In this RPG, you don’t have to kill anyone. Each enemy can be “defeated” nonviolently. Dance with a slime. Pet a dog. Whisper your favorite secret to a knight. Or, ignore this choice and rain destruction upon your foes… (Toby Fox)
After playing through Undertale and looking around the community, I have noticed that there are two lines of thought when it comes to telling others about this game. The first is terrified that if they say anything at all about the story, the characters, or the plot then they will have spoiled what makes Undertale so good. The other believes that exposing people to the truth behind the game will hook their friends in.
I will take more of a neutral route, so there will be minor spoilers ahead.
As stated in the developer’s summary above, the idea of Undertale is that the player can, at any time, choose to resolve conflicts peacefully. Oddly enough, not many games do this. Usually, as one particular character likes to state, video games are kill or BE killed. You do not have a choice when it comes to how to play your game. Some games capitalize on this by making violence-filled extravaganzas, while others try to give the player some sort of motive, such as “Really Bad Guy wants to destroy the humans, and you are our only hope!”
One trend that occurs with these games is what is known as the “pacifist run.” It is exactly what it sounds like: the main character does not kill anyone. The problem with this, be it Skyrim or Fallout 4, is that the games are designed in such a way that either your opponent has to die or your have to die. Again, kill or be killed.
What makes Undertale so brilliant and so beloved by hundreds of thousands of players is that the game makes each character so memorable and lovable that you do not want to kill them. It encourages you to try and figure out how to play without shedding blood, but it does not force you to do so. If the enemy you fight seems too powerful or too monstrous, you can judge them worthy of death. The world would be a better place without them, right? Or you could choose a third path where you not only kill but kill to excess, wiping out every monster in existence. The choice is yours and yours alone.
There is… one other thing about Undertale. This is one thing that I did not know occurred until I ran across it in-game. I had just started playing and had very little idea of what to expect. I knew I could either play Pacifist or Genocide, so I did my best to keep everyone alive. Then I got to the first boss and panicked. I tried talking, but they would not listen. I tried to spare them, and they kept attacking. My confusion brought to mind my youth, and I figured that perhaps this boss battle acts like Pokemon. If I get their HP low enough, I will be able to show that I am stronger, and they will finally listen to me. Then I took the second half of their health with one attack and killed them… I was heartbroken because this character had been nothing but nice to me until this point (and I did not want to ruin my Pacifist run), so I did what any gamer would do.
I loaded my save file and tried again.
Everything went the same as before, but just before the battle began the boss paused. “Why do you look like you’ve seen a ghost?” they asked me. Then the fight began, and I tried talking to them, only to be told that telling them how I killed them once before would be upsetting. Undertale remembers everything. Every cut, every life, every violent thing you do cannot be forgotten. Actions have consequences that cannot be avoided so easily.
Funny thing is, that is only the first level.
- Unique battle system that blends classic JRPG mechanics with bullet hell sections
- Engaging and varied characters that will stick with you
- Multiple endings based on the player’s choices and actions
- Numerous secrets hidden all over the game
- Encourages a style of play that is seldom seen in games.
- Amazingly brilliant soundtrack that will have you singing along for months.
- It is very easy to slip up and ruin some of Undertale’s many surprises.
- There is only one difficulty, so some people will find this easy to play while others struggle to push through.
- The way Undertale uses its memory system tends to make replays more exciting for people who want to revisit it, but it is infuriating for those who want to show the game to friends and family, as starting from a clean slate is easier said than done.
Recommendation: Buy it. Undertale quickly became one of my favorite games of recent years, and I am sure you will as well!