Undertale Review

Undertale is an RPG which switches up the rules, subverts your expectations and will surprise and delight you from start to finish.

Undertale is a game about the aftermath between a war between humans and monsters. You are a small human, dropped into the monster world at the start of the game where you wake up and meet a kindly flower, who wants to teach you the ways of the world. You quickly learn that everything is as you expect down here in the monster world and you’re saved by a kindly monster, who has your best interests at heart.

You can take a number of approaches in Undertale; you can play the game as a pacifist (no killing), killing only a few monsters or all-out killing every monster you meet. Your choices really matter in this game and Undertsale constantly throws up surprises in the gameplay to keep you on your toes. From the very first moment the flower laughs and shouts, you know you’re in for a unique experience.

The objective in the game is to explore, meet characters and level up much like in other RPGs. Here you can choose your own path. If you don’t want to fight, you can flirt, charm or threaten your enemies and maybe they get tired of fighting you and run away. The systems in Undertale are fairly straight forward for an RPG. There are a few simple systems to understand and learn – HP, attack and defence and there are very few items to speak of. Its simplicity is both a strength and a weakness in the game, however, the lack of complex systems do let the strength of the writing shine through.

The battle system, much like many other aspects of the game, is different from what you might expect in other RPGs. It changes when you play as different styles, but when you play as a pacifist and try to talk your way out of situations then your opponents attack you with white pellets aiming for your heart and it’s your job to move it out of the way in a bullet-hell dodging manner. Attack enemies and you’ll have to stop a line on a grid to attack at the right time. It mixes things up in the game and offers little surprises like this all the way through.

The writing in Undertale is the real star with the depth and warmth of characters shining through in spades. There’s sharp humour, great character building and story beats along the way that will initially get you hooked and then will warm and break your heart by the end. The writers really convey a sense of knowing its audience and demonstrating the ability to get inside our heads. The passionate fanbase of the game online is a testament to the skill of the writing in Undertale.

As you walk around the world and meet the characters in the game they convey their deepest thoughts and share their dreams with you. It’s a very touching experience. Undertale explores questions of morality constantly. Will you fight this monster or will you kill it? Will you simply flirt and everything will be over quickly. The writing of the characters is consistent across the game, with a level of depth not seen in many other games.

You’ll not likely get all the story and dialogue magic during your first playthrough, maybe not even your second. The game can be played as a variety of roles and depending on how you interact with the game world then your outcomes will be different from mine. The game comes in at an average playthrough of approx 6-7 hours, but if you take your time this is likely to be more like 10. Shorter than the average RPG for sure, but dense with story and delight.

One small drawback in the game is the graphics which are fairly basic and don’t necessarily do the writing justice. Sometimes the environments feel empty and sparse, and you can only imagine what the game would be like with a little more richness in the graphical area. However, it’s a small grip and ultimately doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the game.

It’s tough to talk about Undetale without spoiling any of the stories. One piece of advice I can give you is don’t make the same mistake I did. I sat on this game for far too long and from the first 20 mins played you are charmed and hooked. On completing the game you’ll wonder why it took so long to get around to playing this game. So, if you enjoy story-focused video games with well-developed characters and stories – get this at the first opportunity, carve out some time and play it… maybe more than once. The game is a real treat, don’t sit on this one for much longer.

Developer: Toby Fox
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, PC, Mac
Release Date: September 2018