough, at any point in the game. I generally kept it on the standard difficulty… Right up until I got to the second-to-last boss fight in the game where the superhero versions of you and your friends travel back in time, and fight the Stick of Truth versions of yourselves. I’ll own up to pussing out after about ten tries with five different arrangements of party members. Sue me.
And yeah, spoilers. Whatever: everybody and their mom is putting up Let’s Plays of it on YouTube.
All and all, I enjoyed this game from start to finish. It had its moments of frustrations, but it only ever felt unfair around the second-to-last boss fight. And even then, they give you the option to puss out and lower the difficulty. If anything was ever difficult before and after that, it was either my fault for not checking the objective right away, or because Mitch Conner is a cheating sack of crap.
I highly recommend you play this game.