Undertale Review - The Pinnacle of Classic RPG Storytelling

Undertale Review - The Pinnacle of Classic RPG Storytelling

Some think the JRPG is dead, but Undertale, from creator Toby Fox, proves we don't need incredible graphics and gimmicky systems to keep the genre alive.

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I feel bad because I spoiled myself on the game before playing it. This game deserves to be played.

The reason by behind all my kills was "accident". At times I was thinking, "Nothing works. Maybe if I weaken it with attacks it will give me some options" and then suddenly the monster was dead. Oops.

A month after release is timely for a review right?

The more I play this game, the more I hope it gets a HD remake in the graphical style akin to 'Child of Light'.

While I don't hate the 'old school' graphical style, I think this is one of those games that would greatly benefit from a more detailed looking world.

Also:
The fandom that has risen around this game is pretty damn cool.

MyLifeIsAnRPG:
This means you can theoretically beat the game at level 1 without ever having to attack a single person, something that franchises like Deus Ex have tried and failed to do in the past.

I wouldn't say that. Deus Ex 1 and DX:Human Revolution did not remotely try to make the game beatable without killing anybody (although DX1 technically is, it's just incredibly difficult to spare Anna Navarre), while Deus Ex:Invisible War was intended to and can be beat without attacking anyone (although this approach does restrict your choice of quests and endings).

Tanis:
The more I play this game, the more I hope it gets a HD remake in the graphical style akin to 'Child of Light'.

While I don't hate the 'old school' graphical style, I think this is one of those games that would greatly benefit from a more detailed looking world.

Also:
The fandom that has risen around this game is pretty damn cool.

I appreciate the way the game looks as-is, honestly. I've had my fill of painterly stuff à la Braid or Child of Light.

As for the fandom - eeeeh. Depends on where you're peeking. Tumblr is a bit of a mess if you confess to having gone on a full-blown offense for your first run; the Pacifist run is considered to be the *only* run worth doing. Not to mention that it's kind of turned into the Church of Sans and Papyrus (spoilers?).

I don't really get their appeal. One has a pasta fixation, the other makes bad puns. Whoopdeedoo.

It's definitely a different take on the JRPG formula and it's a welcomed addition to the genre, but the Pacifist run is a bit like playing through OFF. Patience is a must.

Ever play a game where the art style and presentation just kills your enjoyment of it?

Undertale is that game for me. It's frustrating, because I know I'm being unfair to a game that is probably an epic for the ages. I played a bit, but couldn't take it seriously to save my life. I hate, hate, hate the art style, the music gets on my nerves, and despite the near-universal praise for the writing...is it because the creator bothers to write dialog for things you wouldn't expect him to? Or is it because of the sense of humor? This game came across as though it was just quirky for the sake of being quirky, and that quickly started to irk me.

The thing is, the story failed to sink in its talons in the space of the demo, and that leaves me deeply skeptical of the rest.

Didn't care for the combat system, either. Call me spoiled, but I really think that games have evolved beyond having random encounters, and suddenly running into them again was jarring. I don't like being pulled out of a puzzle just to waste time talking a monster to death. Speaking of which, I don't like how the game practically begs you to not kill anyone. It makes it come across as preachy. And while the method used to dodge your enemy's attack is...different, I still don't like the way the developer handled it. It just doesn't feel like it belongs in an RPG.

I don't know. I played the demo and was not impressed. It came across as kinda preachy, to be honest. It's really not my cup of tea...but more frustrating, I don't understand the praise the game gets. Literally everyone has been slathering this game with the highest possible praise, and every time I ask why, the only answer I get basically boils down to "If I told you why, I'd spoil it for you. Just play it! You'll like it!"

Well, I did...and I don't. So, what now?

I'm not saying the game is bad, but I'm thinking that the hype is a large part of the reason why I don't like this game. It just frustrates me that I don't understand why everyone else seems to like it except me.

SlumlordThanatos:
Ever play a game where the art style and presentation just kills your enjoyment of it?

Undertale is that game for me. It's frustrating, because I know I'm being unfair to a game that is probably an epic for the ages. I played a bit, but couldn't take it seriously to save my life. I hate, hate, hate the art style, the music gets on my nerves, and despite the near-universal praise for the writing...is it because the creator bothers to write dialog for things you wouldn't expect him to? Or is it because of the sense of humor? This game came across as though it was just quirky for the sake of being quirky, and that quickly started to irk me.

