As the credits to Undertale rolled by, I sat back in my chair and contemplated everything I just experienced. Undertale broke me down within its first hour. And I don’t feel like I’ve recovered yet.
The game’s story revolves around a young child (the player) who falls down a hole into The Underground, a surreal, subterranean society inhabited by monsters. The player is quickly introduced to the basics of combat and negotiation.
Combat is a cross between demon negotiation in Shin Megami Tensei and a bullet hell game. Players are given the option to Fight, Act (talking to enemies), use an Item, or show Mercy. Enemy attacks fly at the player’s soul, represented by a heart, and players use the arrow keys to move the soul around and dodge attacks. Boss monsters often change the formula and how the dodging mechanics operate, keeping combat fresh and fun throughout the game’s duration.
As Undertale’s Steam page claims, this is the game where “you don’t have to destroy anyone!” and it’s true. Every single enemy, from random encounters to boss monsters, can be convinced to not fight. This is important as refraining from killing is crucial to unlocking the game’s true ending.
While the combat is enjoyable, Undertale truly shines in its story. Undertale is quick to turn all your expectations on their heads. Toby Fox has created a brilliant game that jumps from lighthearted moments to dark events at random. In my first play through I killed a character in the beginning of the game that I felt was in my way. As I progressed into the next room, the game openly mocked me for my choice. It was a sickening moment.
The story as a whole has many such moments where the player is forced to look at their actions and consider if they are doing the right thing, especially towards the end. Multiple playthroughs are required to truly grasp the entire story of the game.
The game’s writing is on par with its story. Every character is well-written, and there are puns and jokes in every room. The humor is top-notch and there only a few times where it feels like a joke runs a little too long. The soundtrack is also amazing; there’s not a single unlikable tune.
The game’s biggest flaw is it’s length. A dedicated player can push through the game in a single sitting, and it feels like there could have been more. However, this issue is addressed by the replayability of the game. The game has three primary endings, often called the Pacifist, Genocide, and Neutral endings. Each subsequent playthrough is connected with the previous, as dialogue changes and certain reference to past deeds are made. The game feels like a never-ending story with how much everything is connected.
It’s incredibly difficult to tell of just how brilliant this game is without spoiling everything. For ten dollars, the game offers AAA amounts of quality in both gameplay and emotional impact. Undertale is a game that is far bigger than it appears at first glance; it’s an emotional journey that, unlike many games that hawk their morality systems as a selling point, truly makes you feel the weight of every single decision you make, for better or for worse.