I've actually been debating how I should start talking about Undertale. It's a game that deserves all of the analysis I can muster, but where should I begin? Should I talk about the moral choices in the game and how they actually matter? Should I talk about my love for RPGs and how this game fits into all of that? Should I talk about how most of the most highly talked about games of the year are from Indie developers and not AAA developers? Or should I just talk about how this game is a polished piece of near perfection? I could talk about all of things in the intro, but instead, let's talk about how I played this game.
Seeing as how I have very little access to new video games in England, I was randomly browsing around online when I can across various reviews for a game called Undertale, an RPG created by a man named Toby Fox. I saw reviews from countless sites giving it 9.5's or even 10 out of 10's to the game. Then I heard about the game's fan community refuse to tell anyone how to play the game or story elements unless they play through it for themselves. So that's what I did. I bought the game, played it, then beat. Then beat it again. Then played it for 6 hours straight again. I was absorbed into this game like no other game. Now that I've seen the game in all of its aspects, I can easily say that this is hands down one of the best games of the year. It's not perfect, but it is really, really, really close.
Once upon a time, there were two races of creatures; monsters and humans. They coexisted peacefully until one day a war broke out between the two species. The monsters lost and were banished by the humans to live in the Underground and trapped in a barrier to keep them there. The monsters existed there for quite some time until a young child accidentally falls off a cliff and enters the Underground. The child now has a simple quest; leave the Underground. Along the way, the child will encounter strange creatures, make friends, and discover the true meaning or mercy, sympathy, genocide, and what are true monsters.
This is a game that needs to be experienced blindly. Everyone should play this game without having any idea what to do or even without knowing what the basic gameplay mechanics are. You should experience what the game has to offer on your own and make your own judgments while playing. The biggest feature that this game offers is how moral choices actually matter. You know how games like Mass Effect, InFamous, and Dragon Age offer moral choices in their game? Those are surface level interpretations of the concept. Undertale takes it to a whole other level. The slightest thing you do in this game may have grave impacts later on in the story, and there are multiple solutions to nearly every problem or character interaction. The game is about how YOU want to play it, for better or worse.
I'm not going to lie though when I say it's very hard to describe the game and how great it is when the screenshots I'm showing you all are... well... not the prettiest things in the world. If you think the game looks simple, you're right. It does look very simple and primitive. It looks like an NES RPG. And you know what? That's perfectly fine. You'll still grow to love all of the characters regardless and feel attachment to nearly everything you do. There's a phrase called "KISS", which means "Keep It Simple Stupid". The game doesn't need to be complex when all of the elements are as polished as they are.
Undertale is one of the most charming games I've played in quite some time. There are some brilliantly written jokes throughout the game, with the flavor text in particular being a highlight for the game. If you inspect every object, you will almost certainly get a laugh out of it, whether its looking at a computer with a character saying he's a dozen followers away from having two digits of followers, or how everything will fill the nameless child with determination. Even though I beat the game multiple times, I'm tempted just to go back and play the game talking about it right now.
This is the one game this year that I'm going to say you just need to play and experience for yourself. I can tell you just how great of a game it is, but the best way to experience this game is to just download it and play it yourself. It's $10 and you can find it very easily on Steam, or just on Undertale's website. It's pointless to describe a game that defies description, to a game that I don't want to describe.
Just imagine the position I'm in. Here's a game that I love, but if I tell you how to play the game, or even a single character in the game, then I'm ruining it. It's an RPG that takes free choice and morality to a whole new level, and it's present in everything you do. Dialogue, items you pick up, items you use, even in combat. Combat itself is probably the most central part of the game and the most immersive combat you'll experience in an RPG all year, but you need to see for yourself. Just know that the final boss of this game is one of the most best bosses I've ever experienced. It ranks right up there with Bayonetta's Jubileus and Pokemon Gold/Silver's fight with Red on top of Mt. Silver. It's epic, insane, and resonates perfectly emotionally.
Though like I said, I have some problems with the game. To me, I honestly think that one ending is better than the other (yes there are multiple endings), but it's the ending with the insane boss fight. It just wraps up the themes of the game so much better than the canonical ending, which is fine, if not a bit underwhelming in comparison. Also, be prepared for plenty of backtracking, even if you're just rushing through the game normally (and shame on you if you are!) You'll have to go back to several towns at various points for quests, shops, items, or just to see how people are doing, and there is no fast traveling system. You do have a ferryman who will take you to some places, but he's really inconveniently not around that often. He's only in three locations in the game to take you to three locations. Expect anywhere between 5-10 minutes just to get from the end of the game to the first town (which you may or may not have to do at some point in the game.)
If you like what you see, go play this game. I can't force you too, but if anything I've said has interested you, you owe it to yourself to at least try the demo. Would you like to know how good this game is? It's currently the 3rd highest rated PC game of all time. Just let that sink in. A console with thousands of games on it from several decades... and Undertale is #3. I might not think it's that spectacular, but it is still an amazing game nonetheless. Kudos Toby Fox. Kudos.