Undertale: Suceeding with Sparing
Undertale is a rare game that comes along every once in a while and makes a genuine impression on me. While it's not for everyone, it sets out with clear objectives, and, in my opinion, succeeds.
Best enjoyed blind (NO SPOILERS)
I checked this game out after a friend recommended it to me. Being a fan of the Earthbound/MOTHER series I decided to check it out. It starts off a pretty clear love letter to those games and takes a little while to find it's own voice. But when it does, holy shit. The premise is simple enough for any adventure, escape captivity. As a human child plunged into the depths of an ancient prison for a race of magical beings it only get's weirder from there, the plot being incredibly deep for those with the will to go digging. Even if you only scratch the surface there is A LOT there to enjoy. As the game's tagline says, "Nobody has to die." and that's completely true. Players are encouraged to use non-violent ways of resolving encounters in a battle system that is relatively unique, blending real time and turn based elements in a way that feels playable and rewards skill. The characters are an obvious selling point for this game, each feeling distinct and endearing in their own way. It's very easy to like and care about these characters, each having (like most things in this game) a surprising amount of depth beyond their initial introduction. The soundtrack is incredible, Toby Fox has a background in making music and it shows. Each piece, whether it be a leitmotif or an area theme conveys significant emotion and helps to develop the character or region of the game. Recurring musical riffs that help to link concepts and themes are also a big part of the game and help to tie together the whole experience in a rather subconscious way. It's hard for me to really express how much I like this game without spoiling it's best moments. This really is a game best played without any prior knowledge and very clever one at that. It's clear a lot of effort has been put in by the creators and the stunning depth beneath a cutesy facade is truly amazing. This game played with my emotions in a way few others could, being simultaneously heartwarming, cute, happy, brutal, disturbing, dark and chillingly nihilistic (depending upon how you play of course). I'll be the first to admit it isn't for everyone. If you liked Earthbound or the MOTHER series, chances are you'll like this. If you like clever games that reward exploration and investigation, you'll like this game. If you like games with a good plot and good characters, you'll like this game. If you like games with depth, I'm almost sure you'll like this game. Try the demo and see if your into it. I highly recommend.
Too Long, Didn't Read
That's all I can honestly say about this game, but I'll elaborate. Undertale is an RPG that throws out all conventions. Instead of fighting, you have the choice-I use choice loosely-to, instead, talk to your enemies. It's a game that builds up it's in-game characters and tries to give the message that the only REAL monsters are those who don't give love a chance. And, honestly, the premise is interesting. And if you've been on Tumblr, Youtube, or anywhere really, you'll see Undertale-related stuff ALL OVER THE PLACE! So it has hype, a lot of hype. And with a community this big, the hype has to be over something. So I bought the game, booted it up and I decided to try it. ...I had a bad time. Subtlety is not this game's strong suit. In fact, it's VERY heavy handed with it's themes. Game play wise, it's combat is focused on Skill Based Dodging and timed attacks, which is okay. It's nothing too deep or interesting. But since there are random encounters and boss fights, you do a lot of 'fighting', which is frowned upon. See, it's not too fun to fight passive aggressively while your enemies can burn, stab, and throw you all around. For a game that tells you that 'fighting is wrong', you'd think there'd be some kind of leeway for self defense. But nope. And it's REALLY frustrating to try and spare someone who doesn't want to be spared while they're chucking fireballs at you, you 'die'-or, I guess, get knocked out-and you gotta do it all again. I like the characters. And I like the ideas and themes, but the game play sucks the immersion out for me. It's just not fun or engaging for me, personally. I understand that the game is played mostly for the plot, characters, and comedy, but if the game play isn't strong compelling, then all of that is wasted. I feel this game might as well had been a visual novel or a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Game. But maybe that's too harsh and just me being angry that I can't refund the game now. Bottom line: this game is overrated and feels rather tedious. As much as I'd love to experience all of the feels this game has to offer, I can't get over the hump that is game play not being engaging. It's boring to play and even more boring to watch. If there's anything to take away from this game is it's interesting characters and comedy. But that's what TV and movies are for.
