Nobody is shutting up about Undertale. It’s won accolades as the best game of 2015 from many reviewers, even from the crotchety bastard Yahtzee Croshaw (probably my favorite reviewer, even though he absolutely hates JRPGs, the bastard.)
So I’m not going to give Undertale a traditional review. As much as I liked this game, there’s really no point to throwing my own inconsequential opinion on top of the pile of millions of other thumbs-up, A+ and five star reviews. Instead, I’m going to tell you when I knew that this game really was different from the standard RPG/dungeon crawler/puzzle game it came off as at first.
There are some spoilers here about the first chapter of the game and about one character in particular, so if you haven’t played it at all and want to go in totally fresh, there’s your warning. If you’ve started to play but have lost interest after 20 or so minutes for whatever reason, though – maybe this will encourage you to keep playing!
I went into Undertale almost completely raw. All I knew was that several people had told me that I had to play this game, and for once, I took their advice. The only other thing I knew was that there were generally two approaches to the game: either kill your enemies or befriend them. I wanted to see both endings, and I decided to start with the “kill everything” route. Thus I began my Undertale journey by blazing a trail of destruction through the ruins, the setting of the game’s first chapter. I grinded like a good RPG player, killing monsters I encountered and gaining EXP and LV. I had a “MERCY” option as well, which I supposed I should have used if I wanted to make friends with the monsters facing me. I didn’t need that option for what I was doing.
Eventually, I cleared the ruins of monsters. The music changed to a creepy low-pitched rumbling, and strangely, I kept having enemy encounters, but no monsters appeared on the screen. Just one statement, printed in small text: “But nobody came.”
Okay, that’s… weird. But as long as I’m making progress, hey, whatever.
My path of destruction led me to Toriel’s home. This motherly goat lady had saved my life at the beginning of the game and now offered me a new place to live, a refuge from the dangers of the underground world. However, I had no interest in living in some little underground house. I had to get back to my own home. And I suspected that I’d have to get rid of Toriel to get there.
I ran down the stairs into the basement, which turned out to be a tunnel into the rest of the underground world, where I’d be able to hopefully find a way back to the surface. Sure enough, Toriel blocked my way out of the ruins and refused to move. As much as I liked this lady, she was in my fuckin’ way, and so she’d have to go down. I’m King Badass of Big Shit Mountain and nobody is going to stand in my way and survive. Not even my new sort-of adoptive mother.
She went down in one hit. I’d expected her to put up a fight, but no. Apparently she didn’t really think I’d attack her.
I felt really bad about what I’d done right after the fight ended. My feelings were confirmed in the next room after the gate exiting the ruins, where I ran into “Flowey the Flower”, as he calls himself.
This asshole flower tried to kill me in the first scene of the game, and Toriel saved my life. How could I have killed her? Even if she had been standing in my way, she’d only had my best interests in mind by trying to keep me in the ruins, away from the dangers of the rest of the underground.
I quit my “kill everything” strategy. In fact, I started at the beginning with a new file. I didn’t really have the stomach to kill everyone I came across, especially not Toriel. I hadn’t anticipated that I’d actually give a shit about the characters in this little puzzle dungeon RPG thing, but sure enough, I did. And thankfully, on my new save, I was able to spare everyone and progress. Even Toriel let me leave the ruins after several bouts of bullet-dodging showed her that I was ready to find a way to the surface, back to human civilization.
I was making friends with everyone, and it all seemed to be going great. Until I met this flower again.
He knew. He knew I’d killed Toriel in my aborted first playthrough. I could save over my old file, but I couldn’t erase what I had done. The game remembered, and it wouldn’t let me forget.
This is just the first in a series of “what the fuck” moments that Undertale has to offer the player. And these moments are what set it apart from the standard RPG/dungeon crawler/puzzle game. As much as I enjoy hating popular things because it’s cool to do that, the hype surrounding Undertale is entirely justified. If you haven’t played the game and you ignored my warning near the top of this page, here’s my full review of Undertale: play it. It’s only ten dollars to buy (available both on Steam and on creator Toby Fox’s website.) That’s a bargain for what you’ll get in return. The soundtrack is really good too.
Okay, that’s all I’m going to write about Undertale. The game seems to be starting to get a massive fandom now, and it’s honestly getting a little weird. If I had waited three more months to get this game, in fact, I might have been put off of it forever by its inevitable legions of creepy obsessive fans. I’m not talking about people who just like the game, I’m talking about people who roleplay the game’s characters on message boards and write fanfiction. I think some of them might be furries, too. Not that any of that is the fault of Toby Fox, but still – play the game before the weirdos spoil it for you!