One thing we'd never thought we'd do in a video game is play as a kid performing a fart-infused lapdance for a rather filthy gentleman in local strip club The Peppermint Hippo. And it wasn't just a matter of a simple button press. This was a prolonged four stage mini-game where our thumbs were put to work.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole has been in the works for some time now, and has been delayed a couple of times, but if the E3 demo is anything to go by the game is coming together nicely. The writing is excellent and we found ourselves laughing out loud several times during the 15 minutes or so the demo lasted.
There is much to explore and experience off the beaten path. Whether it's interacting with characters, whether you talk to them or fart at them, or discover meaningful or less than meaningful items as you punch things, or throw firecrackers at them (if that ignites a flame you can fart on it to produce an explosion).
The demo, featuring the player as the new kid and his companion, Captain Diabetes, had us jumping through some hoops in order to get a certain stripper to come out on stage so we could confront her. The quest and objective itself was simple enough, but as is the case in many great adventures, it was the journey rather than the goal that sold us on the experience.
The game is just overflowing with references, jokes, the sort of thing you'd expect from a South Park episode. And perhaps that's what sets this game apart from others (also true for The Stick of Truth), there's the same level of iteration and effort that goes into every scene here as there is in the TV show. Speaking to senior producer Jason Schroeder, there's about two seasons worth of the TV show in terms of content for players to experience in The Fractured but Whole. And from what we've seen the writing is most definitely on point.
The combat has previously been demoed, but clearly, it adds more strategy and depth to the experience compared to Obsidian's Stick of Truth. Moving around the grid allows for a lot more tactical considerations. The way the attacks work is something players will be familiar with from other turn-based tactical games, where you'll want to set things up so you damage multiple enemies if possible, use push and status effects to control the board, and so forth. This should mean that there's much more variation and combat and that it avoids that repetitive feeling many RPGs suffer from. And unlike other RPGs, the fiction does little to support combat encounters that come across as grinding, so this is key to maintaining that South Park atmosphere.
The turn-based format also allows for the humour and character to come across during an encounter as characters utter lines during the instance. There are button presses to perform both on attack and defence to maximise or minimise damage, meaning that while it is turn-based you can't relax completely. Customisation and progression are also fleshed out, though it is important to point out that the way you dress up the new kid won't affect stats, allowing you to look just as silly as some of the other young superheroes.
We haven't spoken much about the customisation options available for the new kid and the perks and ability upgrades, but there's much to explore here. And while it may sound unimportant, the fact that your new kid will have a different look than that of your friends does make him feel a lot more like a true South Park character. It feels like he belongs there.
If the demo is indicative of the quality of the game as a whole (and there's no reason to doubt that), this is going to be an RPG worth spending some quality time with. We expect a lot more video game firsts from this game...