The thing is, the story failed to sink in its talons in the space of the demo, and that leaves me deeply skeptical of the rest.

Didn't care for the combat system, either. Call me spoiled, but I really think that games have evolved beyond having random encounters, and suddenly running into them again was jarring. I don't like being pulled out of a puzzle just to waste time talking a monster to death. Speaking of which, I don't like how the game practically begs you to not kill anyone. It makes it come across as preachy. And while the method used to dodge your enemy's attack is...different, I still don't like the way the developer handled it. It just doesn't feel like it belongs in an RPG.

I don't know. I played the demo and was not impressed. It came across as kinda preachy, to be honest. It's really not my cup of tea...but more frustrating, I don't understand the praise the game gets. Literally everyone has been slathering this game with the highest possible praise, and every time I ask why, the only answer I get basically boils down to "If I told you why, I'd spoil it for you. Just play it! You'll like it!"

Well, I did...and I don't. So, what now?

I'm not saying the game is bad, but I'm thinking that the hype is a large part of the reason why I don't like this game. It just frustrates me that I don't understand why everyone else seems to like it except me.

As a fan of Undertale, I can understand your position entirely. Art style and humor are very subjective qualities to a consumer, and if neither was your cup of tea, then that's understandable. This is why it's important to have a variety of game reviews from different viewpoints to read before making your decision on what to buy.

Did you play the demo, out of curiosity?

You know, I really hate to be that guy but... Am I the only one who has trouble calling Undertale an RPG?

I mean, sure, I know that RPG is about as well defined as a Picasso piece+ described to Helen Keller, and I know Undy parodies a lot of RPG tropes... but it just doesn't play like one. Or at least a very basic one. No party members, No strategy to the combat, very little amount of gear and only one stat to level up (which, as we all know, can just not be levelled at all)

I guess what I'm saying is, It looks like an RPG, sounds like an RPG, Tastes like an RPG, and is written like an RPG... but just doesn't play like one to me.

that isn't to say it's a bad game though, don't get me wrong.

SlumlordThanatos:
snip

You're not the only one. I hated the demo, the art style, the music.

Even though the music is slightly better mixed in the main game ... it does not fell unique, at all, one of the songs seemed to me like a blatant VVVVV song copy ... this was the only song that i remember in the whole game.

i also did not play the game to spare everyone, and you know what? the game sucks if you don't play it to spare everyone. At least half of the content is missing if you do that.

And even then ... I can't even get myself to play through it with pacifist in mind again. Because it was such a huge disappointment.

Also, the writing is just constantly a breaking of the 4th wall ... blatantly, most of the time. Little things are clever, most of it is completely overrated.

Sorry :(

Defective_Detective:
Did you play the demo, out of curiosity?

I did. Everyone, from people on this website to RL friends have been trying to get me to play this game, and I finally relented and downloaded the demo.

It's an interesting game, don't get me wrong. But I think the intent of the game was to make you examine how you play your games.

I hate that.

I really hate that.

You see, I play video games so I don't have to worry about that kind of shit. There's a certain amount of stability in video games, a stability that I can't find in real life. I know what the rules are in a video game. I know exactly how things are going to work, and I know what I can and can't do. Undertale takes these rules and turns them on their head. This game revels in pointing out the odd things you do in video games that you wouldn't do in real life, to the point where you can't reload a save and retry an encounter you mishandled without the game calling you out on it.

I play games to escape my chaotic world and retreat somewhere where the rules are set in stone and easily understood. Undertale plays with that perception, and it gets under my skin in a way nothing else does.

Maybe it would be easier to stomach...but I dislike the art style and the game's music. Don't care for the gameplay, either. That leaves the story, which is probably brilliant, but the way the developer tried to tell that story...I just can't do it.

EyeReaper:
I guess what I'm saying is, It looks like an RPG, sounds like an RPG, Tastes like an RPG, and is written like an RPG... but just doesn't play like one to me.

If pressed, I would say Undertale is mostly an adventure game. It makes excellent use of the separate exploration and encounter systems, and the RPGish save points are really crucial, but the core gameplay isn't very much like an RPG at all.

Eric the Orange:
A month after release is timely for a review right?

2 months actually. Game released on Steam on the 15th of September and a good number of reviews came around the first week of October.

EyeReaper:
You know, I really hate to be that guy but... Am I the only one who has trouble calling Undertale an RPG?

