Undertale- Reading this review fills you with determination


Carter Diggs, Staff Writer

The video game industry in 2015 was dominated primarily by AAA open world games.  Large, corporately-published games Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Fallout 4, and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt received so much attention and praise from consumers and the media throughout the year, completely dominating the market.

Which makes the success of Undertale all that more special.

Instead of going through a major corporation, or even a small development team, indie game Undertale was produced in its entirety by one man, Toby Fox.

Undertale tells the story of a young child who must escape the underground – a strange world populated by outlandish monsters – after falling in.  Along the way, they make quirky friends, dangerous enemies, and make the choice of retaliation or mercy.  

The story, while starting off fairly simplistic, becomes a little more complex as time goes on and is helped by characters that all have roles that fit well within it.  By giving small hints and clues about the ruler of the underground and its past, while withholding just the right amount, Fox manages to keep a very satisfying feel of mystery to the setting.

One of the best parts of the game is the characters.  The individuals the fallen human meets along the way are very well-written and unique.  Every character has their own set of humorous quirks and brings something new to the table, making sure that the experience doesn’t run stale.

The gameplay of Undertale is what really sets it apart from other releases.  Wherever there is a convention, you can bet that it is either lampshaded, defied, or deconstructed. All the rules it sets up for itself are eventually broken down.  By messing around with the base tropes of RPGs and bringing many base elements of gameplay into the storyline itself, Fox manages to turn the genre on its head.

“It’s very innovative,” said Oxford High sophomore Sarah Boothe, “despite the format, it completely different from all the other games I’ve played.”

Half old-school role-playing game and half bullet hell, the game packs in an interesting mechanic: mercy.  

During battles, which involve dodging the enemy’s attacks in bullet hell-esque fashion, players have the option to fight, like in a traditional RPG, or negotiate with their foe and spare them.  The choices players make with this concept can end up changing the overall plot, with three available routes – Pacifist, Neutral and No Mercy/Genocide.

The way the game is structured, it is recommended you either go full Pacifist or Genocide, as things aren’t quite as interesting in the Neutral route.

Another knockout quality is the music.  All done by Fox, the soundtrack covers a wide array of feelings and produces quite a few tunes that are sure to get stuck in your head.  Some of the best are “Dummy,” “Spider Dance,” and “Megalovania.”

“The music was absolutely beautiful,” said OHS junior Jacob Sandlin.  “That and the fun characters were my favorite parts.”

Perhaps the best strength of the game is Fox’s exceptional writing.  Wonderful humor is spread throughout the game and it is always entertaining to see the fourth-wall antics it throws at you.  The game succeeds in being whatever it wants to be at the moment, be it humorous, heartwarming, creepy, or even sorrowful.  It even manages to comment on meaningful and sophisticated subjects such as self-worth or why we desire “happy endings.”

Having said everything, the game is best experienced by going in blind with minimal knowledge of the plot beforehand.  Not knowing the next self-imposed rule that the game breaks is part of the experience, and helps consistently maintain an element of surprise.

For only being made by one person, Undertale manages to make many great accomplishments, managing to rise above several AAA games in certain aspects.  With a spellbinding soundtrack, wonderful characters, and a unique battle system, Undertale manages to more than live up to the hype and praise it has generated.

Undertale is owned by Toby Fox and is available on Mac and PC through Steam.  More information is listed on the official website.