Conquering your enemies rings true in almost every game out there, but what if you didn’t have to fight? Can peaceful negotiations make for a good game? In the case of Toby Fox’s Undertale, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
So how does this game achieve this peaceful style of play? Very carefully. On the surface, Undertale is your typical JRPG. Turn-based battles, towns, items, and NPCs all await you on your journey in the Underground. However, each and every fight can be non-violent if one so chooses. By interacting with enemies, you can talk them down, relate to them or even spare them. The option to fight is always available, but the game can be completed without destroying a single enemy.
This factors greatly into the story as well. Once an “enemy” (even from a random encounter) is knocked out, they will never appear again. This leads to some tough decisions – do you fight back against your attacker, or do you choose mercy? Sparing your enemy doesn’t always go as planned through, with your defense and well-being lying in a clever shmup mechanic that has you dodging attacks in a small window. The game will make you carry the weight of your decisions, with dialog and even plot progression changing depending on your actions.
At first glance, the plot found in Undertale is a simple one. As a kid from the surface, you find yourself in a world of monsters, eager to find your way home. However, it is the sharp writing and character development that makes this tale stand out. Humor plays a major role in each and every happening, and a quirky style reminiscent of games like Earthbound permeates throughout. The game lays its atmosphere on thick, relishing in its world of overeager skeletons, tea-wielding spiders and misunderstood fish warriors. If you can get behind its off-kilter stylings, there is an original game to be had.
It’s just a shame that the entirety of Undertale is over so soon. While battles can drag on for 10+ minutes of dialog strings, the entirety of the game can be finished in a few hours. While the game was designed for multiple playthroughs, its brief nature is somewhat disconcerting for those looking to sink their teeth into a hearty tale.
Undertale has personality in spades, paired with one of the most unique hooks in recent history. Those looking for something new need not look any farther – Undertale is your game.