While it might be my job to buy video games frequently enough to talk about them and inform you on what may or may not be worth your hard earned milk money, it can be hard to judge a book by its cover to decide if it is worth reading. There are a lot of outlets that tell us as gamers what to buy and what to play. I get that. Then something disappointing like No Man’s Sky happens. How long did advertisers and magazines tell us how awesome Duke Nukem Forever was going to be?
The point here is that we get distrustful of games when the Hype Train starts tooting its horn. So, you might be able to see why it is only now this reporter has found the courage to take a look at Undertale.
If you haven’t heard of Undertale yet, I’m genuinely impressed you managed to avoid it this long. Here is the rundown I repeatedly hear from other reporters, articles and YouTube videos on the subject –
What they say: Undertale is a retro style Role Playing Game with a turn based battle system, and allows you to choose to spare your foes and show them mercy rather than killing them.
What they missed: In Undertale the story is told to you (a silent protagonist) by the huge cast of creatures you meet along the way. They express joy, sorrow, hero worship, fear, loneliness and so much more to you. Sometimes this is to further the plot, other times the purpose is to make you have feels. Minor spoiler- In the beginning, you meet a sweet motherly figure named Toriel who only wants you to live with her here where it is safe. She bakes you a fantastic butterscotch pie, and when you go to sleep, you find when you awake, that a piece of pie sits on a plate on the floor waiting for you.
You are given moment after moment to feel real compassion for these characters. It isn’t long before you have a favorite or perhaps just love them all. Every character has a history and a motive that you will likely strive to understand. Even the big bad has a motive and a reason for your sympathy. Granting monsters mercy requires you to find out how to diffuse the fight. You don’t just refuse to fight, you have to learn about them and act accordingly as the fight persists.
The presentation of this game is just top notch. There are moments where the overworld of the game are a bit plain and don’t stand out very much; however, the atmosphere is largely carried by the phenomenal musical score. Undertale reads like a Seuss-ical take on dark fairy tales. It’s unashamed with how silly it can be all while hiding a gooey, dark, sorrowful underbelly.
The fact of the matter is that Undertale is the first game in years that has given me some feels. While not openly weeping, I felt deeply invested in the story of these misfit monsters. I was happy when they succeeded. I took part in Napstablook the ghost’s family tradition because I felt he needed a friend, not because of the experience points.
There is one other teensy detail they don’t tell you about Undertale. The game is aware of you and your save file. It knows when you have reloaded multiple times. It knows when you’ve killed a boss but have not saved your game yet. Sometimes if a creature with multiple stages defeats you and you reload to try again, you get an option allowing you to skip to the part that you had just lost at. There are discreet little moments when a character in the story might feel as though this is familiar or happened once before. You are given a sinister peek behind the curtain of their reality. It is even possible at least one character is aware of this phenomenon.
So, is Undertale worth the hype it has been awarded? This reporter certainly thinks so. I went in not entirely sure what to expect from this title, and I was rewarded for it. Undertale boasts a great price on Steam at $14.99 and a short term time commitment of about six hours. You’re going to squeeze a lot of juice from this tiny fruit, and it is worth every sweet drop if you’ve ever liked an RPG even a little bit.
Thank you, Toby Fox. Tell Temmi we say hOI!!