Undertale (PC)

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A long time ago monsters and humans lived in harmony. As you would expect, the harmony didn’t last. There was a giant war, lotsa people died, shit got fucked. Some of the monsters were able to survive by fleeing to a series of underground caves. A great barrier was erected between the surface and these caverns. But there is a secret entrance from a chasm in Mount Ebbot. Naturally, you –as an ungendered child– climb the mountain and fall into the underground while you were picking flowers. Now you’ve got to get out or remain trapped inside forever. Fight, act, dodge enemy attacks, make moral decisions, maybe show a little mercy, and have a grand time in this turn based RPG with bullet hell elements.

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And when I say ungendered, I mean it. The character could be a girl or a shaggy-haired boy.

History

Undertale was made by Toby Fox, with help on art and story from Temmie Chang, and a little more help from some other people as well. The earliest game I’ve seen Fox make was for a Starmen.net halloween rom-hack called simply Radiation’s Halloween Hack. In which he turned Earthbound into a more horror based game. A demo for Undertale was ready in May of 2013 and a Kickstarter campaign started in June of the same year. The Kickstarter asked for $5,000 for additional art –and raised that within the first day– but raised $50,000 by the end of the campaign. Undertale was released on September 15th 2015. It’s competition was Armikrog (PC, Mac, Linux), Grow Home (PS4), and Bloodbowl (PS4, PC, XBox Online).

Experiences

This game will make you feel things. These things might be called emotions and they might be described as completely overpowering. Unfortunately the game is spoil-tastic so I can’t say anything and I urge anyone who plays it not to look anything up unless they’re absolutely totally stuck. I had to do just that and it really bruised my experience. So just… play the game however you want to play it. There’s no right or wrong way to go through. And if you do get stuck, try listening to the game, it’s rare that the game purposefully deceives the player — and when it does the effect is absolutely deliberate.

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Is weeping openly through bouts of laughter considered a bad time?

Gameplay

Undertale is an RPG with turn-based combat, lots of puzzles –both simple and difficult– and bullet hell elements. The player has four options in combat, fight, act, item, and mercy. Fight is exactly what it sounds like. Act allows the player to check enemy stats or interact with the enemy– possibly effecting combat in some way like making the bullets faster or slower. Items are almost always healing items or equipment so remember to stock up before you head out. And Mercy allows the player to spare monsters who no longer wish to fight or flee from battle. Now, here’s the trick, you only get EXP from killing monsters and you get gold from killing them or sparing them. So… how do you level up without killing monsters? You can’t. If you elect not to kill anything you’ll go through the whole game with a mere 20 hit points — but it’s totally possible to do so.

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Nothing personal, man. I just need the HP.

Besides that the game is basically spent walking around, examining things, and speaking to people. Not that that’s boring. The game does a great job at making everything entertaining, from examining snow poffs to chatting with pet rocks, not a second will feel wasted.

The Gush

This game presents choice and the illusion of choice on a Chrono Trigger or Telltale game-esque proportion. You’ll never know which choices mattered and which were just for laughs. Big or small, your choices can have huge consequences.

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Undertale has got the guts to ask the tough questions.

The story in this game is a top notch riveting tale that will make you think about what a game is, what a player is, and what your decisions tell about yourself.

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Charm. Charm everywhere in this game.

Fox wanted to make a game where, “it’s important to make every monster feel like an individual.” As such the characters are all beautiful and full of flavor. From the fondest of friends to the most vile of enemies. I know exactly who they are and why they do what they do.

Speaking of great characters, they’re all hilarious and over the top. The game is filled with humor overall. I spent the game alternating between laughing and crying. It is an emotional roller-coaster.

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Jokes. Jokes everywhere in this game.

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Oh yeah. Pain, that too. Everywhere.

There are secrets galore both big and small. Search hard and if it makes sense in your head then Fox probably put something there for you to find.

The Kvetch

As much as there is to do and as much influence as the player has between doing all the little quests, choosing different options, and figuring out the whole story Undertale eventually ends. Yup, my biggest critique is how sad it makes me feel to let this one go. I mean, it’s not even really a critique. This section is the Kvetch because it’s where I do all my complaining. And that’s my complaint…

…Oh yeah, and it’s hard to capture screenshots from the game and post them on your Steam account. I guess that’s something.

The Verdict

Undertale is $10 US, American, cash dollars on Steam and that’s an absolute bargain. It boasts a 6 hour runtime but with new game + and a steady stream of secrets people are still uncovering a month after release — and that’s a while in internet time– this game has got replay value coming out of its pores. Even if it’s got to end someday, I urge everyone with the available disposable income to pick up Undertale.

Next Week: Shogun: Total War 1

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