I may be a bit late to this… but I finally played through Undertale. And you probably already know but it’s a great title! Hence, I wanted to talk to you about why it’s great, what I enjoyed about it and what I didn’t like while I also hope that the fanbase doesn’t tear me to pieces for badmouthing their game.
Developer: tobyfox Publisher: tobyfox Genre: Turn-Based, RPG, Pixel-Art, Puzzle, Bullet Hell Release Date: September 15th, 2015 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC, XB1, PS4, Switch, Android, XBS, PS Vita Copy was purchased.
At its core, Undertale is an RPG where you don’t have to kill anyone unless you want to. You control a human that fell into the world of monsters. Why many a monster seems friendly and welcoming, there are plenty out there that desire to steal your soul and use it to breach the barrier that holds all the monsters trapped in this underworld. Hence, you need to find a way out or stay trapped forever!
Undertale lets you decide how you want to play the game. You either fight monsters and earn experience to increase your “Love” and the strength of your soul… or you use the “Act” option to talk your way out of a fight. The important bit here is that every monster is unique in its attack patterns and desires. You may need to cheer up one monster while another monster wants to be stepped one. At times you may need to flex muscles or hum a tune… other times, you just pet a dog or keep your distance. Either way, once you’ve done enough, you can spare enemies often awarding you a lot of gold at the cost of not getting any experience.
No matter what you’d like to do, your choices have consequences. Monsters have families and friends after all. Some monsters may help you out later. Other times, it can be easier to kill them. Either way, your choices have consequences and often can give you unique dialogues that may make you smile or cry. There are three different endings and each of the playthroughs play differently with a story that is actually a lot more elaborate than I thought. On top of that, you may spot references, foreshadowing and little jokes in your second or third playthrough that you didn’t see before. Hence, I’d recommend playing through the game at least twice. If that’s not your jam, however, the story, music and gameplay are still very much worth it.
I mean, sure, the inventory system is quite limited and there aren’t a lot of features in terms of stats and level up rewards but the game has its own charm especially because of the simplicity of things. You have an armour piece and a weapon that you can equip. These sometimes can affect dialogue as well. More importantly, a lot of the armour that you find throughout the game can make a big impact despite its simplicity. Similarly, your weapon determines how your actual attack plays out. Speaking of which,… to attack enemies, you either have to tap at the right time using a rhythm-game system (kinda?). There are attacks that play out differently as well, though, based on what weapon you have. Once you’ve attacked or acted on an enemy, it’s the enemy’s turn to attack you. In that case, you have to dodge bullets, attacks and other projectiles in a manner that is more akin to bullet hell games than to turn-based RPGs.
The slow nature of the turn-based combat blends well with the often fast-paced nature of your defence where you try to not get hit by the enemy fires, spears, bones, and other attacks. It’s a bit of a contrast that really works well, in my opinion, and that contrast can also be seen in many of the story-related contents of Undertale. I mean, the game is generally rather light-hearted and fun but at times it can also get a bit dark with certain topics here and there that I won’t get into detail. Overall, though, it’s a great story really and it has characters in it that I kind of ended up caring about.
And you know, I could get into the simple art style and stuff… but you can see in the screenshots that it isn’t too much of a looker. Sure, it’s simplistic and somewhat stylised and that can look great to some people but apart from the sprites in combat, the game doesn’t look too great… but I still wouldn’t say that that’s a bad thing, especially as it makes you appreciate the gameplay, the soundtrack, and the story even more. The soundtrack by Toby Fox, after all, is amazing and features one banger after another. My favourite songs include “Spider Dance”, “Spear of Justice” and “Death by Glamour” but there are plenty of other great songs in the soundtrack (See here on Spotify!) that are worth mentioning. I mean, I could write a whole post about how and why the music is so great but anyone who has heard of “Megalovania” knows that Undertale’s score is great. It just is…
But even Undertale has its flaws. For starters, some jokes get stale very quickly but get repeated over and over again, which is a tad obnoxious. Also, the controls feel a bit awkward at times. It also just sucks to have to use the arrow keys. Similarly, it can be frustrating at times when the game doesn’t tell you what exactly you have to do in certain situations, especially when the solution is to just stall the fights until it ends. There are a few fights like that and it often ends up feeling like a puzzle without any hints, which is a tad pointless.
While combat may be a tad hard at times, there’s also the issue of the actual puzzles in the game. They often are too easy and feel like a waste of time. Pair them with janky controls and you can get a tad frustrated here and there. And to top it all off, there are no accessibility options to remove certain visual effects that may be harmful to players with photosensitive epilepsy or other conditions akin to that. Sure, the store page points out that those effects exist but the game itself doesn’t and the game itself doesn’t provide a setting to damper or remove those effects, which is a tad sad since the game overall is an absolute pleasure.
But even though there are a few issues here and there with the game, I don’t think that any of them are major dealbreakers. Undertale is a great game and I probably don’t have to tell that to anyone… but hey, if I only played it now, there’s probably a lot more people out there that aren’t too sure about it… So, in case you’re reading this now: Don’t feel bad about not having played it yet. Just give it a go when you have the time. You won’t regret it. (And if you’re stuck somewhere, there’s a super OP armour in the game somewhere designed to specifically help you out in those cases. Feel free to resort to that.) Undertale‘s great. Highly recommend it!
This post is part of the Blaugust 2021 event. For more information on that, check out this post!