Initial NA Release Date: September 15, 2015
Review Date: August 29, 2016
Reviewed on: PC
Platforms: PC, MAC, Linux
My initial impression of Undertale was that it was an RPG-Lite if you will. Featuring funny characters, clever writing and a unique battle system but with no real pull-in factor. Man was I wrong.
As soon as I finished my first playthrough, I completely reversed my stance; Undertale is one of the deepest RPG’s I’ve played in a narrative sense and cements itself as a must-play for not only RPG fans but video-game fans as a whole.
You know you’re in for something good when the game flips the script on you before you can even begin reading it, and it only gets better from there. The game constantly shows you bits and pieces of the its true narrative, but keeps holding back and reverts to its comedic ways, but just when you think you know what’s going on, you get set-up for another surprise and another twist.
Presentation – With an 8-bit style, Undertale is both simplistic and charming at the same time. It doesn’t do anything special from a visual perspective but I just couldn’t help loving the expressionless look the child protagonist has, the supporting cast and monster models, and even the castles in the backgrounds and other scenery that is all too reminiscent of games like the Castlevania series and other references to older classics.
The sound in the game is one of the largest contributors for giving the game its personality, what I really enjoyed from a presentation standpoint and thought was quite unique, is that the supporting cast that you interact with all have different text fonts, as well as different sounds when they speak that fit each character to a tee—giving the cast more of a personalized voice than just mere text. The soundtrack in the game, just like its core visual, doesn’t blow you out of the water, but there are a few stellar chiptune tracks and as a whole the 8-bit feel is still very endearing in a way.
Undertale’s overall presentation, can be a hit or miss depending on who is playing it. Some may not enjoy its old-school simplistic look considering its endearing quality, has mostly to do with nostalgia of messing around with Microsoft Paint as a kid or the reminder of older games you used to play. However, the game really makes you look past that when it offers so much personality and depth in things we often tend to dismiss as small details such a text and sounds.
Gameplay – Despite what Flowey—the evil sunflower in the Underground may say, the choices you make in Undertale do matter, and decisions don’t always come easy.
One of the mechanics that makes the game so unique is that you can go through the whole game without hurting a soul—no pun intended. The main objective of the game is to leave the Underground and make your way back to the surface, which is a task made harder when you have to deal with the monsters’ plan of action; to take your soul in-order to complete their own quest in breaking the barrier that separates the Underground and surface and free the monster society, eventually overtaking humanity. The plot progression dips a bit after a great start but the ending definitely makes up for its slow middle.
Although having a very serious sounding plot and its fair share of serious moments, the one thing the game succeeds at doing over and over again is make you laugh. Characters such as Sans—the hip, sarcastic skeleton jokester who seems to always be around and about, to Undyne—the justice-seeking head of the royal guard who delivers her comedy in some unique ways to say the least, as well as the rest of the cast that’s full of personality, all get you to have a good laugh.
The core gameplay is like any standard turn-based RPG except with a little twist, the ability to not fight at all. Undertale’s unique battle system makes it that in every battle scenario, you get to choose how you want to end the battle, by brute force or by talking it out. The option to flee battle is sometimes there as well, but the two options I mentioned above are the main approaches to battle.
Each turn you get four options; Fight, Act, Item, and Mercy. Fight and Item are pretty self-explanatory, you fight the opponent until their HP reaches zero, and the items are usually used for healing purposes. Fighting the opponent is the only way of gaining EXP—which doesn’t stand for Experience Points but EXecution Points and is the only way to get to a higher LV—which stands for the acronym LOVE (Level of ViolencE) rather than the character’s Level.
Act is the more passive choice of battle, along with the often seen Check and Talk, you get different commands depending on the opponent, such as Sing or Joke, if you act correctly, you will be able to Spare the opponent, which is one of the options of Mercy; the other being Flee. By ending battle encounters passively, you get no EXP but the amount of gold you get is increased. Aside the core gameplay, the puzzle and platforming sections in the game are there to keep things lighthearted and fun rather than challenge or stump you.
While the battle system in Undertale is fun and interesting, it’s also meaningful. As I mentioned before, your choices matter in this game and they do not only make a difference when presented with set options to choose from in a form of a question or riddle, but through the gameplay itself, there are consequences and ramifications to any playstyle you choose to engage in, and that’s what makes Undertale special.
Final Impression – There aren’t too many games that give you the power of choice the way Undertale does, especially with the variety of options you get to pick from. The game’s slow middle part is really the only thing that I can criticize it for, the Fight/Mercy battle system is a unique way of playing an RPG, the characters all carry depth in their personality and the writing is clever, funny, sad, and serious all when it sees fit, so pacing is not an issue.
The one thing that is essential for a good RPG along with great characters, is its narrative and Undertale manages to deliver a great story more than once, with 3 different routes to choose from, I highly recommend replaying the game with a different route once your first initial playthrough is over, I believe that is essential in getting the true Undertale experience.
As a conclusion, Undertale is not a perfect game, it slugs its way through the middle and appears to be catered to a younger audience in its childish starting tone, but there is one trait I don’t think anyone can say that the game lacks, and that is depth. Undertale has one of the deepest narratives I have played, in addition to a great cast of characters, the ability to make meaningful choices that affect your experience, unique battle systems, as well as one of the best boss fights I have played through, Undertale packs a powerful punch and is well worth your while of multiple playthroughs.
+ Personable, funny supporting cast
+ Meaningful choices
+ Superb narrative
– Text interrupts progress
Final Score – 9.6/10 Excellent
After playing through the game 3 times in order to get the different endings, I have estimated I played the game for a total of 14 hours.