Have you ever heard of Earthbound, Frog Fractions, Homestuck, or OFF? Three of these are games, one is a webcomic, but all have elements that are integrated into one of my favorite games I’ve played all year. Since you’ve clicked on this I’m sure you’re already aware that I’m talking about Undertale, a game created by the endlessly talented, Toby Fox. Due to the story-based nature of the game I have to refrain from divulging anything too plot-heavy or character-intensive,but I will do my best to let you guys know the exact reasons why you should pick this game up. Buckle up! There are an awful lot of reasons you should play this gem.
Let’s start from the top. The opening cinematic starts up, letting you know that there are both humans and monsters. Standard RPG stuff. Apparently once, long ago, there was a war between humans and monsters. Of course humans came out the victor, banishing the monsters with a spell into the underground forever. This is where your player character comes in, many years later. You’re an ambiguously gendered little child who decides to climb a mountain that no one has ever returned from. Y’know, just for fun. Of course you don’t get to return from your excursion, either. A vine gets tangled on your foot when you’re trying to climb and you trip, falling deep, deep down into the underground, the same underground where all those monsters were sealed away many years ago. This is where our story begins.
Your main motivation is, of course, to return home. This location is unfamiliar to you and frankly, a little bit scary. Monsters are not crazy familiar with humans even though you aren’t the first one some of them have seen. There is one monster in particular though, a motherly being, who takes you into her home, greeting you with warmth and comfort. While sweet it’s ultimately not what you’re looking for. Only monsters can live down here forever and our goal is to get home. In your adventure home you get the opportunity to befriend a great deal of the characters you meet. However, you also have to let some friends go on your way back up to the top and to your true society. There’s not a second of the journey that didn’t emotionally engage me.
The writing in this game is absolutely fantastic, genuinely witty, and funny without being forced. I felt a variety of emotions playing this game. There are sad moments which had my chest hurting, funny moments which actually had me laughing out loud, and sweet moments which made a few of the characters in this game some of my favorites of all time. Undertale struck me in a way that very few games have ever done. Rarely, do I develop an actual emotional attachment to the characters, finding myself sad when the story is over and the credits have rolled. This game did all that and more, shattered the ceiling that was my expectations, and left me wanting more of Toby Fox’s work because it is top-notch.
Sure, all of us have probably played at least a little bit of an RPG at one point or another. Whether it’s turn-based or an action RPG, there’s always similar elements and sometimes it can be difficult to approach things in a fresh manner. Undertale managed to create something new and interesting with a few simple mechanics. Of course, you’ve still got your RPG staples like turn-based combat and a whole lot of puzzles but this just makes the game all the more enjoyable.
One of the biggest draws to this game that makes it fresh is that you don’t have to kill anything. Not a single monster needs to be slain in order for you to beat this game, something you rarely find in RPG’s like this. Sure, you’re immediately told in the game that the monster world is kill or be killed, however, this is not the case. You’ve got the option to fight, to attack any creature that throws itself at you. You’ve also got the option to be merciful, to spare them, or to do a series of actions usually fairly unique to each monster you encounter. You can flirt with some beasts, clean others, and even hug or “unhug” beings. Depending on the combination you choose, you can pacify your opponent so that you can spare them, netting you some coin, but no experience. The fighting route allows you to level, sure, but it’s not necessarily the intended experience. Each action you do will have an effect and enemy monsters attack you based on a bullet-hell like minigame. A lot of them fire projectiles or have other things that you’ll need to dodge or weave around, your cursor being a small little heart that you must avoid having hit. It’s harder than it looks, too.
There are three overall endings with a couple secrets sprinkled between based on whether or not you do replays. Yes, dialogue changes based on what playthroughs you did prior to your newest. In fact, the game monitors your saves and sometimes character conversations will change if they know you’ve reloaded a lot, claiming ‘time travel’, among other things. There’s a pacifist route, a genocidal route, and a neutral route. I think it’s clear what you must do for each, but I won’t provide any more detail than that. You’ll have to see for yourself what happens down them.
I’ll just get right to the point and say that Undertale’s music is fantastic. I would go as far as to say it’s flawless, at least as far as I’m concerned. I did not find a single track over the entire course of the game that I disliked. This isn’t Toby “Radiation” Fox’s first time composing music, either. He also did tracks for the webcomic I mentioned earlier in the review, Homestuck, and his talents have really only improved since then. Each track is full of life, emotion, charm and fits each terrain perfectly. The battle music is lively, many bosses get their own special song, and the cuts between battle music and world music is seamless. I’m usually the sort of gamer that always has some other form of noise or music on in the background while I play games, but I didn’t need it for Undertale. This game’s sounds are perfect and needed no buffer for me.
Coming from an era of pixel graphics and having grown up playing an awful lot of Gameboy and Gameboy color, I absolutely love pixelated graphics. I enjoy the simplistic charm that a few pixels can bring and I think that the simple animation of sprites is infinitely endearing. Undertale does all of the things I love about graphics flawlessly. Characters have little talk sprites, have a series of expressions, and are able to emote just fine.
The terrains are beautiful, detailed, and have wonderful lighting, as well. There’s not a whole lot I would change about the way Undertale approached it’s visuals. It all comes together into a wonderfully cohesive experience.
Overall Score: 5/5
This game gave me an experience I won’t ever forget. It exceeded my expectations, had a wonderful soundtrack, warm, beautiful story and stunning visuals. The main plot is only about 10 to 13 hours long and yet I would’ve payed about $20 for it despite the playtime. I had more fun with this game than I have with games I’ve invested 100+ hours in. You should most certainly pick it up here for only $9.99. I promise it is worth every single penny.