South Park: The Fractured But Whole Vs The Stick of Truth
I grew up watching South Park as a kid, and remember watching the first few seasons on VHS. There weren't many shows like it and the show was always being mentioned on the news for its foul language and crude humor, that young kids shouldn't be watching. The show is now into its 22nd season and has grown into a show that is almost universally loved for its commentary and satire on hot topics ranging from religion, politics and popular trends like e-scooters. The show is known for being able to reflect current trends because it has an extremely short production cycle per episode, as seen in the documentary 6 Days to Air.
Least to say I'm a big fan of the show. While I've missed a few episodes from the past 2-3 seasons, I've been watching each episode from the current season as they release. I recently finished playing the South Park game, The Fractured But Whole, and replayed The Stick of Truth to compare the two games and in this article, I will compare the what I liked, or disliked, about the two games.
The Fractured But Whole was developed by Ubisoft San Francisco and South Park Digital Studios, while The Stick of Truth was developed by Obsidian Entertainment, known for producing other RPGs like Fall New Vegas. Upon hearing that the sequel was changing developers, I was hesitant because I thought that the game would lose many of the RPG elements that Obsidian brought to the table, or worse yet the game would just be a cash grab playing off the success of the first game. I will be comparing the two games by specifically looking at their combat system, story, and extra features to give you my point of view of which game was better in those areas.
First, let's start with combat. I love JRPGs with traditional turn-based combat but have to say, hands down, that the combat in The Fractured But Whole is superior. At first, I was annoyed that some attacks can only hit the target if you are directly in front or behind of the enemy, while not being able to target enemies in the cell above or below your character. However, after unlocking more allies and powers of your own, I began taking advantage of this mechanic to protect my allies, and I appreciated the added strategy it provided. Where your character ends up after an attack will be important, as taking damage from multiple enemies can easily take a character down. The combat is also improved by the overall harder difficulty compared to The Stick of Truth. In the first game, even after adjusting to the hardest difficulty, I had no problem killing enemies in one hit and even boss battles didn't pose a threat. With the added challenge I also utilized different powers and party members, compared to The Stick of Truth, where I only used one support character throughout most of the game.
The next is the story. The Fractured But Whole picks up right where The Stick of Truth leaves off, and some aspects such as the new kid's backstory are explored further. This time around the main story is about the Coon and Friends, and their rivals the Freedom Pals, looking for a lost cat to claim the $100 reward. While there are a bigger plot and villain of the story, I have to say that The Stick of Truth had a more cohesive and interesting story. While the Stick of Truth was half of the length, at about 12 hours, compared to its sequel, you also have to take into account that the map and many locations are reused from the original game. Apart from the main story, relative for the length of the game, The Stick of Truth had more side quests that were more fun and memorable, such as going into Canada. The Fractured But Whole, does add new things from the most recent seasons since the release of the previous game, like the member berries or Tweek and Craig yaoi art. I actually would enjoy playing a new South Park game every couple of years, with a new story and references from new seasons of the show. That's one thing I love about the show, characters change and major events happen that affect the rest of the season, unlike other animated shows that always end the same way it began.
The last things I will cover are the extras and additional features. This one is a hard one because both games had their different strengths. One example is comparing the use of social media to make friends. The Instagram inspired Coonstagram is superior to the generic Facebook page. You can read messages from Coonstagram that pop-up on your screen, unlike the original which had you constantly opening up your menu every time you got a message. It was also more satisfying taking the selfies to add friends, and I also swapped costumes more often then I thought to change my appearance. There was a lot of flexibility to change everything about your character in The Fractured But Whole. One thing that didn't work as well was the crafting and powering up your character. I preferred the way The Stick of Truth provided weapons and mods to increase your stats, while the sequel has you equip artifacts that increase your might, which increases your overall attributes. I personally loved collecting weapons in The Stick of Truth and how it looked on my character. The Stick of Truth also had skill points you could invest in abilities and perks felt like a more traditional RPG.
Performance-wise, the sequel looks and runs smoother with fewer load times. Another thing that worked better in the Stick of Truth was how you collected junk items. In that game when you opened containers you would see all the items and select a button to collect them all. This gave me the time to read junk items and their references to the show. In The Fractured But Whole the junk items that can be used for crafting are automatically collected and shown in the upper right corner of the screen, which is just really easy to miss. The reason I felt the crafting component was a weaker part of the game was that there are not many things to craft, and junk resources are so plentiful that it doesn't feel rewarding from the start.
Personally, I enjoyed both games and its hard to say which is better. They both have their strength and weaknesses, due to the different developers at the helm. Overall, The Fractured But Whole had better combat and gameplay, but The Stick of Truth had better story moments and references to the show. Regardless, if you are a fan of the show like I am, the time spent on both games will be worthwhile. You don't even need to find a copy of The Stick of Truth if you plan on playing it first, as it is included for free if you purchase a new copy of The Fractured But Whole.
Thanks as always for reading. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Which one did you enjoy more? Would you be excited to play another South Park game?