South Park: The Fractured But Whole Review

The Switch ever growing library is increasingly filled with a variety of genre’s and distinct experiences. Platformers, action adventures, RPGs and the occasional first person shooter. However, the Switch is missing something with vulgarity, crudeness and the funnys… that is until now. South Park: The Fractured But Whole is a god send for those looking for something unique and unlike anything that the system has to offer currently. It is a solid but flawed RPG with plenty of character and laughs by the truckload.

Brought to you from the same minds behind the shows, the game plays out like a weekly episode of South Park. I mean quite literally. Everything from the writing, voice acting, the distinct satire, the humor and the presentation of the game is set out to replicate an episode of South Park, albeit a longer and more elaborate one.  The mischevious boys and the extended family of friends have gotten tired of playing “Lord of the Rings” and have started their very own Super hero franchise in order to cash in the riches. You play as “the new kid” and you are dragged into the rabbit hole of absurdity and hilarity that only the minds of South Park could conjure. Without giving away spoilers, the story has more than enough to twists and turn to drive the player towards the end.

While the story is thoroughly enjoyable, it does take a significant of time before it picks up. For the first hours, you are doing superfluous chores, walking around town to fill up your character sheets and getting acquainted with the game. From a narrative perspective, nothing important happens in the opening hours. When the conflict begins to unfold and the mystery unravels it all culminates to a satisfying tale of trust, betrayal and all sorts of “WTF” moments. The story is quintessentially South Park and fan of the show will most definitely enjoy what is on offer here.

The Fracture But Whole is an unique take on the RPG genre. To maintain the integrity of the original source material, Obsidian opts for some  interesting design choices that succeed in varying degree’s. For starters, the explorable world South park is largely a series of lane-ways populated with building and houses. The reason for this choice is most likely to maintain the illusion that the player is viewing an episode of South Park and I did enjoy seeing an interactive incarnation of my favorite dysfunctional town. However, the results is a world that is overly structured and superficial. Essentially, you are moving left, right, up or down which is rather restrictive and hardly opens up any opportunities to explore. Perhaps my biggest grievance with the explorable world is how incredibly bland it is. With a wealthy of side characters to use and opportunities for interesting sidestories to be told, the Fracture But Whole feels like a huge miss. Aside from the main quest mission lines, interaction with the world is lacking. Sidequests are almost non-existant, NPC’s are delegated for small chit-chat and selfies and South Park as a whole isn’t an interesting place to explore. In a game about Superheroes, The Fracture But Whole would have benefit from a more fleshed out world.

The game structure is fairly linear. The main character is your own avatar which can be customized to adjust its appearance, skills and statistics. Your character is central to the story and is a led along by the supporting casts to complete quests and missions. In simplistic terms, you go from point A to B, battle the boss and then rinse and repeat. Structure is serviceable and compliments the narrative well, however it does not allow any variants in game-play apart from the light puzzle solving thrown in occasionally.

The focal point for South Park: The Fractured But Whole is without the doubt the battle system. The systems functions similarly to a turn-based strategy RPG. Battles take place in a grid-base area with each unit taking turns moving and using a respective move. As you would expect moves come with a variety of unique effects such as status effects, buffs and area damage with the strategy deriving on how effective you can use the tools to defeat your foes. The combat plays out in a fairly  and straightforward simplistic manner and not nearly have the same level of interconnecting systems and complexities of other SRPG games. It’s more about using the right moves than any deeper meta strategy.

I wasn’t a fan of was that turns are predetermined and qued in a fix order. Essentially you have to use the unit that is in play and cannot toggle between your other characters. It’s an odd design choice and fairly restrictive to the players strategic play. In a grid base battle system, positioning is incredibly important to strategy and so it is baffling the developers opts for choices that become detrimental to positioning. I often found myself unable to attack or position myself to attack because an ally unit was blocking my desired grid. It is frustrating as I was essentially wasting a turn. I would have much preferred if the game gave me more freedom to manage my units, plan positioning and the team’s offensive play over the heavy curated system here.

Not all is bad with Fracture But Whole combat. In fact, the developers should be lauded with the creativity of the boss battles and how effective they are able to keep encounters fresh. The developers go to town with the most outrageous situations and boss encounters, and it is perhaps what is the most endearing aspect of the game. The variety and objectives is fantastic. One moment you can be battling a group of thug 6 graders and the next you can be confronted with a man eating Shub-Niggurath. My favorite is without a doubt the battle against Butters dad. It is a challenging battle with a unique hook that requires tact and strategy to achieve victory. Encounters like these are prevalent and is the essence of what makes Fracture But Whole so enjoyable.

Players can expect a respectable adventure with the main story play-through lasting over 30 hours. Unfortunately, once the main game is completed there isn’t a compelling reason to go back to the game. The lack of interesting side-quests become more apparent and post-game content is non-existent. It is egregious in a modern RPG to have so little side content and to risk of repeating myself, the game feels like a miss opportunity. The game would have greatly from more content to deliver a rich world and more satisfying player experience. Instead, it is a bare-bones games with extra content cut in order to sell it as DLC.

South Park: The Fracture But Whole is a flawed RPG riddled with odd design choices and miss opportunity. This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of Fracture But Whole. It is a game that could have been exceptional, but squanders the opportunity with wasted potential. However, despite all its downfalls, Fractured But Whole still manages to be competent offering plenty of heart, charm, laughs and delivering what i s the most important, the fun factor. What we have is a blue print for a game that can be great and I can’t wait to see what wacky adventures lie ahead for us in the future. For now, South Park: The fractured But Whole is a solid game that is well recommended for Switch owners looking for something unique to play on their system.

Images courtesy of Ubisoft