Undertale: A Game About Morality

Undertale: A Game About Morality

Undertale Cover.jpg

You know, every once in awhile in the life of a gamer you find a game that truly speaks to you as a person. Something about the game resonates and creates a real attachment that is indescribable. In the past few years, notable games that have done this for me have been games like “The Legend of Zelda” or the “Bioshock” franchise. Recently, I had the privilege of playing a small indie game that maybe you’ve heard of by now: “Undertale.”

There are many aspects that go into making a good video game. It has to have certain components to it that make it worthwhile to play through. Some of these components are meaningful character arcs, a well thought out and impactful storyline, a decent soundtrack, and intriguing or unique gameplay or features. It may sound simple on paper, but getting all of these elements to work in unison is no easy feat. Creator Toby Fox, however, has completely hit the nail on the head with “Undertale.” Sit down and hold on tight, because you’re in for a ride on this one.

First, I’ll start by saying a little bit about the game. “Undertale” is a retro-style Role Playing Game, or RPG for short. It features retrograde 16-bit graphics and some 16-bit and modern style music throughout. However, don’t let that deter you from playing the game just because it doesn’t have the HD graphics we’re all so used to these days. The artwork is very solid and Toby Fox took a very unique spin on the simple concept of monsters.

The game starts with our main character (conveniently named by the player) waking after falling through a hole in the mountain. You are found by Toriel, a kind and compassionate monster who seems like she may be a bit lonely down here. After working through the beginning area and solving some pretty easy puzzles we are introduced to the game’s combat system–this is where that unique feature I mentioned earlier comes into play.

“Undertale” is not like your typical RPG where you grind for hours for levels and gear; you can progress through the entire game without killing a single creature. However, doing so will not grant you any experience and will give you the minimum amount of health for the entire game, which can make some of the later bosses a bit difficult. That isn’t where it ends though, “Undertale” is very unique in the fact that every single decision you make, even the small ones, can affect the game in a huge way. Want to kill that monster for a bit more hp and experience? Suddenly the entire dialogue of the game changes and certain endings become unavailable. There are 3 major routes that are known: No Mercy where you kill everything (sometimes referred to as genocide), Neutral which is what you get for playing it like a normal game, and Pacifist for not killing anyone (although this requires a neutral ending first). You have the ability to reset the game, so you can get all three endings should you want to. However, this comes with stipulations. If you choose to do a no mercy run first, it will have irreversible consequences on your game. No matter what ending you get after resetting the game, they will always know that one instance of you was a monster, so take that into consideration. I’d recommend running the game like a pacifist route the first time you play through, this will give you the neutral ending, and then you can go back and complete the pacifist ending. This way, should you choose to do a no mercy run, it won’t affect your pacifist playthrough.

While that’s a significant portion of why I like “Undertale” so much as a game, there are still other components of the game that make it what it is. Characters will always have an impact on the game, and boy did they do a good job here. No matter what run you decide to do, the characters are very dynamic and interesting. There’s Sans and Papyrus the skeleton brothers. Sans is the sarcastic comedian of the game, and he is very funny. There are many notable moments for Sans through the entire game, and I’ll let you find them on your own. Other notable characters such as Mettaton, Alphys, Asgore, Undyne and a couple of others are very present through the entire game. This doesn’t account for all the little interesting bits of text and humour that Fox included in the monster encounters in the overworld. If you’re any bit as big of the nerd that I am, you will appreciate the references and attempts at humour he makes through the entire game.

Last but not least, and the thing that in my opinion can make or break a game: The soundtrack. Nothing is more annoying than when the music doesn’t fit a certain part of the game. If you’re in an epic battle and the music doesn’t feel like you’re in an epic battle, that is really going to take away from the overall experience. It makes it very hard to get involved in a game. I cannot give enough praise to the soundtrack of this game. It is absolutely incredible. Seriously, this soundtrack is on par with games such as “Final Fantasy” and “The Legend of Zelda,” games that are known for their incredible soundtracks. I find myself listening to almost every song outside of the game, it’s seriously that good. The best part about it is that Toby Fox made all the music primarily by himself. If you decide to buy this game, do yourself a favor and buy the bundle that comes with the soundtrack. I promise you won’t regret it.

In short, “Undertale” is a game that satisfies and exceeds all the elements needed to create a truly memorable game. The soundtrack is incredible, the characters are immersive and relatable, the story is very well thought out and executed and the graphics are very fitting. My friends nagged me to play this for weeks–telling me how amazing the game was. I was hesitant at first as it is an indie game and not all indie games are very good. However, it’s only $10 on steam ($17 if you want the soundtrack too), and I decided I would bite the bullet and give it a chance. Boy am I glad that I did. This game has earned a special place in my heart for it’s uniqueness. Never have I played a game that played my emotions so well. The no mercy run made me feel awful after playing through pacifist route. It is emotionally draining to play, and that is something only a truly amazing game is capable of. The game is about 6 hours long to play through a typical route. Unless of course, you decide to do No Mercy. There are a couple of the hardest boss fights I have ever had to do in a video game on that route so be warned: “you’re gonna have a bad time” to quote Sans. All of this aside though, this game is incredible and is one of the best games I’ve played in years. It’s rightfully earned a place in my top 3. If you were on the fence about this game, go play it. I promise you won’t regret it.