Undertale Review

By – Erick Lovelock

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Every once and awhile, when the triple A titles are dominating the market and people begin to forget about independant developers, a game comes along and reminds people why  indie games are great.  In a way, this reinvigorates the indie market the same way that games like Braid created the modern Indie title. Undertale is a game that not only will invigorate the Independent market, but set the standard for all games that follow it.  I dislike throwing around the term “Instant Classic”, but if any title deserves a moniker such as that, it’d be Undertale.

 

Undertale, as a whole, is i, a poignant, beautiful mixture of humor, sorrow, and any other emotion that can be mustered in between. Toby Fox, who created nearly the entire experience himself, deserves the highest commendations for his work, which shows that you don’t need fancy graphics and a big name studio to make something beautiful. A vision as clear, focused and wonderful as Undertale existing at all is a miracle, even more so in that it comes from one man’s dreams.

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Undertale starts off with a series of beautifully created pixel murals, setting the story from which the masterpiece hangs. The story of a war between Humanity and Inhuman creatures is not a new one, many other mediums have told such tales, but Undertale handles it exquisitely, making an old story seem new again. As the protagonist falls into the depths, the adventure begins, as you, a human now stranded in the underground inhabited by monsters, must now survive. Other games may use this setup for tension, action or horror, such as the Penumbra series or The Binding of Isaac, but Undertale handles it with humor and poignancy. This goofy, offbeat tone offset with bizarre pain is set perfectly by the first encounter of the game, a short conversation with a sociopathic fauna set on the death of any human that it comes across.

 

From there the player learns of their surroundings via the Motherly creature, Toriel, and discovers the only way to return to the human world from which they hail is by making it to the “Barrier”, a mythical wall that traps Monsters in their subterranean prison. From here, a choice is presented, and the game stems from it. The game’s first area teaches the player what they need to know, and how to live in the insanity that they inhabit. Monsters fling themselves at the protagonist, baring their teeth, claws, vitamin C and epic looking hats made of ice, and the player must defeat them using the uncontained power of friendly chit-chat. The game encourages the player to find non-violent methods in order to continue, whether you are complementing a frog, flirting with a blob, or respecting the personal space of a bigger blob. Each enemy is wonderfully unique, and it a puzzle by itself, as it’s up to you to discover how to quell the rage of the enemies, and such make lifelong friends. Once you have successfully quelled their urge to battle, you can “Spare” a foe, gaining some money, but no EXP.

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Should a player wish to vanquish their foes through violence, that is indeed an option. Every monster, and many important characters can be battled and killed, and with each kill your EXP and LOVE increase, and the game is irrevocably altered. With each death, the NPC’s change, the story evolves, and your friends become enemies. Undertale is smart with its sense of actions and consequences, and makes sure to remember the choices that are made. NPC’s will often question characters with seemingly nonsensical inquiries, and answers are remembered, even through other playthroughs. Make a mistake the first time, and it may never go away. Unlike many gaming experiences, actions have genuine consequences, and they will not go away after a simple reset. The choices you make will always exist within the game, no matter how much you’ve like to hide them.

 

The game’s writing is also wonderful, blending moral crisis and sadness with humor effortlessly, often at the expense of the fourth wall. One particularly humorous example is with the Character Sans, a wisecracking, lazy skeleton with a habit of making bare bone puns. With each increasingly cheesy and goofy piece of dialogue, the fourth wall breaks down, sometimes going so far as to have the character directly wink at the player after each joke while a hilariously cliche’d rimshot sound effect plays. The game is oozing this sort of unhinged charm, which masks the sorrow and feeling of hopeless despair underneath.

 

All in all, Undertale is a delightful and deep venture into emotion, humor and subverted tropes. It is, without a doubt, one of the best games to come out in recent years, and I look forward to seeing what it’s creator, Toby Fox, produces next. With that in mind, I give Undertale a solid 10/10 for its humor, story, combat, and overall brilliance.

 

 

About the Blogger

Eric Lovelock is a longtime game fanatic living in Virginia and is preparing to go into College to study game design. His favorite games Include Metroid Prime, Earthbound, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and Bloodborne. His dream is to become a Lead Designer in the video game industry and to leave a creative mark on the gaming world. When he’s not playing games, he often enjoys working on Photoshop or Editing/Producing video’s for his friends on Adobe Premiere.