Undertale is a game world renowned for everything it does right as an RPG. I was very apprehensive to reviewing the game when I first got it on Switch. It wasn’t until the Switch port that I played Undertale for myself, but I certainly didn’t go in blind. You don’t need a spoiler warning for Undertale, but I’m going to give you one anyway.
Undertale prides itself as being “The RPG where nobody has to die”. I personally went with two play-throughs. A regular first path where I leveled up with regular enemies yet spared bosses, and a pacifist run to see the true ending. The freedom of choice through-out always had this nice little buzz to it. I felt like, even though I was never going to kill Undyne on the pacifist run, knowing I could provided an odd feeling of freedom I don’t get from many other games.
Undertale’s presentation is unlike any other game I’ve seen. Outside of battle the game goes for a more simplistic look. There is a constant resemblance to Earthbound, but it never felt like it would be grouped in with Earthbound. Undertale’s world uses a lot of bright colors, and simplistic designs yet it is never afraid to go dark and complicated if the situation calls for it. I really loved the Waterfall area for that reason.
In battles the game always went for large complicated sprites, usually in black and white, but there was always a precedent that things could change. Every time I’d come across an enemy, or boss, who was especially ‘weird’ I knew there was something off about the fight in general. This especially rung true with the Amalgamates, and every Flowey encounter. I loved the battle presentation. I learned to care for characters, and designs on such little time. It’s almost amazing how Toby, and the crew pulled it off.
When the game went for an off-putting atmosphere I immediately went on edge. Waterfall was especially great at producing that feeling of dread. From the encounters with Undyne, to Sans’ pop up shop, I never felt comfortable there. I’d like to see a future DeltaRune chapter extend on that experience. The Omega Flowey and Asriel fights also made me incredibly uneasy. Both used music to the fullest advantage, and I didn’t want to quit when I got into the fights.
When getting into gameplay I find it hard, in a way, to talk about Undertale. The overworld really is a more simplistic RPG overworld. I never felt Frisk walked too slow, but I sometimes wished that areas were shorter. The Core overstayed its welcome, but that is largely do to Alphys. I think more NPCs could’ve done the game better. The world felt empty when I wasn’t in a town.
Undertale certainly doesn’t have my favorite RPG battle system, but it’s definitely close. The ACT system separates itself from many other RPGs. I usually felt in control, but also like that control could slip at any point. I absolutely loved the puzzle solving element of sparing system. Having the attacks be timing based was also nice, even if the timing was very forgiving. The variations of elements in fights also was a neat bonus. Blue and orange attacks were always easy to memorize. They often shook up what would’ve been a boring turn, even if they didn’t really change much at all. The differing heart types on boss monsters was also neat. My favorite was the yellow heart. I found its mechanics to be the most fun. The blue heart used in Papyrus’s fight was also really fun. I love platformers, so it was a neat little challenge. I hated Undyne’s fight though.
The story is very simplistic, but it makes up for that in character. I found myself quickly enjoying the writing and special options, especially when the Skeleton brothers were involved. My favorite showcasing of theatrics was definitely Undyne’s cooking lessons. Undertale always tries hard to be funny or caring. Most of the time that worked, but there were certainly missteps.
My experience with the last half of the game was catastrophically dampened by Alphys, and Mettaton. Having both characters shoved down my throat was bad enough. Them both being horribly unfunny and badly written, almost made me quit on my original run. I was not up for the crap that the game would get into. Even after the True Lab, I never found myself caring for Alphys at all, and Mettaton might as well be irrelevant after you fight him.
My biggest issue with the game is how slow your heart is in battles. I feel like it could go a lot faster without it being too much. Walking speed felt like a perfect balance, but the heart had me annoyed in later boss fights. It felt sometimes like dodging needed to be pixel perfect. Not a lot else to say there though I guess.
I don’t even know what I can say about Undertale’s soundtrack. I really enjoyed it, but the game is known for how good its soundtrack is. My personal favorites are Hopes and Dreams, and Heartache. Undertale uses its music to force the player into a certain mindset. Even realizing that fact, I played along with it until the very end. It hooked me in a very unexpected way. Even if you have no interest in the game, the soundtrack is a must listen.
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I put into Undertale, though the second half of the game was huge drag. I wouldn’t say that people should ignore the game based off of it though. I had quite a few nitpicks that I couldn’t throw in organically. Undertale is a game that I feel takes a lot of fire from every direction. Be it praise, or hatred, a lot is fueled by personal bias.
Undertale unfortunately takes a huge hit from “cringe culture”. I think that if Undertale had never blown to the size it did, people would not have an unfair perspective built off of its fans. Undertale has some terrible fans, and a lot of toxicity, though so does every other game on the planet. I encourage people who avoided the game to give it a second look now. Hindsight is 20/20, and it’s always better to know for sure.
I played primarily on Switch, but also tried out keyboard controls with a friend’s copy. I’m not sure which one I would recommend. If you have a bias to one control scheme, I recommend sticking to it, as they both have pros and cons. If you’re looking for a short and sweet good time, and enjoy RPGs, I don’t believe you can go wrong with Undertale. Well, at least as long as you don’t kill everyone.
Undertale was developed by Toby Fox
Undertale is available for $14.99 on all consoles, and $9.99 on PC.
A review copy was bought by the reviewer
supiroguy has awarded Undertale The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval