Category: News ArchiveHits: 988
We begin the previews at the UbiBlog:
After a few minutes of nosing around in people’s houses, knocking over mailboxes, experimentally throwing Snap N Pops at fragile-looking objects, and taking selfies with South Park residents to raise our Coonstagram influencer level, we ran into trouble in the form of a group of sixth-graders who were blocking the road into town. Combat in The Fractured But Whole plays out like a tactical RPG, with characters moving around a grid each turn to line up attacks and/or retreat out of the range of enemies, and taking turns as dictated by each character’s stats.
Initially, we had three attacks – a punch that could knock enemies into other enemies for bonus damage, a ramming charge that also came with a knockback, and an area-of-effect fart stomp that had the added benefit of temporarily grossing out every enemy it touched, making them lose health while vomiting copiously each turn. With each maneuver, we had the chance to boost our damage by nailing a timed button prompt that appeared over our hero. To complement our Brutalist’s abilities, we recruited Human Kite (Kyle), Fastpass (Jimmy), and Super Craig (Craig), each of whom brought a unique set of fighting, healing, and even taunting abilities to the fight. (Super Craig’s middle-finger shield move, for example, is great for enraging powerful enemies and getting them to focus their attacks on the shielded Craig, freeing you up to focus on smaller fry .)
A short cutscene plays when I enter a dark room in Father Maxi’s Church: there’s some spooky voiceover, a mooing alien, and then two priests approach under the pretense that they’re just in your imagination and want to get to know you better. I sit up in my chair, poised for the worst. It happens. A battle grid lights up, mood lighting fades into life, cheesy erotic music starts playing. The first attack, Hug Thy Father, is a telegraphed move, giving me time to move before I’m caught in the Father’s supposedly harmful clutches. The next attack is called Mutual Flagellation - alarm bells ring - the second Father moves, turns, and painstakingly eases a thread of rosary-cum-anal beads from beneath his cassock before flogging himself with it. I’m stunned now, sat mouth agape, feverishly scanning the faces of those around me to see if anyone else has reached this point yet. It’s another telegraphed attack, so I obligingly shift out of the way and strike from range. The next attack is also Mutual Flagellation, as is the next one, then another Hug Thy Father, and then a final string of Mutual Flagellations before I’m able to finish them off. Poor choice of words, I know.
Ubisoft's comedy RPG South Park: The Fractured but Whole features various levels of difficulty, from easy to very difficult, much like most games. What's different though is the difficulty affects the colour of your character's skin.
During the character creation section of the game, which you can see in the video below (skip to the five minutes and 40 seconds mark), you select the difficulty of the game. What's interesting is the easier the difficulty, the lighter your character's skin. Conversely, the harder the difficulty, the darker your character's skin. It means if you want to play The Fractured but Whole on a harder than normal difficulty, you have to play as a person of colour.
Ubisoft’s latest foray into South Park territory starts much like any RPG, with character creation. From there you hit the opportunity to pick specific superhero powers, swiftly tested against gender-furious rednecks, paedophile priests and a lot of strangers’ toilets. The Fractured But Whole carries on directly from its predecessor, with you reprising your role of New Kid. After a brief intro sequence in Stick of Truth’s world of dragons and wizards, things pivot towards rival gangs of superheroes and villains. From there, you’re swiftly given a chance to choose between three starting classes; the nippy Speedster, the tank-like Brutalist, and the long-range Blaster.
The game’s associate producer, Kimberly Weigend, told me that developing the combat involved a lot of back and forth with South Park’s creators – Matt Stone and Trey Parker: “We pitch things back to South Park and say ‘here [are] the powers we’re thinking of for the characters, what do you think?’ Matt and Trey are big gamers. Trey is really into board games. They think there’s a lot of value in making an interactive medium for South Park. It can't just be the South Park wrapper around any old game.” It sounds like a considered approach; I’m not sure the same can be said for 2000’s South Park Rally.
In battles with characters like these rednecks, players will have to accustom themselves to some different combat mechanics than the first game. While The Stick of Truth worked with turn-based combat, out of the book of classic Final Fantasy or Super Mario RPG, The Fractured But Whole works with a grid-based system. That means different attacks and spells can only reach a certain range, requiring an additional degree of strategy. For example, Super Craig's punch can not only cause damage to an adversary, but also knock him backwards into another foe, causing a chain reaction. It also means that another character following up with an attack that goes across may not work, since Super Craig will be blocking that attack's path. Players will have a full party to team up with, including Kyle's Human Kite, Jimmy's Fastpass, the aforementioned Super Craig, and Clyde's Mosquito. However, there will be a few situations, such as an unpleasant incident inside Father Maxi's church, where players will have to go it alone.
Attacks will vary depending on the player's chosen power set, which come right out of the best that comic books has to offer. Players can choose from Speedster, Brutalist, and Blaster abilities to start, with an option to add a second set of abilities later in the game. All of it likewise fits in with the player's tragic backstory, capably narrated with pathos by Cartman.
Battles actually take place on a ‘field’ now too. While there’s elements of The Stick Of Truth’s Paper Mario-inspired combat, with timed button-presses for power boosts, the added dimension of movement and positioning on a 3D grid makes fights infinitely more dynamic. Speedster Jimmy for example, can flank from behind by turning invisible and push enemies forward a space. This can, in turn, lead a knockback punch from Super Craig to cause extra ricochet damage if an enemy is sandwiched between two heroes in the same lane.
Coupled with occasional obstacles, abilities to protect lines of sight, super moves and timed bomb attacks which cause massive damage to defined grid blocks, you’re constantly planning movement to best capitalize on party abilities and avoid incoming attacks. While the Stick Of Truth’s combat became slightly mindless with overpowered moves dominating late-game fights, don’t be surprised to find yourself mulling over strategies between turns at length in The Fractured But Whole.
The best part about exploring Fractured But Whole’s South Park is the fanservice Ubisoft has crammed in. Wandering into Craig’s house and QVC is heard on the TV, flogging a “52 carat faux-sapphire earrings”. A billboard outside City Hall has posters for Turd Sandwich vs Giant Douche. Randy Marsh has informative murder porn in his bedside cabinet. All these things will make long-time fans of the series chuckle.
One of the issues with Stick of Truth was its relative linearity. I was free to roam South Park and indulge my nerdy passion for the show to my heart’s content, but there was a severe lack of stuff to do beyond the main missions, and looting every trash bag and drawer you came across lost all meaning relatively quickly.
And then there are video previews at VideoGamer and EGM.