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Undertale is a turn-based RPG for PC and Mac from Toby Fox. The game is reminiscent of the classic SNES game Earthbound. That isn't to say it lifts anything directly from Earthbound, instead its gameplay, art, music and story come together to evoke a similar feel. The game has a branching story and a heavy emphasis on choice. The player can go through the whole game without killing (almost) anyone. Or, you could kill everyone who gets in your way.

Undertale takes place in a world where monsters and humans used to live together until the humans banished the monsters underground and sealed them there with powerful magic. You play as a child who has fallen into the underground, where you meet a flower who turns out to be a pretty nasty customer. You are saved by a very motherly monster who teaches you not how to fight, but to talk to and interact with monsters during combat. She also teaches you about puzzles. Eventually your quest begins in earnest as you make your way deeper and deeper into the underground to find a way back home.

For being a relatively short game (about 5 hours without exploring every nook and cranny) it manages to pack in a great story. The characters are all memorable, and there are far more than you think there would be for a game that short. The game has a genuinely funny sense of humor, even if it gets a bit cheesy. The story itself starts off a little generic but becomes more interesting the farther in you go. The sub-plots are all well-told, thanks to the engaging dialogue, and keep you moving even when the overarching story is almost non-existent.

The branching story indicates that the events to play out fairly differently each time you play. Killing certain characters would have a lasting impact. It is a well done example of player choice. I chose to talk my way out of most encounters and as a result walked away from the game feeling like it is trying to teach that (almost) nobody is as bad as they seem. People, or in this case monsters, are angry or mean for a reason - whether it is because they just want to be loved, they are hanging with the wrong crowd or because they just hate themselves. If I had gone through the game killing monsters instead of making them feel better I might have thought those eyes peeking at me from a cave looked menacing instead of lonely.

The graphics and music are styled after old turn-based RPGs, more Earthbound or Dragon Quest than Final Fantasy. The combat system is interesting, allowing the player control a heart in a little white box and when the monster attacks things fly through the box forcing the player to avoid them. Then you either attack or act (which includes talking, hugging, bullying, etc.). It is a very fun mechanic that almost feels like Warioware when they get really creative with it.

Undertale is not to be missed, and one playthrough will not be sufficient. Most players will want to play again at least once more to see how things could have gone. It is a bitter-sweet story about the goodness that lies in the heart of (almost) everyone.

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 20:27


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