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Undertale is a game that Jeremy hounded me to play for the longest time. I remember when it came out. Some people were obsessed. I may have played it at some point in the future but I can’t say it was on my radar. All I knew was you could complete it without actually killing anything. Developed and published by Toby Fox, Undertale was released for PC in September, 2015, PlayStation 4 and Vita in August, 2017, and Nintendo Switch in September, 2018. Undertale is a story-driven role-playing game with multiple endings. With that said, we will not be spoiling major plot points, however, given the nature of the game, we will be showing various clips that contain different characters and interactions. If you consider that to be spoilers, I would recommend you stop reading now. It’s a not a particularly long game but it sure is an interesting one.
In Undertale, you play as a human who falls into the underground and your objective is to find your way out. You name your character and the story officially begins. On your quest you’ll interact with all kinds of monsters and creatures and solve basic puzzles. Whether you kill any monsters or not is up to you. There are multiple endings and which one you get depends on if you kill or spare monsters. This is a very story-driven RPG and you will have to read because there is no voice acting. I have to admit, the plot is pretty good, and I really started getting into it towards the middle. Depending on your decisions, there’s plot twists, emotional moments, and fantastic character development. Much of the dialogue is humorous, making many of the characters memorable, and it is easy to get attached to several of them. Undertale is a short game, you can beat it in a day but if you want to see everything, you will have to beat it multiple times.
I guess I would consider Undertale an isometric RPG. You walk around areas, can interact with items and objects in the environment, and you can store a limited number of items in your inventory. The whole game takes place in the underground and there are save points scattered around along with boxes which act like a stash for item storage. There are several shops throughout the underground where you can buy items and only one where you can sell. Most shops do give you the option to sell but you can’t actually do it. You can acquire and equip weapons and armor which do effect your performance in battles. And the battle system is certainly interesting.
Undertale’s combat is turn-based and you basically need to protect your heart which represents your SOUL. During encounters you have the option to fight, act, or spare the enemy. If you defeat enemies in a fight you gain EXP and after gaining enough EXP your LOVE increases. Choosing to act provides you multiple options, depending on the enemy. And if you please them enough, you can then spare them. You also have the option to run away which may be the best option when you’re low on health. You will acquire money for defeating or sparing an enemy which can be spent at shops for various items. In addition to buying weapons and armor, you can buy healing items or various items that will help you on your quest.
Even though Undertale is turn-based, you don’t just have to sit back and take damage. You can move your heart within what I’ll call the battle box to avoid various attacks. You’ll have to dodge things and some attacks come in different colors. White attacks are the standard and if they hit your heart, you take damage. Blue attacks only damage you if you’re moving and orange attacks only hurt you if you remain stationary. Green attacks will heal you if they make contact and some enemies can actually change your heart’s color. Normally, your heart is red and you can move around the battle box freely. If your heart is blue, it’s forced to the bottom of the box and you can make it jump. If the heart is green, you can protect it with a shield. If the heart is purple, it’s trapped and can only move left and right on a line. And then there’s the yellow heart which is basically shooter mode. Yes, you get to shoot stuff. Needless to say, the combat is not typical and very unique. It can also get pretty fucking hard towards the end.
The Underground contains many different areas, buildings, and locations you can visit. There are some branching paths that usually lead you to items like weapons, armor, or consumables. Sometimes you have solve puzzles to progress, many areas contain monsters you’ll have to face, and save points will not only allow you to save your game but also restore your health. You are provided a cell phone which allows you to call various NPC’s that will give you helpful or just comedic information, sometimes they will call you, and later on, your cell phone can be upgraded with more functionality like the ability to access your storage. Now as short as the game is, if you actually speak to as many NPC’s as you can, you’ll learn a lot about the different characters and the underground, itself. Certain characters are randomized so if you play through the game multiple times, the experiences may be slightly different. The monster roster is extremely varied. You’ll have to face dogs, plants, weird looking creatures like a buff-looking horse with a fish tail, a plane, and other wacky denizens. Some are funny, some are absurd, some are adorable, and they all help to make the Underground feel like a very interesting place.
I guess it’s safe to say Undertale is going for a retro look but in all honesty, I think the art style overall is pretty hideous. It definitely looks interesting but it’s not necessarily good looking. It has a simple visual style that’s just rough. I will admit that some of the backgrounds look nice. The music is easily the best part of the presentation. The tunes are catchy, memorable, and fit the tone and action well. On the technical side, the game ran perfectly fine. However, there is battle at the end that can result in your game crashing on purpose and I find that extremely annoying. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s not good game design. I don’t know how this battle is handheld on consoles but on PC, the game will just close and constantly having to re-launch the game isn’t fun. Other than that, I have no real gripes with the technical aspects.
Overall, I had fun with Undertale but it is a very linear story-driven experience. I can’t say the gameplay is phenomenal but the battles can be fun and the story is engaging. If the story and characters weren’t interesting, I may have just given up at some point. There’s only so much replay value the game has to offer but there’s definitely a few reasons you may want to return. Whether it’s to see another ending, interact with things differently, or maybe to find new characters you couldn’t encounter in a previous playthrough. All in all, this is definitely not a game I would have gone out of my way for but I’m glad I played it because it’s certainly one of the most interesting games I’ve ever played.
Ultimately, I would recommend Undertale to fans of role-playing games. The story is good, the combat does have some depth, and for a game as short as it is, it’s rich with memorable characters and interactions. The game definitely reaches significant difficulty spikes at certain points, the visual presentation is a little rough on the eyes, and if it wasn’t for the story, I probably would have been very bored. But in the end, it’s a fantastic game and I would absolutely recommend you check it out if you think it looks interesting.