Undertale is quite frankly an overrated game and not as clever as people think it is. It's a game with 3 paths that people can take, and which path they're on is determined by the amount of things you killed. Anyways, a lot of the game is nothing to write home about. The graphics are basically retro pixel art that a lot of indie games tend to make use of. The soundtrack is average and nothing spectacular. But the gameplay is terrible. It's essentially an RPG with bullet hell mechanics, where you have to dodge simple bullet patterns every single time the enemy attacks. It's as boring as it sounds. There's a pacifist route, the neutral route, and the genocide route. The pacifist and neutral routes are the main playtroughs just tell a really basic story about a human trying to get out of a mountain full of monsters that's nothing to write home about. The humor tends to err on random monkey cheese humor a lot for those paths, which gets very irritating. The genocide route is exactly what it sounds like. You kill everything. And doing the genocide path is really tedious considering that you have to kill everything, which takes a very long time. Oh, and the game calls you a horrible person for daring to kill fictional characters. Pixels. Virtual things. It's essentially an eye-rolling soapbox about how killing is wrong. The creator of the game honestly has no right to do that, considering that he put the path in the game in the first place. It's basically the same pitfall that a lot of other games fall into, calling you a horrible person for doing this horrible thing. Except the game developers are the ones who made that thing in the first place, so it's kind of hypocritical. Oh, and just to be a smart aleck, he decided to shoehorn in a comment calling out people who decided to watch a playthrough on YouTube instead of playing through this tedious part of the game. And for some reason, this path also doubles as a massive spiel about why completionism is a bad thing. Oh and to pretend that your choices matter and have consequences, you're permanently locked out of the best ending upon completion of this path. Not without messing around with game files, which is not as simple as it sounds if you have the Steam version. Don't buy into the hype for this game, it's not as great or as clever as people want you to think.
This original review, upon closer inspection, was incredibly biased. I'll try to be less bias now, but expect some bias to be thrown in there. Bias bias bias. Undertale is a game that was created by Toby 'Radiation' Fox. This game has amazing ideas, most of which are executed well. The problem with it is that it sometimes randomly screws up what it's trying to do when forcing you to do an empathy; a prime example is in the Genocide run. Which Frisk/The Fallen Child, or who ever, moves when people are doing their spiel before fighting... really disconnects me from what happening. It'd be a lot better if the player did this. This might have even worked in the whole moral of the Genocide ending (you're the monster for killing innocent people). Same goes for the Neutral; if you murder, throughout the entire games, no one cares unless you specifically murder main characters. The Characters are archetypal. You could say that all the main characters are deeper than they really appear, but those character arches are still archetypal. The idea of resetting and saving is not really toyed with. What I mean by this is that it really could've been expanded upon game-play wise, as things that happened after you Save Scum could've been talked about or at least hinted by one of the main characters. They do serve a good plot point in the narrative, however. I wish some of the side characters had a little more personalities. What I mean is that, while the game does a good job in making me feel empathy for the bad guys that'd we'd be slaughtering. Some of them though... Are just kind of boring, and unoriginal, like Vegetoid.
Why I Will Never Play Undertale Again (As Much As I Want To) [SPOILERS BELOW]
First things first: this game is amazing. Its quirky nature, its unique combat mechanics, its plot, its teetering of the fourth wall, they're all amazing. First time through, I went and beat Photoshop Flowey, following on to the pacifist ending and Asriel. Then I decided, "I want to fight Sans. I'll quit afterwards, and not let Chara get me."
I stopped when I couldn't beat Undyne the Undying after a counted 138 tries.
So I reset, and went on to do another pacifist run. And it was this run that really got to me. The first time, I was just going through the motions. I didn't so much as spare as I did flee from anyone I could (I even lost to Papyrus three times and took the cheap way out). This time around, I went out of my way to spare every enemy I could. Cost me seven game overs, but I did it. And with the Absolute God of HYPERDEATH as my witness, did it make a difference. Every character I spared was one I got to know the actual personality of. I got to truly see what made this run so special. What made this game so special. Its character. The emotions it can invoke. They're what made this game special, from the joy of sparing everyone, to the tedious nature of the Genocide run (which made me feel like crud, honestly). And so when, at the end of the second true ending, when Flowey begged me not to reset the game, I listened.
It's been three weeks since I opened my game. The Icon is just sitting on my desktop, unused.
I don't regret my choice. This game turned fictional characters into people I thought of as beings with real emotions, and forced me to take into account their feelings, which lead to my decision to never open this wonderful game again.
Frisk. Flowey. Toriel. Papyrus. Undyne. Alphys. Asgore. Sans. Mettaton. Muffet. Napstablook. Asriel.
Let them have their hard earned happy ending.
Otherwise, who's the real monster?
