South Park: The Fractured But Whole felt like it would never see release, and at the time of writing this, there’s still over a month to go, but there was a period in its development that felt like it was all a dream. Thankfully, it is very real, and I recently got to go and play well over three hours of it. My initial impressions will follow, but overall the follow up to The Stick of Truth is bloody good, featuring a robust battle system, the best version of South Park I’ve seen, and the same crude humour we’re used to. There’s lots to do outside of the main quest, such as taking a dump in various toilets by following button prompts, battling random people behind dumpsters and at bus stops, and buying a wide range of items to help make you a better superhero.
You’re the new kid, and at the start the game you’re creating your superhero persona. There’re plenty of options to change your hair, face, and colour of your cape, such as having a beard (even though you’re a child) and wearing make-up. It’s very basic, but you get the opportunity to pick up new items throughout South Park, and the ability to craft your own costumes will arise later on so some of these initial decisions can be altered. Once this is all out of the way, it’s time to get stuck into the story. Whilst it was a preview, I didn’t get to see a lot of the story, and some bits I’d rather leave for you to discover, but the basic premise sees The Coon (Eric Cartman’s alter ego) trying to assemble an elite team of superheroes to fight the criminal underbelly of South Park; it’s up to you to help him forge this team, as well as improve your own abilities and credibility, because in the eyes of Eric Cartman, you’re an idiot not worthy enough to play with him.
Thankfully you’re a little more resilient than The Coon anticipates, and after finding the passcode to get into the Coon Lair (FYI, it’s “Fuck You Mom”), you’re introduced to the rest of the team: Mosquito, Fast Pass, and the Human Kite. Here, you learn to use Investigation Mode (essentially the Arkham games’ Detective Mode), find out your back story, and get assigned your first mission. Once you’re free to explore, there’s plenty of rummaging through the residents of South Park’s houses for parts, and getting Coonstagram followers to improve your popularity (yep, Coonstagram), along with the reach of your superhero gang by taking selfies with your fellow citizens.
You’ll end up fighting a whole load of different people in TFBW, such as Raisins workers, dirty priests, sixth graders and more. Depending on what class you chose at the start, your moves are determined based on your decision, so if you chose the Brutalist class like me, you’re given stronger moves for short-range attacks. Each fight takes place on a battle grid, and you have certain moves that will either hurt the enemy directly opposite you in the next square, or within the squares surrounding you. You can also move about the grid so you’re not stuck in one position, allowing more control on each turn you get.
There are other moves that can take out multiple enemies in one move, or you can heal allies and raise attack power/decrease defense power as well. It takes time learning what abilities do what, but the general combat is thoroughly satisfying, and there are lots of different enemies who have plenty of range, combat styles, and tactics, so no two fights feel the same. As for your team, different characters can be switched out before a battle, so if you feel you’ve not got much power on your team, substitute in Super Craig. If you need smarter characters, bring in Human Kite – it’s all up to you.
There’s a hefty crafting system too, allowing you to build new costumes, along with food and health serums. You can buy components in shops and other perks, so having a varied amount of stock in your inventory is pretty much a given, as well as a must. The finest moment came when visiting Morgan Freeman and learning a little about crafting, which was both funny and helpful. There’s a great game in The Fractured But Whole, and behind all the laughs and dick and fart jokes, Ubisoft has got a wonderfully detailed turn-based RPG here.
I had loads of fun exploring South Park, bumping into familiar faces and finding some references to the past, but this is very much everything South Park is in 2017. Throw in the intricate combat system and you’re set to have a fantastic South Park game capable of being as good – if not better than The Stick of Truth. Of course, this is only a preview, and certain flaws may present themselves as the game progresses, but currently, The Fractured But Whole has a lot to get me excited.