WARNING: There may be several spoilers in this review. If you would prefer to not read the plot based spoilers, they will be marked in this fashion: ***spoiler***.
* (A strange light fills the room.)
I wait with bated breath, my eyes glued to the screen.
* (Twilight is shining through the barrier.)
My fingers twitch in nervous anticipation.
* (It seems your journey is finally over.)
I heave a sigh full of both relief and regret. While it’s fun to get to the end of any game, the feelings that are left behind are nearly always bittersweet. This one in particular, I wasn’t sure I wanted to end.
*(You’re filled with DETERMINATION.)
I say a silent goodbye, knowing that this was a game I’ll be sure to never forget. A game like this, a game that keeps my attention all the way through, a game that has made me genuinely laugh and cry, a game that has made me this determined to win, is surely a game worth playing over and over, even if that meant playing it 1,000,000 times.
And it seems like I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Undertale, a story based RPG game created by indie developer Toby Fox, was a game released on September 15, 2015. In that time, Undertale has grown to be one of the best selling games on Steam, has been crowned “Best. Game. Ever.” on GameFAQs, has been awarded IGN’s PC Game of the Year, etc. I could go on and on, talking about all the accolades Undertale has managed to receive in only a few months, but this is a game review-and this might come as a bit of a surprise to you…. but I’m supposed to be talking more about the game itself, and not all the prizes it has managed to receive. …actually, perhaps that isn’t very surprising. STILL.
One of Undertale’s trademark features is its graphics and overall gameplay. At first glance, Undertale looks like a game that looks like it came around the prehistoric era of video games, with its simplistic, pixelated game sprites, NPCs, and backgrounds not unlike something you would see in the very first classic fantasy RPGs, like the Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy series. However, there are a few very notable differences between Undertale and classic RPGs. For one thing, while Undertale does include most of the features available in fantasy RPGs (using items to regain health, fighting monsters to raise EXP and gain gold, buying items, etc.), it introduces a totally new concept: sparing monsters. While this by itself may not seem like a huge difference, it was monumental to the game’s success. Before, monsters were just obstacles, creatures to slash through to gain EXP, gold, and LV, but Undertale makes each monster a special individual, completely destroying the trope of monsters being generic evil beings that are all just trying to kill you. Sparing can be done through utilizing certain actions using the “ACT” button on the fight menu. There are many different actions, many geared toward one specific monster. For instance, in a battle with any of the dogs in the Snowdin area, several actions include petting, playing, and beckoning the dogs. Using the correct actions and in the correct sequence will allow you to use the “MERCY” button and spare the monster. You can also escape the battle using the “MERCY” button and pressing the flee option. You can also fight the monster using the “FIGHT” button, which helps you gain EXP and LV, and kill the monster. Regardless of whatever method you take, the monster will attack you, with specific attack patterns. To avoid dying, you must avoid these attacks, much like a “bullet hell” game. The combat is turn-based, so after each monster’s attack, you will be allowed any course of action that you’d like for one turn. Sparing the monsters is stated as the blatantly correct choice, with the game itself encouraging you to spare monsters and befriend them.
Undertale shines when it comes to storytelling, delivering a riveting story with lots of heart, with three different endings based on your actions. Every ending starts with you, a human child, falling into the Underground, the realm of monsters, in which everyone is sealed by a barrier allowing anyone to enter, but no one to leave. This barrier was created after a war with monsters and humans, in which the humans overpowered the monsters, casting a magical barrier that can only be broken with the power of seven human souls. As the human protagonist, it is your job to to allow your power of determination to fuel you to the end, whichever ending it may be.
Befriending and sparing all the monsters without killing so much as a single monster will allow you to have the pacifist ending, the “true ending” of the game. Because you cannot gain any LV or EXP to have this ending of the game, your HP will remain at a max of 20 HP, which grows more and more difficult to maintain as you face stronger and stronger monsters. This ending requires determination to help you stay true to your morals, but it delivers an unforgettable ending that more than makes up for all your hard effort.
The neutral ending is the most flexible of all the endings, as it only requires you to kill some monsters and not others. Players that blindly play Undertale for the first time typically get this ending, which has a lot of variations. Killing certain characters can trigger many different neutral endings, but they typically all end encouraging you to either take the pacifist or genocide route.
Finally, Undertale also has the genocide route, which is exactly as it sounds: you deliberately kill everything and everyone in the Underground. I won’t give away too much of what happens in the genocide route, but I will say this… You’re going to have a bad time. This route requires a different kind of determination; allowing curiosity to prevail over your morals, and growing more and more distant from the pain that you are causing to the friends you made in the pacifist route. By killing more and more monsters, you become the monster and the game does a real good job making you regret it.
Now, what’s a good story without any characters? Undertale has an amazing cast of characters, including Toriel, a motherly figure who serves as your “tu-Toriel,” Sans, a lazy prankster skeleton who serves mainly as comic relief, his younger brother Papyrus, a master spaghetti chef whose lifelong dream is to become head of the royal guard, Undyne, a fiery warrior full of undying passion for everything she does, Mettaton, a robot with dreams of superstardom, and many, many more. The brilliant Toby Fox does a really great job making each encounter with the main characters special; some being comical (***Like the date with Papyrus***), and others rather heartbreaking (***sparing and leaving Toriel alone in the Ruins***). Each fight is memorable and distinct, and you just can’t help but fall in love with the characters as you discover more and more of their multi-faceted personalities.
These encounters are further enhanced by Toby Fox’s original soundtrack, which perfectly reflect each character’s personality and the towns they live in. Take Toriel’s boss theme, for instance, aptly named “Heartache.” Raw and emotional, it really reflects her inner struggle between her attachment toward you and her will to protect you, with the desire to let go and give you independence. Compare that to “Dogsong,” a perky and spirited theme that just smacks of playfulness, and then that to “CORE,” a theme full of fast, electronic beats that are sure to grab your attention. Poignant in its simplicity and successful in invoking emotion, truly, the music is yet another high point of the game, adding more personality to the game and enhancing the gaming experience.
I could go on and on forever, rambling about this game, but I feel I like I should have the mercy to spare you from all that. All in all, I give this game a 19.9999999999/20. This game met (if not exceeded) all my standards of an amazing game, and redefined gaming for me as a whole. The thought that this review may convince other people to play Undertale…. It fills me with determination. HP fully restored.