Undertale – The three hour game, a lifetime of thoughts

NOTE: This post will talk about Undertale’s characters so consider this spoilers in that regard.

It’s not often that a game comes along that can make such an impression on you that you just can’t help but think about it long after the game has finished. Undertale happens to be just such a game developed by Toby Fox. How a one man developer can do something that entire teams cannot it is beyond me.

Undertale follows the adventure of a unnamed fallen human (in which you do get to name) through the underworld. A palce where Monsters are trapped are the Humans placed a barrier, separating the two species. You quickly learn that in order to leave, you have to cross the barrier to get back home and to do that you must journey the underworld.

I won’t say anything more about the story since anything more will simply be considered to be part of the spoiler category. Suffice to say you learn plenty about the Human and Monster conflict and there’s a few plot twists along the way too.

But frankly, aside from the story-telling, I think we need to address the other elephant in the room in that somehow, Toby Fox has made me care more about the characters in Undertale than I come across in most Triple A games. In three hours I’ve grown to love the cast of Undertale and I think it’s down to one thing. Quirks.

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HE IS THE GREAT PAPYRUS

Probably one of my favourites. He’s just a giant goofball that wants to get into the Royal Guard, loves puzzles and when you meat him, he is borderline fanatical in capturing a human and thus combines the two in a hilarious sequence of thoughtful puzzle solving, hilarious screw-ups and you just generally grow to love him.  (Let’s not mention the fact that he has god knows how much spaghetti in his fridge.)

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Undyne and Alphys. Still a better love story than Twilight.

My second spot would have to be these two. For one, ironically, Undyne is the example of a person whom is obsessed with anime and brings it to actual life. Mostly due to Alphys telling Undyne that anime is a real thing in the human world.
Aside from that funny little Snippet, the time you spend time with Undyne is just hilarious. She also, cannot cook.

Alphys is your stereotypical nerd. Obsessed with anime and loves to tinker with stuff, she’s also really reclusive and shy, but that just strikes a chord with me since I’m more or less in the same boat as her. People say you tend to like characters more that you can relate with, she just happens to be one of them. But she has that sort of charm that wins you over.

I can’t really say much about the other characters. Sans is a practical joker but he doesn’t really get that much screen-time compared to the others. He pops in and out of serving hot-dog stands, he tells you this and that and then disappears until his next appearance, needless to stay he’s still a great character.

It makes doing a Genocide run that much more difficult to do, since you know that you HAVE to kill the characters you’ve grown to love, if like me, you did the neutral and True Pacifist routes first.  I’ve only just gotten up to Undyne on the Genocide run when I got into the battle with her and being deftly rekted I had to step back.
I was actively contemplating just stopping there and not touching the route again. It’s not because it was difficult (although that is certainly a factor. Bullet hell really is a hell of a genre to play) but because I really didn’t want to go through with this. If my friends never mentioned that there was MORE story to the Underverse than what I’ve gotten now, maybe I would have simply watched a run on Youtube. Now I have to see this through for the sake of getting a full story.

The changes of a Pacifist run, to a Genocide route is stark, in music, dialogue and even encounters. Most games that feature a sort of mortality system don’t really have that. You do a good thing or a bad thing, but the story continues on the same linear progression with very minor differences. To quote Mass Effect 2. You either destroy the collector base, or salvage it at the end, but regardless of your decision, you’ll still be regarded as a hero, with little consequences for salvaging the base.

Here in Undertale, the very fact that you’re performing a Genocide run is apparent. The Music takes on a different pitch and form of the normal themes, giving it a much darker, sombre feeling. Undyne’s current fight in the Genocide Route feels like it’s highlighting the importance of her victory over the Genocidal player. The town was empty when I entered it, the shop with no shopkeeper, allowing me to STEAL the items I should have been paying for. The Inn is no longer available for use. The plethora of background decoration characters were gone, making the town just feel like a ghost town. It’s a real stark difference between the two routes and it’s both interesting and horrifying.

As I mentioned earlier, games with morality rarely feel like they reflect what you’re doing. Undertale feels like it’s the first, and only, game where choosing to do one thing over the other has bigger consequences, not just in a game point of view, but a world point of view was well. Sure, as a player, you’re able to now gain shop items from simply stealing stuff from an empty store in the Genocide route and that gives you a small benefit of going this way. But it doesn’t feel like the trade-off to get items for free is worth it but that’s just a consequence of your actions. It’s a very REAL impact on the experience, one that to me, is harrowing to continue.

How I’m going to get through the rest of this route is beyond me. I’ve heard that stark changes take place further down with the major characters. I dread to think what is going to happen.

Kudos to Toby Fox for not just creating a unique game with a unique fighting mechanic, pending RPG and Bullet Hell in an almost perfect harmony, not for the masterful music that just accentuates the situations a player is in, but for creating an experience unlike anything I’ve experience. An experience that I feel, is going to stay with me for a very long time.

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One thought on “Undertale – The three hour game, a lifetime of thoughts

  1. Caring about the characters in Undertale was something I hadn’t foreseen before I started playing it. And making your characters feel real – despite the fact that they’re skeletons and fish monsters – is the mark of great writing. Toby Fox did a great job on this game. And to think it came from a Kickstarter campaign.

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