WARNING: serious spoilers ahead. This is the kind of game you do not want spoiled. If you've not played the game at all, or are playing and haven't yet completed, I thoroughly advise you do not read any further.
Seven. Seven human souls and King ASGORE will become a god. Six. That's how many we have collected thus far...
Undertale by indie developer Toby Fox1 is a role-playing game which is currently exclusive to Steam
and probably will be for life4. Your role to play is a human child. There exists a magical barrier between the human world and the underground - where the monsters live - and you happen to have accidentally fallen through it. Immediately after a short, sharp, shock of an introduction to the monster world, you start travelling through it, making decisions and facing the consequences of said decisions.
I mean it when I say the last bit. This game is one part RPG, two parts bullet hell, sixty parts morals and ethics and making you feel like a complete arsehole if you screw up. Which you will, no doubt. This game takes tropes from many an RPG, twists them beyond recognition, and punishes you for sticking to your muscle memory. But that's only a small part of it - the sheer ingenuity of the game and its storyline, short though it may be, are the much greater remainder of the game. And it earns a big tick from me.
There's also the notion that you do not have to kill any monsters. You do not even have to fight the bulk of them. You have the choice to fight them or ACT - perform an action - and often these acts are friendly acts, or funny acts. Or both. Once you've ACTed you can Spare monsters. This grants you no EXP (short for EXecution Points) and as a consequence you don't increase your LV (short for LOVE, which is in turn short for Level Of ViolencE). However... the game doesn't treat you as if you're a dick.
I'm gonna be honest and say, pretty red-faced, that I acted like a typical RPGer and accidentally killed Toriel. Y'know, the anthropomorphic goat monster who acts as a mother-figure in the early game. I was intending to knock her down to quarter-health and Spare her from there, but alas, the last attack... didn't go as planned. And I felt like a monster. The game had a remarkable way of making me think "what have I done?!" and made me swear off any violence for the rest of the game. In saying that, my runthrough has been soiled
and I'll never hit True Pacifist2, because the game remembers everything you do and will torment you relentlessly for it. Seriously. There are multiple endings, many dialogue and storyline changes based on your current and all previous playthroughs, and all kinds of immediate consequences as well... Ahem. So. The game makes you feel like a dick if you act like one.
What else? It's stylistically similar to EarthBound in graphics and (some of the) audio, which incidentally is good enough as a standalone soundtrack. The dialogue is funny3, despite and alongside its merciless treatment of people who are just in it for the killing (this is a different story in and of itself - if you want to do a Genocide Run, you're gonna have a bad time). While a lot of the story is a bit cheesy, be warned that you should always be on your guard. The slightly predictable twist at the end is nevertheless taken quite comfortably up to eleven... twelve... thirteen... but, of course, dear reader, if you're reading this, you already know some of the game and have already seen THAT FUCKING FLOWER. And incidentally, it's rather short: the game can be speedrun in one to two hours, or for a "normal" playthrough you're looking at five to ten. But that's not a bad thing as your second playthrough will most probably be different.
Let's get to some numbers.
- Graphics: 10/10 A wonderful homage to 8- and 16-bit RPGs. Mostly...
- Sound: 10/10 Ditto the above. I've had the soundtrack on loop on my iPod for weeks.
- Playability: 9/10 A lot of it veers into Guide Dang It territory, but that's a lot of the point.
- Lastability: 8/10 It's easy to get discouraged. Don't give up until you've gone through at least one playthrough.
- Plot: 9/10 Short, cheesy, but funny. Pretty much what you'd expect from an RPG.
- Overall: 46/50 = 9.2/10 A funny, merciless, soul-wrenching experience. Thank you for redefining the word "monster".
Seeing this writeup give such a glowing review... It fills you with determination.
1 Almost literally all by himself. Wow.
2 Seems that that statement was a
3 Especially once you meet sans. If you're a decently seasoned RPGer, this will not take long.
4 Edit 2018-06-18: it's now been ported onto the PS4 and PS Vita, and a port for the Nintendo Switch has also been announced.
i'm still undecided as to whether ASGORE is the good or bad kind of monster...