Review: Undertale (Computer)
- Release Date (NA): September 15, 2015
- Release Date (EU): September 15, 2015
- Release Date (JP): September 15, 2015
- Publisher: Toby Fox
- Developer: Toby Fox
- Genres: Role-playing
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
With rave reviews from both critics and Steam users, Undertale has established quite a large fanbase. How well does the game live up to these ratings?
Story - Do the Monster Mash
In the world of Undertale, humans and monsters used to live on the surface as equals. But for an unknown reason, the humans suddenly grew frightened by the monsters and waged war against them. Having won the war, the humans banished the monsters into the mysterious Underground, and locked them in with a potent barrier which one could only enter through, not exit.
You play as a human who has fallen from Mt. Ebott into the Underground. You must find your way back to the surface, and face whatever monsters you meet along the way, with the hope of being able to exit through the barrier with the help of your powerful human soul. The monsters are after your soul because they hope its power can destroy the barrier, so you must find ways to get around them while keeping your soul.
The story starts off slow, like any game. But as you progress throughout the game, you begin to realize what consequences your actions have. It's nerve-wracking to find out that one accidentally killed monster can totally change the course of the story. This is where Undertale excels: its masterful story-telling. You find out bits and pieces about the underground and its history as you progress through the game. Your pre-conceived view of the monsters is totally changed as you realize what they've been subjected to. And your decisions have an effect on the story, so in a way you write your own destiny, as cliché as it sounds.
The game throws tons of short emotional twists at you, and keeps you on your toes. I will say that it can get predictable at times, but the story is gripping nonetheless as you learn more about the value of compassion, and as you learn that these monsters are real people with real personalities whom killing senselessly gains you nothing. I would like to elaborate but it's tough to summarize this game's story without spoiling it totally. Suffice to say that the characters seem very real and it's easy to get attached to them. But of course, how you play the game is up to you.
Gameplay - Soul Survivor
Undertale comes with a sort of gimmick, and it is the main source for the game's praise: you are able to beat the whole game without killing a single monster. There are many actions you can perform in battle, unique to the specific enemy. Of course you could fight them, which is accomplished via a simple timing system. But the fun comes in the ACT menu. Depending on the monster, you can perform several options which comfort the enemy toward your presence. If you find the right action and do it enough times, you can use the MERCY menu to stop the fight without killing the enemy. You can also flee or use items.
Otherwise, the game is mostly moving around in the overworld, with random encounters. Some simple puzzles are presented, and some are tough, but the majority of them are extremely easily solved (and often they're intended to be that way).
When an enemy attacks you, you control your soul with the arrow keys in a small white box, and in order not to get hurt you must dodge the enemy projectiles. It's a simple system but bosses have very devastating attacks and can turn your soul different colors to restrict your motion in different ways.
This combat system proves to be both interesting and hilarious, as you learn how some of the more obscure enemies react to your actions. Boss battles are intense, both because of their complex attacks but also because it's tough to find a way to win without killing them. Someone so reserved to fight you won't accept your mercy easily. The final boos is an intense, insane experience which comes out of the blue and sweeps you off your feet. Combat is certainly one of Undertale's many highlights.
Presentation - Surfacebound
When looking at the screenshots in this review, you probably noticed that the game looks much like Earthbound and other SNES RPGs. Indeed, the game is inspired by the MOTHER series and hopes to continue its tradition of weirdness. The graphics aren't anything complex, and they won't require next-gen hardware. In fact I reckon the game probably could run on the SNES. That said, some of the monster sprites are both beautiful and hilarious (there's a Tsundere plane, nuff said). The overworlds are dark, but uplifting at the same time as you begin to appreciate the monsters' company. The monster designs are very unique and original. And the final boss is... something else.
Oh, and the music is wonderful. From the energetic battle theme Spear of Justice to the fabulous notes of Death by Glamour, the game's music (or lack thereof) strengthens every emotional moment and ties the game together in a very meaningful way. You should really buy the game bundled with the soundtrack. Sometimes with chiptunes, other times with grand pianos, this game is one that is much better experienced with music. Keep those headphones on. Take a listen for yourself.
+ Deep and well-told story
+ Memorable and real characters
+ Well-designed and unique sprites
+ Original combat and karma system
+ Amazing soundtrack
- Predictable story at times
- Short (~6 hours for each playthrough, but with multiple endings)
- Very easy
Unique designs combined with detailed pixel art and an insane soundtrack give this game on of the most polished presentations I've seen in a long time. The story is extremely well-told and deep, but often takes too many predictable turns.
The unique karma system which has long-term effects on your save file makes you really consider how you go about fighting your battles, and provides one of the freshest takes on RPG combat in recent memory.
The initial playthrough took around 7-8 hours for me, which is pretty short, unlike other RPGs. However there are 3 different endings, and a million different ways to go about playing the game. Characters even reference previous playthroughs and reflect on your former actions, further increasing this game's replay value.
out of 10
(not an average)
Undertale is my personal game of the year, simply because of the amount of originality in it. It excels where other games fail, in really engaging the player. The designs of the enemies and the splendid music further increase the game's originality. The combat system makes you reconsider how you've played RPGs in the past, and forces you to take a step back. Undertale provides an incredible experience for only $10 and I can't recommend it enough. I daresay it deserves all the rave reviews, and hell, this is one of them.