Undertaking Undertale

Undertale is a pixelated RPG with the tagline “The RPG game where you don’t have to destroy anyone.” It starts with a small screen explaining an all- important backstory involving Humans and Monsters, then cuts straight into the game’s starting screen. Undertale is a humble indie game developed by Toby Fox, which has changed the way that I will look at indie games from this point forward.

Undertale is a story-driven game, a breed of RPG’s not seen too often any more. Undertale’s story takes the player throughout the entirety of “The Underground,” the new homeland of a race of creatures only known as “monsters” after being locked away by humans following a war. At no point does Undertale’s story lull, there is always a constant build of excitement, with a good number of jokes thrown in to stop the game from being too serious. Undertale is brilliantly written as well, with all conversations with NPC’s giving some kind of insight into the game’s backstory, or at least another decent chuckle. The writing of Undertale truly shines during the game’s “cut scenes” and boss fights. Each character is fully fleshed out, with small hints into their true character in all of their speech. However, it is also in these shining moments when it feels that the writing goes on repeat, as many lines are repeated, maybe as catchphrases, although there is nothing that justifies that belief. The story of Undertale kept me entertained during the entirety of my six hour playthrough, and while some may see that low number of six as a red flag, it should be seen as an assurance. Undertale at its core is a story- driven game, and it only needed six hours to capture and immerse me in its fantastical characters, setting and plot, which is complemented by an excellent score I will never forget.

Graphically, the game is similar to other indie games in its simplicity, but also extremely different, as there are moments of beauty that differentiate themselves from the art style of a majority of the game. At face value, the game is your generic pixelated indie game. However, the amount of complexity changes as you move into battle, or one of the few panoramic scenes that the game offers. In battle, character sprites become more complex and in some instances are just flat out impressive to watch move around and attack the player. Like many other indie games, the beauty of Undertale is in its simplicity, and it will leave any player with goosebumps during its more intricate moments.

Undertale plays unlike most RPG’s released in recent times. In the overworld, the player moves a character around and enters battle akin to many Pokémon games. When in battle, the player has the choice to fight, use items, and attempt to escape. These are all options typical of RPG games, however there are two more options, act and spare. Act allows the player to perform a non-violent action towards a monster, something as simple as lying down next to the monster or giving it a hug. These actions allow you to use the second option; spare. Sparing a monster does exactly what it says, the player spares the monster and simply leaves it alone without harming it. However, you can always go the classic route and attack the monster until it is no more, gain EXP and level up like in all other RPG games. When a monster attacks, the game becomes more of a “bullet hell,” making the player dodge different attacks shot at them by the monster. This mechanic definitely takes some getting used to, but once mastered, is rewarding as the player will be able to get through fights without being touched.

Undertale’s story presents the player with a complex world built on magic, mixed with pseudo-science, mixed with unfortunate misunderstandings that lead to the point of time that the game takes place. A large amount of indie games lack this depth. This along with the game’sbrilliant score, style, and gameplay make Undertale one of the sleeper hits of this year. I give Undertale an 8.5/10. Undertale is only available for PC on Steam, and is priced at $10.