E3 2016: The Side-Splitting Superheroes of The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Stick of Truth completely changed the way players thought about the Comedy Central series when it launched in 2014. South Park games previously weren’t all that impressive, but this new “medieval fantasy” epic mixed classic role-playing game mechanics with the show’s brand of sick, sick humor. The little Colorado town and its citizens are coming back to games in The Fractured But Whole, and at E3 2016 I went on down to the Ubisoft booth and met some friends of theirs in a brand new demo.
The demo started with what was shown at Ubisoft’s E3 2016 press conference, with the boys now planning a superhero movie franchise a la Marvel and DC’s films. New Kid, still a customizable South Park citizen controlled by the player, is stuck in the Stick of Truth’s medieval fantasy as the ruling King Douchebag. He has to be given a new superhero persona, complete with fighting style and tragic backstory, so Cartman helps him create his character... but first we have to sneak into his passcode-protected basement.
In order to find the code we have to explore the house, which highlights one of the new elements to Fractured But Whole: crafting. Everything we find in the many drawers and closets of the house can be added to our inventory and crafted into an item. At one point New Kid enters the Cartmans’ bathroom, relieves himself, then collects the stool for crafting later on. Recycling at its finest. Who knew South Park would teach us how to save the environment?
We eventually find the passcode, the I-should-have-guessed phrase “F you Mom,” and we’re downstairs in the Coon’s hideout. After some prying from New Kid and his almost destroying the galaxy by touching the Galaxy Cube (a completed Rubik’s Cube under glass), Cartman finally decides to let New Kid in on the new game and gets to work on his character by signing him up for Coonstagram.
First the new kid chooses between 12 classes for his superhero, ranging from the powerful Brutalist to the stealthy Assassin. Only three are available at the start, with the rest unlocking as the game progresses, and I’m told I’ll be able to mix and match abilities between the classes in order to maximize New Kid’s potential. After New Kid chooses the Flash-like Speedster for his class, it’s time for Cartman to tell him why he became a superhero.
The behind-closed-doors demo did not change the gory details of the tragic backstory (it still involves New Kid’s parents, in case you’re curious) so I won’t go into them, however it did give me my first glimpse at how combat has changed as New Kid takes on a pair of burglars who have broken into the house. The ability to move around the battlefield adds a new layer of strategy to battles, especially in how attacks can affect enemies. One of the Speedster’s attack can move an enemy one square to the left or right, which he uses here to get himself out of range for the burglar’s attack.
The battle screen is full of helpful information, including the order of attacks and the arena’s full grid. Characters can move anywhere in the grid before taking an action, and depending on the class that character might be better suited for the frontlines or support in the back. The Speedster New Kid I’m seeing here can use his super speed to attack foes two squares away, so he can use that range to his advantage. Other classes may trade that extended range for more attack power (which is how I expect the Brutalist to work), so each player will be able to craft a character to fit his or her style.
After watching the “tragic” backstory the demo fast forwards to an epic battle between the two warring superhero factions, with New Kid teaming up with the Coon and Friends to take on a few rival heroes. The specific strategies of battle come into play here, as the demo moves stronger enemies to the front line as tanks while the weaker character stay behind in support. In the middle of the battle I’m quickly reminded that I’m playing a comedy game, as one of the boys yells “Car!” and they all have to run to the sidewalk as a man driving a car speeds through the battlefield and curses at the kids. I laughed a hearty laugh at that moment, as it simultaneously caught me off-guard and struck me right in the childhood.
The demo was full of absurd and hysterical moments like that, continuing Stick of Truth’s ability to perfectly mix the humor of the show with sound gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately the demo ended before I could really dive deep into the story or the battle system, leaving me wanting more, but what was shown makes an excellent first impression.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is shaping up to be the same kind of extended and interactive episode of the popular TV show as its predecessor The Stick of Truth. I expect to be treated to a grand adventure rife with laugh-out-loud moments when the game launches this coming December. Stick of Truth will be tough to top, but The Fractured But Whole is already making a strong case that it will.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole will be available Dec. 6 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.