A Flawed Gem
Undertale is not a perfect game. But it does a lot right. The music is great, and it ties in very neatly with the story and themes that the game presents. Likewise, the story and writing are top-notch. The characters, while archetypical, are endearing to the point that it's one of few games that made me do a pacifist run out of empathy rather than as challenge run or for the sake of a gameplay benefit. The game does its best to make you not want to hurt anyone, and it does it well. The meta elements are also well-executed, adding to the story as it plays out. That said, I didn't didn't find this game quite as revolutionary as a lot of people make it out to be. For all the talk about your choices matter, ultimately your decision boils down to "kill nothing", "kill some things", and "kill everything". The only real differences in who you kill or don't kill are a few bits of changed dialogue. It executes the examination of that choice better than 99% of other games that tackle it, but it isn't the first time that a game has tackled the question of "but what if you didn't have to kill anything?" (see Iji, for example). Similarly, the game's mechanic of dodging attacks is interesting, but there isn't an enormous amount of depth to the system. Most random encounters can be solved in two or three turns, and they get a bit repetitive. The boss battles are definitely the high point of gameplay, as that's when the mechanics start getting expanded, but even in these cases, each new mechanic typically only gets used once and never shows up again. The only exceptions are mechanics that get reused by the Bonus Boss fights. It feels like the game only scratches the surface of what the gameplay could be like. There are a few other minor flaws as well: The graphics top out at "functional" and aren't anything to write home about until the endgame hits. Sometimes the jokes really get dragged out too long (Alpys, seriously, stop calling me). The puzzles (at least the ones that aren't played for comedy) are generally pretty "meh". Thing is, despite the flaws, I was drawn into this game in a way that many other games can't manage. From an analytical perspective, it has its fair share of issues, but it has heart, which goes a really long way if you're willing to give it a chance.
Rough on the edges, but solid where it counts.
Full disclosure: As a writer, I enjoy Undertale and will recommend trying it. That said, let me start with the criticism. The art direction is basic and functional on average, even compared to The Halloween Hack. The non-soundtrack audio direction could also do with some tightening up. If you're not into Bullet Hell mechanics you're not going to enjoy the gameplay, and if you're not on the same level as its humor, the jokes can stretch for a bit long by half. More polish in these areas could've given it more mechanical refinement. As it stands, Undertale is functional as a game, in that it's possible to go into it just for fun and still get some enjoyment from it. That said, the good bits can be summed up as the setting, the characterization, and the meta-narrative. The story opens on the classic setup of a small child lost in an alien world, but turns it on its head by giving the player enough agency to decide how they can get through the Underground. The phrase that comes to mind is "Not So Different," as monsters aren't shown as mindless beasts or a warlike society as in many other RPGs, but not too dissimilar from ourselves; they have families, friends, lives, and culture, just as we do, and just as in Real Life, the game's setting is filled with Rounded Characters, its second strength. Hidden Depths almost doesn't begin to cover it; the core cast are more complex than they initially appear. It's almost impossible to get full reads on some characters without a few playthroughs. Even minor characters are at least given some personality, which is more than most games can claim. By asking What Measure Is a Mook? and giving these monsters their own distinct personalities, it makes it easier to see them as people unto themselves. This leads to its third strength, the meta-narrative. It gets to ask the question "What would happen if you really acted this way around people?" and show them how Reality Ensues, employing What the Hell, Player? to reveal how more violent players have affected a world and what price they will pay for it as a result...just like in real life. Many games wish they could be this illustrative with their main points. It's definitely not perfect. There's flaws and shortcomings, but a game that embraces the value of empathy and demands a price of those who lack it is at least worth experiencing.
One of the Greatest RPGS ever made (SPOILERS)
God DAMMIT Toby. This game is amazing. Not only are the characters damn likeable, but this game truly tests your emotional strength. Heres what I think are the highlights of the game 1. Choice Unlike Until Dawn, this game hardly pesters you about making the right choice until way later. Because unlike Until Dawn, you are given the will to become evil or good, and not be told "hey dont this or something scaaarry will happen". When you start the game, you dont even know if you should fight something or not. But the choices you make create many and I mean MANY different outcomes. From stealing on object to buying a hotel room, every choice counts. 