Undertale Review

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Undertale is a role-playing game released for PC on September 15th, 2015. It was written, developed and composed by Toby Fox (@tobyfox) with additional art by Temmie Chang (@tuyoki). For more info check out the site. Screenshots taken by myself.

Trying to explain what makes Undertale special is like trying to explain why I enjoy looking at a beautiful sunset. It simply makes me happy. There is so little to be upset about, so little to raise up and shout “Here’s why it’s not good!” From the moment I fell into the world of monsters and walked out into the darkness there was an atmosphere of sincerity following me. The world wanted me to think about myself and my choices. The imperative was on me to explore and talk and work through what was happening. And I did.

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Undertale breaks the tired RPG mold in so many ways. It’s so refreshing to play a game where every character, even the early-game, small monsters that other games take for granted, are developed and purposeful. Every character is the star of their own battle. Every battle is a short film: a small, creative insight into that character’s life, into their motivations. Every battle is an opportunity to understand who you’re fighting and then ask yourself why you’re fighting them. You’re in their world. You are the intruder, disrupting their way of life. Knowing that it was incredibly hard for me to fight them, nonetheless kill them.

There are several approaches players can take to the game that lead to different endings. Depending on how you handle every fight, every conversation you will hear different dialogue and receive vastly different ends to your story. These branching stories give Undertale a great deal of replayability. I found myself often wondering what would have happened had I done this instead of that and wanting to know the answer.

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Undertale is a master class in character design and world building. Each of the main characters is fully developed, my favourite of them being Sans the lovable, lazy skeleton. The underworld of monsters is beautifully realized which is quite an achievement considering it’s minimalist environments. All three of the main areas feel unique, each with their own personality reflecting your character’s development. From Snowdin your cute, lovable, innocent beginning through Waterfall where exposition begins to add depth to characters and your actions to Hotland where the core resides. This is the powerful centre of the underworld and also where you exercise your new-found power to determine your fate.

As if Undertale wasn’t incredible enough as is, it also has one of the most wonderful soundtracks I have ever heard. Characters all have themes and battle songs that fit each character’s personality and fighting style perfectly. For example during my adventure I encountered a spider who fought using other dancing spiders. Her battle song (which you can hear here) is especially fitting, taking what might just be an alright battle and making it exceptional. Several of the tracks have quickly become some of my favourite video game songs of all time. Undertale takes the classic 8-bit music that has defined retro games for so long and makes it modern and interesting. I would go so far to say that Undertale‘s soundtrack rivals other modern retro games like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge.

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There is no reason not to play Undertale. There is something in it or everyone. If you love role-playing games, excellent music, superb character design, a thoughtful story or all of the above then Undertale is a game for you. It’s an experience that is made less impactful the more you hear about it. If you take one thing away from this review let it be this: just play it. Please ♥

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