Reed Pake ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Back in 2014, South Park: The Stick of Truth was met with praise for faithfully bringing Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s iconic small mountain town to life. Its sequel, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, is no different. The world of South Park is absurdly detailed, complete with an art style that is so painstakingly accurate to the show that a passerby could easily mistake a gameplay segment with an episode of the cartoon. The crass and idiosyncratic satire that South Park is known for is here in spades, as well as in an abundance of Easter Eggs that pull from the 21 year history of the show.
Just like its predecessor, The Fractured But Whole is an entire season’s worth of authentic South Park goodness crammed onto a single disc. However, is the game actually fun to play? For the most part, the answer is yes. It should be noted that the crazy story and densely-packed open world are the main enjoyment factors.
The Fractured But Whole eschews The Stick of Truth’s fantasy satire and, instead, boasts a superhero send-up that parodies the media’s current comic book movie craze. Series mainstay Eric Cartman and all of his friends aim to jumpstart the next multimillion dollar superhero franchise by dressing up like superheroes and finding a missing cat.
The Fractured But Whole’s story is complemented by the expansive open-world, which is a joy to explore. The best part of The Fractured But Whole is being able to poke around the town in search of jokes, puzzles and collectibles. Generally speaking, fetch quests in games can feel like filler, but the comedy keeps the player engaged. Every activity and mechanic is injected with humor, which keeps the game-y elements such as collect-a-thons and backtracking from growing stale.
The Fractured But Whole’s combat borrows heavily from strategic turn-based role-playing games. Players clash with enemies on a battle grid and can move on any square that is highlighted. Before each combat encounter, players can choose their abilities and battle partners. When selecting abilities, players can see the range of effect and damage each ability will inflict so players can decide which attacks will be most effective. The combat is fine-tuned and accessible, allowing for more battle strategy than the first game’s Paper Mario-esque system.
However, The Fractured But Whole wears out its welcome after a while. Clocking in at 20 hours, the game’s repeated jokes grow old, the story runs out of steam towards the end, and the battles start to become repetitive. The fact that the final encounters are incredibly unsatisfying and anti-climactic don’t help.
Another shortcoming is that the game is very buggy. Some of the glitches are minor like when the player character freezes in place for a few seconds. There are also instances of graphical pop-in, dialogue not playing when it should, and frame drops. One game-breaking bug involves the player character being unable to move after accidentally sharing a position square with an enemy.
Although The Fractured But Whole does not live up to the comedic highs of its predecessor, it is still a fun romp with an unpredictable plot, a surplus of South Park’s unique brand of humor, a detailed open-world to explore, and an overhauled combat system. If you are fan of the show or The Stick of Truth, this new title is most definitely worth a playthrough.