What You Been Gaming? - South Park The Fractured But Whole
I Can't Top the Title with this Tagline.
The long awaited and delayed ‘Stick of Truth’ was undoubtedly one of the best games to come out based on a TV franchise. The material lent itself perfectly to the gaming format and many have commented, quite rightly, that it’s just like you are playing an episode. After that release however Matt and Trey, the writers of South Park, who were heavily involved in the game (probably the reason for its success), said they would never make another game as it was too taxing. So it was with childish glee that I waited eagerly after the announcement of The Fractured But Whole (TFBF from here on in) for the release date. Which was pushed back... Which is now the way games are released. (But I digress).
The Stick of Truth was pretty darn good but it was not faultless. Whilst the story, lore and graphics were spot on the game was a little lacklustre in the combat department. Now I have admitted I like my games easy many times in the past but even I breezed through this game more or less on auto pilot (Other than one random battle which everyone found the same, Al Gore much?). So I was happy to find that the combat has had a makeover in the new release. Now a simplified grid, turn based combat model, it does lead you to be less likely to avoid random encounters and other fights just out of boredom. Whilst the game introduces special rules for certain battles the combat is still not deep enough to be the focus of the game. Luckily TFBW presentation is so darn good that once again it doesn’t really matter.
It takes a special game to have me laugh when I am playing it alone with just my headphones on and whilst I wasn’t giggling like a schoolgirl throughout there were some great moments which elicited a “lol” from me. The top of the pile are small things which just boost this game’s presentation beyond that to be expected for example during battles randomly your characters will all cry out a warning of a car approaching, the battlefield will empty of enemies and your team alike to let the car through after which they will return like nothing happened. Whilst this rips you from the “story” as such it reminds you that these are the kids of South Park and the Meta storytelling is spot on.
Having four members on your team at once and the way the story presents new characters and restricts old as the storyline dictates means that whilst you will have favourites, you will pretty much play with every character on your team at some point. I like this much more than the previous game where everyone I have spoken to ended up with Butters, the game’s healer, as their second and sole ally for most of the game. Each character is true to the show and also made to feel individual enough skills wise, to be worth swapping your team up and experimenting.
The story is exactly what you expect of the South Park boys and is paced well. Whilst there were a few points in my 25 hour journey that I felt a little like I was just going through the motions, the fast travel points and dynamic story rarely led you feeling like you were doing that too much. The town is fun to explore but I would say my collector nature meant I had explored most of it’s secrets in the first 15 hours.
One thing I will pick up as totally slowing the game down is the abilities in the open world. At various points you get your allies to help you reach places you cannot reach alone. Be this using a character’s diabetic rage to move heavy objects or to remove lava (Red Lego) with an ass powered jet blaster. The problem is that often you know exactly which power you need to use in a situation but not only is the selection pretty long winded but also there is a lead in animation and exit animation which takes up close to 30 seconds a time. It is not skippable. When they present you with a puzzle which will use three or more of these powers these (whilst great the first few times) become more of a chore.
In conclusion I whilst I enjoyed TFBW it did not rock my world like the first. It’s hard with a game which nailed the graphics in the first game as there is nowhere to go from that. Whilst small presentation parts were improved and the combat was given more depth, this is still only a game which I feel can be played once. If it were not for the story and setting this game would be a very average RPG. Luckily it’s a hell of a story and setting!