South Park: The Fractured But Whole Hands-On Impressions
South Park is one of those divisive properties where you were either raised on it or your friends endlessly referenced it when you were all together. For myself, I very much fall into the latter rather than the former. I was never a big fan of the series, but after some fairly positive buzz surrounding South Park: The Stick Of Truth, the prospect of seeing the follow up was intriguing. Safe to say, if you were a fan of the first game or just a fan of South Park in general, then South Park: The Fractured But Whole will be right up your alley.
The premise of The Fractured But Whole is that the kids of South Park are all role-playing as superheroes. You play the new kid in town, which allows the player to customize their appearance and skills to a degree. In the demo, I was paired with another kid whose title was “Captain Diabetes” and we were tasked with entering a strip club in search of a particular informant.
One of the aspects Stick Of Truth was praised for was its presentation and just how much it actually looked like an episode of the show. Thankfully, the same can be said for this follow up as well. There was this moment during the demo where I waited for the cutscene to stop and the game itself to begin where everything seemed to just idle briefly. Then I realized I was in control at that moment and could freely move around. It really is amazing just how much this game is true to the presentation of the source material.
After that initial shock from the authenticity, I was back to the task at hand. Turns out the informant I needed to find was one of the strippers working at the club and she wasn’t in the immediate area. Captain Diabetes pointed out the DJ for the club was calling out the girls to perform, so the best thing to do was to somehow get the DJ away from his post. The plan was to gather various nasty items around the club and concoct a drink that would take the DJ out of commission.
This was the point where the game didn’t lead me by the hand so much and I was free to explore. The environments have a good deal of interactivity to them. In one instance, I had to stack chairs and boxes then knock over a shelf to get to an item I needed. That may not sound all that interesting, but keep in mind it looks like you’re playing an episode of the show, so the degree in which you can manipulate the environment was enjoyable for me all on its own.
What would a hands-on of a turn based RPG be without explaining how the combat worked? At one point of the demo two drunk customers demanded their money back after I was unable to give them a satisfactory lap dance, so naturally, it was time to throw down.
Combat in Fractured But Whole is grid-based, and there’s a strong emphasis on positioning. You need to consider both where your party members and where the enemies are on the grid in order to successfully execute an attack. What’s particularly interesting is you can actually align your party so they can work together to pull off powerful spells and attacks.
This was the only battle in the demo and it was a bit too easy, but it was still pretty fun. On a higher difficulty, I can imagine late-game battles will require a good degree of strategy and planning.
After this battle, I had all the ingredients I needed to knock the DJ out and was able to take his place and call out the stripper informant. It was a fairly short demo, but it got across everything the game is supposed to be.
You can tell The Fractured But Whole is just as crass as South Park is known to be at times. As I already stated, this game is for fans of the series and you’re either on board with it or you’re not. The section of the demo where your objective was to perform a lap dance for an adult when your character is a 4th grader had me rolling my eyes pretty hard.
The developers obviously wanted to create a segment just to shock people, and I’m sure it’ll do its job in that regard. While I’m not really a fan of the franchise in general, I know it can be much smarter than this. So hopefully in the final product, they relax on content deliberately meant to get a rise out of a portion of the audience and actually put out some meaningful humor.
Despite some content I personally wasn’t a fan of, South Park: The Fractured But Whole had a decent showing at E3 this year. Mechanically, it’s pretty solid, and the authenticity of the presentation is a sight to behold in motion. Time will tell if the final product will live up to scrutiny and fan expectations alike when it launches on October 17 later this year.