South Park: The Fractured But Whole: My Thoughts

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.

 

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Darkest Dungeon: Lovecraftian Dungeon Crawler, or Character Meat Grinder?

It’s not often I get addicted to a video game that doesn’t have the words Mortal Kombat anywhere in the title these days, but this Christmas weekend, I think I found it.  It’s a little roguelike dungeon crawler known simply as Darkest Dungeon.

I first heard of it from Noah Antwiler himself, The Spoony One, when he decided to livestream it on his Livewire series.  Honestly, I’m at a bit of an impasse when it comes to Livewire.  I love Spoony, and while others complain the man is nearly dead silent during the stream most of the time, I almost appreciate it.  I do like guys like Markiplier and Jacksepticeye, but the constant chatter that goes nowhere and might be a sign of A.D.D. and high-pitched screams of [EMOTION] get a little old in a hurry.  It’s just too bad that there hasn’t been an actual review since May of last year.

I understand nothing lasts forever, and you can only do the same thing over and over before even YOU get tired of it and want to try something new.  I appreciate the effort, and I understand nobody starts out good at new things.  That being said, I miss the reviews.  Even when I don’t agree with everything being said, Spoony always made it entertaining.  Hell, even Livewire is fascinating in it’s own way.  My only real complaint about the series is that I rarely have the time and/or patience for a two or three hour long stream.

Also, in the case of the Darkest Dungeon stream, the audio went out of sink with the video around the 1/3 mark or so, and kind of ruined the overall experience, but that aside, I enjoyed the playthrough, and it inspired me to pick up the game and try it for myself.

All I got to say is this: it’s a well designed game, but it will piss you off beyond belief.  If absolutely nothing else, this game has reconnected me with my long dorment gamer rage.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this much fun while getting pissed off at something.  The main gimmick of Darkest Dungeon is the fact that, on top of exploring dungeons and fighting monsters, you also have to keep your “heroes” as mentally balanced as possible.  Once you’ve completed an adventure, you send your heroes to town to drink, gamble, pray, buy a prostitute, get whipped (which oddly enough has nothing to do with the prostitute)…  Or you can just stuff them in the sanitarium for a while, and remove certain afflictions.

If you’re good at the game, you’ll come back with broken heroes, but a lot of treasure, and the ability to afford all their stress relief as well as upgrade all your shit.  If you suck, or if you hit a roadblock  like I have, though, you’ll send four heroes in, and maybe one or two will survive long enough for you to abandone the quest halfway in, and need to relieve their stress.  Unfortunately, you don’t have enough money for ANYTHING, because you need to save what little you got from the dungeon on provisions for the next dungeon.  And before long, you find yourself in an endless loop, and realize five or six attempts in that your graveyard has about forty different dudes in it.

It’s at this point I stopped naming the characters.  I’m even going out of my way to avoid using one or two until I’m one-hundred percent certain I can beat the mission with them.  I got too attached to Dismal Dan the highway man and Hamburgers the jester.  In fact, there might be a story in that.

Relax, I’m going to finish the Gael trilogy LONG before I start on that one.

Anyway, the point I was getting at is that once you hit a roadblock like I have, the game becomes less of a fun little romp into Lovecraft esque story telling and surprisingly fun turn-based combat (two concepts I rarely associate with each other), and it becomes more of what I’ve heard D&D players call a “meat grinder campaign.”

Clearly this term came out before MMORPGs became popular, and the term GRINDING was associated with repetitive tasks designed specifically to boost your stats.  Meat grinder, in the context it was shared with me, tends to describe a campaign, tabletop or otherwise, that just shreds through your characters.  By the time it’s all said and done, everybody playing has gone through a bare minimum of five character sheets, and the characters who managed to survive the adventure and claim glory are barely alive enough to enjoy it.  D&D was never my game (my friends were more of a Shadow Run group), but believe me, I know what those are like.  In the case of D&D, I’ve heard stories.  I might even go as far as to say that, in a weird way, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is a bit of a meat grinder.

Darkest Dungeon is definitely a meat grinder, but honestly, it’s a FUN meat grinder.  That sounds weird when I read it back, but I’m keeping in mind that I’m a guy who enjoys feeding documents to his paper shredder.  So yeah, consider the source.

Seriously, though, this is one of those games where you will bitch, you will swear, and you will make the neighbors think a domestic disturbance might be taking place next door.  However, you might actually find it to be an entertaining experience despite all that.  A wise man once said: “There is no glory in a quest without peril.”

Darkest Dungeon is the kind of game that drives you insane with its gimmick, it’s randomly generated maps, its steap difficulty, and its unforgiving approach to dungeon crawlers.  It’s the kind of game that pisses you off, makes it personal in the process…  But somehow has me coming back for more.  Am I a masochist?  Nah.  If my experience in the dating game is anything to go by, I’m at that point where logically, I should give up and get used to marking that particular aspect of my life as a failure, but somehow, I’m stubborn enough to say “fuck that” and go back into the melee anyway, knowing full well it’s never going to work out, and will only drive me fucking crazy with every failure in the process.

Do I recommend Darkest Dungeon?  Sure, why not?  Give it a look over for yourself.