I just finished South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Actually, it’s “The Fractured Butthole,” which I didn’t twig to until I went looking for some hints and heard people pronouncing the title. Then I belatedly realized the real title. Which I should have earlier, since the boys (and Cartman in particular) refer to your character as “the Buttlord” or “Butthole” most of the time.
It’s not a very good RPG, but it’s very South Park.
It’s a fairly basic superhero RPG, where despite the presence of 10 different classes, they mostly tend to feel the same. The differences are mostly at the start, when you only have 3 classes available - Speedster (has better mobility), Brutalist (mostly single-target damage, a typical Brick), and Blaster (which has longer range attacks). As you progress you unlock additional classes, and you can mix and match abilities from any of the classes you’ve unlocked. At first you’re limited to 2 classes, but eventually you’re allowed to choose your 4 abilities from 4 different classes if you want.
The mix-and-match approach and the generic-ness of most attacks means that pretty soon I was only really distinguishing most of the attacks by the shape of the attack. I.e. single target, 3 adjacent squares, diagonal squares, etc.
Combat takes place on a square grid, and often you have very artificial, abstract restrictions on your attacks. Most characters can only attack east or west. Even if it seems perfectly reasonable that you should be able to attack an adjacent enemy that’s directly north or south of your character, you usually can’t. The handful of attacks that are more reasonable, only restricted by range rather than rigidly aligned east/west, tend to be more valuable just because they’re so much more flexible.
There are a lot of Quick Time type events in the game, where you have to press a button or move a joystick in a pattern, but thankfully they’re generally unimportant or very forgiving. This is a big improvement over The Stick of Truth, which also had them, but where they were often important or difficult. It still begs the question of why they’re in the game at all, but at least they don’t get in the way.
In fact, the QT stuff in The Stick of Truth proved to be game-breaking for me. I simply could not get past the Anal Probe scene, because defeating the second stage required faster button mashing than I could achieve. I eventually just gave up.
Character progression is mostly about unlocking Artifact Slots. As your character gains levels, you unlocks those, and each artifact you equip adds bonuses to your stats and bonuses to specific effects like knockback damage and health of secondary characters. Much of the game is about finding or crafting better artifacts to replace your existing ones.
Unfortunately, game progression is awfully spotty. Is quite, quite common to get rewards from missions that are obsolete before you get them. But not in an obvious “vendor trash” sort of way, since most of the time it’s a series of linear upgrades. It’s just that every once in a while you’ll find something that’s just a little bit behind what you’ve already found.
Combat is usually not challenging, though their are occasional boss fights that are tougher. If you win, all wounds and deaths are undone, so losing half your team isn’t important so long as you are victorious.
There are ton of costume pieces in the game, and you can mix and match head, body, and hand pieces, and customize the colors of all of them. If you want to make something funky that doesn’t match any particular set, you can. It’s not City of Heroes, of course, but it can still be mildly entertaining if you’re into messing with character appearance. I ended up with a sort of tech helmet and a Thor-style body, because that tickled my fancy.
The South Park-ness feels pretty dead on. You’re playing with Cartman, Kyle, Stan, Craig, Tweek, Butters, and other characters. Oh, and Kenny, though Kenny is completely unrecognizable as Mysterion, since he speaks clearly. I’m not sure how comprehensible some aspects are to people haven’t seen the relevant episodes. If you don’t know what “cheesing” is, does it make much sense that Gerald show up in a B17 bomber with the “Heavy Metal” soundtrack playing if you use a Cheese Vial?
While it’s a superhero game, the bunch of you aren’t actual superheroes, you’re 4th graders playing superheroes, so most of your equipment is cardboard, and red Legos are considered “lava.” Characters occasionally drop out of character, yelling at Cartman rather than “The Coon.” The 4th grade LARP-ing was’s a conceit I found very amusing in The Stick of Truth, and I still found amusing here.
Sometimes there’s some blatant cheating going on. “I call that damage doesn’t count.” “Oh, and it causes bleeding too.” “All that damage gets redirected to Cartman. Yeah, and status effects too.”
Except that sometimes it’s clear that stuff is happening that’s not part of the “let’s pretend” superheroes game. Fart-powered time travel, for example, is definitely a real thing in this, and not just pretend. Sometimes the lines get extremely blurry as to what’s the game and what’s real, and honestly, that’s fine. South Park has always been a pretty bizarre place.
Like South Park, the humor’s kind of hit and miss. The game pokes fun at a lot of different subjects, and it’s often clever and always highly profane, but it also seems to think poop and farts are intrinsically funny because they’re poop and farts… which is also pretty South Park. It has a surprisingly nuanced gender system, where you can be trans, hetero, gay, asexual, or what have you. And no matter what you pick, the rednecks “don’t take kindly to your type,” even if it’s utterly straight.
Worth noting, in passing, is Cartman’s Journal. Which nasty, and doesn’t really fit everything else. Yeah, these 9 year olds swear profusely, and Cartman has always been the biggest jerk of the show, but the Journal depicts drawings of Cartman raping other characters. South Park doesn’t do that, and it’s pretty clear that the boys have a very limited understanding of sex, despite their vocabulary. Even in this game, part of the plot hinges on Cartman repeatedly dropping the F-word in a context that makes clear he has no idea what he’s talking about. Fortunately, once you’re past that, it’s not something that repeats.
The gameplay isn’t great, but it’s not terrible either, and the writing has the usual South Park highs and lows, so I’d say it’s “cautiously recommended.” You don’t have to be super into South Park (I’m not), but you have to be OK with swearing 9 year olds and appreciate how the show aims a sarcasm canon at a lot of different subjects.