Undertale is about a young child who winds up lost in a world of monsters. As he tries to escape these creatures bar his way, eager to capture the child for his human soul: believed to hold immense power. Through determination, the tyke must make his way through caves, snow, lava, and hundreds of monsters clawing at his every step. Now, as devious as that plot sounds, the game is dramatically different.
The first hour of Undertale is seemingly designed to give players a false sense of the game’s structure. Aside from the battle mechanics, it feels simplistic and uninspired. Getting past that first area is a hurdle, but face the challenge and Undertale’s charm blossoms from there and gets better with every minute. Brilliant or not, it’s a risky move, but Undertale is about breaking boundaries, twisting RPG standards on their sides, and having fun with the genre. Part of the joy of Undertale is discovering its secrets, which makes it hard to review. Saying anything about anything may rob someone of the enjoyment of discovery.
Okay, enough setup, let’s rewind and discuss the aforementioned battle system. Players have four options in battle. Fighting is obvious as is using items. Combining act and spare is where the game gains its unique reputation though. Sure, annihilating monsters and earning gold and experience is the classic way to finish a RPG, but that’s not necessarily the best option. Another strategy is talking to a monster, learning their behavior, and lulling them out of their rage in order to relieve them.
For example, let’s take a gander at one of the earlier monsters, Loox. Selecting Act makes the choices of Check, Pick On, or Don’t Pick On appear. Checking Loox analyzes its personality and reveals it doesn’t want to be picked on. Choosing this with alleviate his unrest, highlights his name in yellow, and thus signaling to the player he can now be spared. It may sound complicated now, but the process is rather simple and is better illustrated in the supporting video review.
In battle, player’s souls are represented as a red heart in a box. Monster attacks play out like Warioware esque mini games. The challenge is in deducing the monster’s weakness and learning its attacks patterns, which become simpler with each repeated confrontation. They become more elaborate as the game goes on, with boss battles far outshining anything the game has to offer. And not to ruin anything, but let’s just say Undertale is constantly reinventing itself, again, specifically with boss battles.
Let’s move onto the game’s third greatest asset: music. While great on its own, experiencing the soundtrack through the game gives the players a greater appreciation for it. The songs aren’t background music; they’re crucial to the game’s core. There are 77 tracks on the album just to drive the gist home. Yes, themes are repeated and or remixed, but all in all, everything has a theme in Undertale. It’s simply phenomenal.
Undertale can be summarized in two simple words: experience it. The 16-Bit aesthetic, the music, the gameplay, the bosses, the characters, the dialogue, and everything in-between make it special. A community has blossomed from the work of one man: Toby Fox. Aside from art designs he had help with, it was all him. It’s an aspiring tale of both game and man that again, for the billionth time, just needs to be experienced. For the love of indie games and RPGs, Undertale is a masterpiece that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Score: 5/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on January 11, 2016 via my Examiner account before the website shut down. Check out the supporting video review on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.