The Friendly RPG Where Nobody (or Everybody) Has to Die

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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A long time ago, two races, Humans and Monsters, ruled over the Earth. One day, war between the two races broke out, but after a long fight, the humans prevailed over the monsters and the latter were sealed underground by a magical barrier. Many years later, in the year 201X, the peak known as Mt. Ebott holds a legend that all who travel there never return. A human child climbs the mountain, but when tripped by some vines, they fall down a pit and land in a bed of flowers. Surrounded by darkness and with the hole a long way up, the only path seems to be further within the cave, where the child comes face to face with a smiling flower…

Successfully funded on Kickstarter in June of 2013 and released in September of 2015, Undertale is the critically acclaimed RPG by Toby Fox that follows the adventure of the human child through the Underground, meeting an unforgettable and colorful cast of monsters as they try to return home on the surface. Heavily inspired by the likes of the MOTHER series and some bullet hell elements in the gameplay, the game gives the player the choice to either go through the game like a normal RPG, defeating enemies for EXP and leveling up, or spare every single enemy by showing mercy to them. The story and interactions with the characters will be affected by these actions and the game WILL know if the player tries anything.

The player controls the child, who acts as sort of a blank slate for the character’s actions, though there are hints of a caring and innocent personality. The first friendly monster the child meets, Toriel, is a motherly and kind being that guides the child through the ruins in the beginning. Once out, several other monsters come across the player, either trying to help them or confront them for various. The skeleton brothers of Sans and Papyrus are the first other characters the player meets outside the ruins, with the lazy and “punderful” Sans and the enthusiastically friendly Papyrus providing most of the comedic relief in the game; The captain of the guard, Undyne, relentlessly chases the child in the hopes of retrieving their Soul, but once befriended, turns out to be a very passionate and rather physical companion; Doctor Alphys is a shy anime nerd, but is a brilliant scientist that admires the human and wants to help them, but one of her creations, Metaton, is an absolute diva that looks forward to harvesting the child’s Soul just because it would boost his ratings; Finally, the king of the monsters, Asgore, is first hinted by Toriel to be nothing but a ruthless individual that will do everything in his power to obtain the last human soul needed to break the Barrier, but everyone else in the Underground has nothing but the kindest words to say about him, citing him as a big softy that is a joy to be around…

While some residents of the Underground, Undyne and Metaton for instance, do confront the human in order to take their Soul, it is not for malevolent reasons and have understandable motives for doing so (Though Metaton could stand to be quite a bit less selfish about it). However, only one individual is outright evil and tries to kill the child during their first meeting. Flowey the Flower, the very first thing the child meets, tries to hide under the disguise of a helpful guide by teaching the player about EXP and LV, but quickly turns out to be a psychopathic murderer that just wants to kill for fun. After being repelled by Toriel, Fowey disappears for the rest of the game until the end, but there are times where he can be briefly seen trailing the player, quickly diving back into the ground like he wasn’t even there. Being the only malevolent being in the Underground, Flowey is essentially the main antagonist, but when going for the best ending in the Pacifist Route, Flowey’s backstory is absolutely tragic and one cannot help but pity him. This plant is not the only danger, however. If the Genocide Route is taken, a very important individual is revealed to still be around, one that is responsible for most of the game’s story and even scares Flowey. Meanwhile, a certain Royal Scientist can very rarely be hinted at, watching the events of the game transpire even after being blasted out of existence, and while not seemingly evil, definitely has some ominous hints to them.

The game shows its MOTHER roots through the gameplay. The player controls the human child by guiding them through different areas of the underground, occasionally solving puzzles, interacting with different monsters, and buying healing items. Random encounters will pop up when not within safe areas, where one or more monsters will ambush the human. Here, they options of fighting traditionally, interacting with them, using an item, or fleeing is presented. Fighting the monster and killing them nets you EXP and LV, but in doing so, an innocent monster is killed and others will begin to change their opinion on you. Interacting with them will allow the player to spare the monster, resolving the conflict peacefully, though no EXP will be rewarded. When it is the enemy’s turn, a heart that represents the player’s Soul will be controllable in a brief sequence where they need to dodge enemy attacks to avoid damage. Some of the bosses take this up several notches to the point where it could be forgiven for thinking if Touhou had invaded the game or something.

The game has become a runaway success, with critics and players alike lauding the characterization, music, and story. The Genocide Route in particular has been touted as one of the darkest stories ever put in a video game, rivaling the likes of Soul Nomad & the World Eaters and Drakengard. The game’s creator, Toby Fox, knows his RPG tropes and subverts, inverts, and averts every single one of them, toying with the player’s expectations and confronting them with the reality of fighting ever single monster you come across. While a sequel does not seem to be on the cards in the foreseeable future, Toby does have plans to further expand the world, exploring some of the mysteries that still remain in the Underground.

For $10 on Steam, this game is a must have. The gameplay is very simple, but the story, music, and art are all wonderful and capture/invoke the right emotions for the scene. The song “Undertale” that plays near the end of the game is a perfect example, bringing to light the melancholy existence of the monsters and their plight to finally escape the Underground. With all of these aspects wrapped up in a charming and simple game, this is a must have for not only RPG fans, but gamers in general.

 

Seeing an article about Undertale… It fills you with DETERMINATION

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