2. Love and Relationship The characters are extremely likeable. Even when you are evil they still treat you with a charming amount of innocence and kindness, that you cant help but feel horrible when you kill them. Papyrus especially. The relationships you make are genuine and very well done. 3. This game is freaking terrifying Not like F Na F where cheap jumpscares scare you, but this game hits you where it hurts. This game can truly scare the livjng daylights out of you. Why? Because the game itself recognizes your existence. This game knows every save file, and every switcheroo you shot out of your butt. For example if you kill toriel, go back and then spare her, Flowey will say "You murdered her". That quote itself gave me nightmares for a week. 4. THE. DAMN. FREAKING. MUSIC I love every track from this game. Every track. They are fast, catchy, dramatic, and downright epic. Toby Fox is well known for his fantastic music in homestuck, and looks like he struck again, 5. Sans Probably one of the greatest fictional characters ever made. Not because he is strong, or wise, or heroic. In fact he is the complete opposite. He is the weakest opponent in the game, and overall a lazy and quirky guy. But the fact that he can literally shoot a meteor through the fourth wall is downright deep. He knows that you have the power to reset the world and do what you want, no matter who you hurt. He knows that you can make save files and fix your mistakes. He knows that the whole world is just a toybox for the player. He knows EVERYTHING. And it is downright terrifying. 9.5/10 Play it if you haven't. You are really missing out _
Pretty good. (Entire game spoilers)
Undertale is a good game. The soundtrack kicks ass, you'll get a good laugh out of it, maybe a few tears. But it is certainly not the best game ever, not even close. My main issue stems from tedium. Assuming that you want to experience the bulk of Undertale, you would play at least one Neutral run, a Pacifist run, and a Genocide run. On your first run, you fall in love with the game. Its surprises are charming, and characters so strange and off-color you feel as if you can't get enough. And then you do get enough. Don't get me wrong, Undertale is a quality game, but there are some parts where you're just mashing the skip button through walls upon walls of text. Because, for all its wit and whimsy, you've seen it. You've seen Sans's and Papyrus's hijinx. You've seen Toriel smother Frisk with love. I'm aware a game can't provide endless fun and replay value, but mind you, this game is very linear. There are very little physical crossroads, so with each consecutive playthrough, you'll be walking the same paths, hearing the same jokes, going through the same motions to spare enemies you've seen dozens of times before, et cetera, et cetera. Most of the above doesn't apply to the Genocide Run, which in my own non-professional opinion, is the most entertaining run in the game, for being the odd man out of the other paths. There's a difference between walking into Snowdin after killing a lot of monsters versus walking into Snowdin after you've left a dusty trail of murder behind you, and the music slows down to an unsettling pace. Though, as I'm sure most of you are aware, Toby Fox accounted for every single action the player could take in the game, as you can see on the Developer's Foresight page. The many Neutral endings would certainly motivate one to go for all of them, right? In my experience, no. Aside for a different wall of text being thrown at you at the end and some conversations going differently than others, not much. You're still going to fight Asgore and Flowey, and you just wasted several hours to hear a phone call. tl;dr: Good, but the replay value lessens more than it should with each playthrough unless you're doing the two extremes. Still a great game, though $10 is a little steep for its worth.
A Gem with Heart and Soul
Disguised as an 8bit Mother 3 clone, Undertale conceals a rich and wholly unique experience. I can say, with utmost certainty, Toby Fox has crafted a masterpiece. Enchanting, charming and laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish, Undertale will be making Top Indie RPG lists for years to come. As a parody of mainstream RPGs, Undertale brings to the table the mechanic of sparing enemies — not simply "fleeing" from them, but specifically giving mercy. Showing mercy, while it won't earn XP to gain levels and strength, is still rewarding because killing, just like in real-life, holds severe consequences. The world of Undertale is filled with some of the most memorable, well-crafted and just plain fun characters I've ever encountered in an RPG. The game actually feels "alive" at times with how the characters and world constantly change and respond to the player's actions. Being merciful will earn loyal friends, killing will instill fear and anger. Papyrus the skeleton in particular is impossible not to adore. The writing is solid and often genuinely hilarious and clever. Even random enemies are creative punchlines in some capacity and all manage to tell interesting stories through the way they fight. No effort or attention to detail was spared. I was repeatedly surprised by how many jokes and secrets could be found by exploring. Undertale rewards curious players who leave no rock unturned. Again, further proof of Toby Fox's appreciation for detail and humor. Undertale actually offers vastly different stories and experiences based on how far the player takes their "mercy," if at all. This adds a bit of replay value and further depth to characters as they reveal different sides of themselves in response to the player. Like the series it takes inspiration from, Undertale is proof that it's not about how many pixels you have — it's how you use them. Built on a foundation of masterful writing, Undertale provides raw fun with a take on the RPG genre that only comes once in a great while. If you've got $10 to spare on a quick game, this is definitely one to consider.
This Game Redeemed Steam For Me
I am a person who respects and loves video games (I respect animation too but that's beside the point) so when I saw unfinished, buggy and just plain soulless cash-ins be shoved onto Steam's store (through seeing Jim Sterling's Jimquisition series) like the blatantly lazy works of Digital Homicide and the insulting uses of Unity assets that haven't even been modified, it made me feel rather put off by what Steam had become and I was almost considering uninstalling it and not to mention the obnoxious and unlikable PC elitists did nothing to help. I had a few games installed but other than that, I was considering giving up on Steam...until I heard about Undertale. I had heard about it through Good Game and Jim Sterling and I eventually decided to buy a Steam card so I could buy the game after trying out the demo and once I started playing, I got hooked. Outside of MOTHER 3, I've never felt so in love with a game that has so much thought and consideration put in. The characters are all so interesting and have strong personalities upon meeting them and there's a strong sense of community within the game which I think is very appealing. The humor is spot-on and feels genuine with a lot of wit, surprisingly funny puns and a hilarious ton of well written dialogue. I think the music is incredible and fits appropriately with each scene occurring. Also, most of the songs I think are quite catchy. The morality system made for this game I think is surprisingly well done. There are three ways to go out the game, Pacifist where you don't kill anything, Neutral where the go somewhere in the middle and No Mercy where you must kill everything in the game. There are many secrets hidden in the game and I think it would make sense to go and explore as much as you can. You might not find everything the first time but I think it's worth taking your time talking and exploring. Honestly, I can say with certainty that this is probably one of my favorite games of 2015. I am so thankful to Toby Fox for making the game and I hope to see a lot more from him in the future. Thank you Toby for making such an incredible experience. You have my respect.
Messing with your Emotions
I didn't believe in the hype that Undertale had, but after playing it, I could see why people can't stop talking about this game. To start, the game massively deconstructs everything you know about RPG games and trying to treat it like a typical one will get you laughed at to say the least. Every battle has you using bullet hell segments to avoid enemy attacks and this may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it's at least a unique way of redefining an RPG battle. Fighting involves using timed hits to do maximum damage or performing various acts to mess with the enemy so that they either become weaker, attack less often, or even lose the will to fight so that you can spare them without having to resort to slaughter. It's up to you on how you wish to handle your battles. The story is simple and the characters have their own quirks, but despite the simpleness and the short length of the game, there's a LOT to everybody no matter which ending path you're shooting for and I highly recommend getting to know each character from beginning to end. The characters and their stories got to me deeply and it actually got me to care about them. The amount of spoiler tags in the game's trope page and subpages alone should cue you in on how everyone aren't what they appear to be at first. In fact, your actions will determine how everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) acts towards you and it goes beyond just a simple few sentences being changed. The music itself is fantastic as it blends various genres and styles to make the game's world come alive and they all hit at the right mood when it's called for. I believe the large variety in the musical scores keeps the soundtrack fresh and something you might want to listen to more than once. I highly recommend getting the game, but if the short length and the bullet hell segments turn you off, then it doesn't hurt to wait for a sale. Either way, this is a game you should experience at least once.
Undertale is a game about being Superman
A while ago, I was thinking to myself about the unprecedented popularity of the Batman Arkham series. It was something that had never happened before, a superhero video game which was more than a quick Cash Cow, which became a widely acclaimed series in its own right. The solution I came to was simple: while most games based off comic books were basic platformers or beat-em-ups, the Arkham series made you actually feel like you were playing as Batman, with all the advantages and limitations which come with it. Around the same time, I figured it would be impossible to create a Superman game of similar caliber. After all, Superman's primary weakness is how good a person he is, and how unwilling he is to cause true harm. Without that, he'd be a vengeful god. What game would even give the option? Undertale is a game about being powerful, and choosing to be weak. Everything you encounter, from beginning to end, is weaker than you by magnitudes. You have a journey to complete, and every step of the way, they'll do everything in their power to halt and hinder you. At times, it's easy to ignore your advantage. But if you keep it in mind, remember your responsibility for those more pathetic than yourself, even as they kill you time and time again, you'll stay weak. You won't assume a fraction of your true power. In the end, it's all worth it. Watching the sunrise, you'll feel like Superman. Undertale is a game about being Superman, but it doesn't have to be. That's the point.
Undertale is an experience.
It's a beautiful game, honestly. It's exactly what it says it is. A game where you don't have to kill anybody. It starts with a child falling into the Underground, and they meet a flower. The flower is a tutorial! There is no fighting, there's only friendship. And friendship is gained by collecting friendliness pellets, so it's good to get them all! You get one, and you take damage. The flower's face warps into something grotesque... but not as grotesque as what could come, as a goat-like person shoos it away, protecting you as her own child. Undertale is... fundamentally an experience for this reason. It's beautiful, in every sense. The pixel art is appealing, the atmosphere is always intense and the characters are memorable, funny, and most of all, complex. Undertale spared no expense when it came to detail - the first time I accidentally killed something, Undertale remembered. This game is a very strong contender for the 2015 Game of the Year, and in the same year as MGS 5, Bloodborne, Splatoon, and Super Mario Maker. It's a game that's full of heart, humor, and most of all, determination.