I'm much more dumbfounded a single American developer from I think Boston had his game labeled a Japanese Role Playing Game. I'm with Angelo on how good the game is and all, but I can't help but think, this game simply isn't anymore a JRPG than the Paper Mario games or Pokemon. The term really needs to be revised. Although, rewatching the Extra Credits video on WRPGs vs. JRPGs seems to place the game more in the latter box than the former:


And I'll just add, since it was brought up in the videos, Fallout 3 wasn't neither an FPS nor TPS just because of it's combat system. Same with the Mass Effect games. It was why you wanted to play the game, not how you played it.

MyLifeIsAnRPG:

it's a commentary on

And with that you've lost me. Why? I don't know. Maybe I don't like commentaries all that much?

I played a demo and it feels like a novel. Here are some choices, make the right ones, read the ending.
And then I went: "Maybe some other time. Other other time. When I get old and stuff."
I used to like visual novels, but those do branching. And the choices don't happen all that often.
In Undertale I just felt like it was "kiss and hug your way through everyone, or else!" and I didn't like it. There's enough people in real life for me to smile at when I'd rather go die somewhere.

Didn't read the review. The game's great. Everyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. lol

I played it because I heard a streamer praise it, my attitude full on "it probably sucks" -mode, but in the end it was the right attitude to get turned around on its head.

Regarding the "preachy", "commentary", and "only pacifist is worth while" stuff.... I wouldn't say the game is TOO harsh on you, at least not until the very end. Most of the time the monsters are conveniently absent or not monitoring you when you kill their friends, so most of the time you're treated nicely regardless of your kills. There are of course a lot of times where kills are referenced but it's not a constant "you're an evil psychopath!" Or anything, most of them recognize that in some cases you had no choice and had to defend yourself.

You are "judged" at one point near the end, but it kind of just asks you to draw your own conclusions and reflect for a second. There is also a someone who hints to you how to work towards the pacifist ending, but if you kill that person the game doesn't even bug you to replay it again and be more of a pacifist and really... most people will probably want to kill that person. Lastly there are over a dozen different "neutral endings" with a wide variety of results and happy/sadness, so with all that effort put into the neutral endings I wouldn't say that pacifist is the sole focus, it's more just an achievement... Like how in other games where there's 100% completions.

For me personally I'm really bored of games making me kill everything all the time like that's the solution to all the worlds problems, so I was more than happy to be a pacifist. Of course it helps that the mercy system turns every single battle into a fun social puzzle analyzing the character and figuring out how to pacify them, and the encounter rate really helps here.... There's really not a lot of encounters, instead of 1 encounter every 5 steps like in some games there's more like 1 encounter every other ROOM so you can explore around and have fun without constantly being bogged down by random encounters, so each monster feels like a real individual that stands out from the rest.

EDIT: actually, you know... With all this talk of JRPG classification, and not killing things I realized what Undertale really reminds me of: WRPGs! With all the choices and consequences, recognition of character actions, weird comedic characters, etc. I mean Mass Effect, Alpha Protocol, Fallout New Vegas, etc. treat pacifism much the same way that Undertale does. " Hmm, I can kill this guy or spare him, hmmm... I'll spare him so that I can get more content from him later on." I mean that is how it works most of the time in those games; it's just that with Undertale instead of having the option to spare a few main characters you have the option to spare everyone.

SlumlordThanatos:

I did. Everyone, from people on this website to RL friends have been trying to get me to play this game, and I finally relented and downloaded the demo.

It's an interesting game, don't get me wrong. But I think the intent of the game was to make you examine how you play your games.

I hate that.

I really hate that.

You see, I play video games so I don't have to worry about that kind of shit. There's a certain amount of stability in video games, a stability that I can't find in real life. I know what the rules are in a video game. I know exactly how things are going to work, and I know what I can and can't do. Undertale takes these rules and turns them on their head. This game revels in pointing out the odd things you do in video games that you wouldn't do in real life, to the point where you can't reload a save and retry an encounter you mishandled without the game calling you out on it.

I play games to escape my chaotic world and retreat somewhere where the rules are set in stone and easily understood. Undertale plays with that perception, and it gets under my skin in a way nothing else does.

Maybe it would be easier to stomach...but I dislike the art style and the game's music. Don't care for the gameplay, either. That leaves the story, which is probably brilliant, but the way the developer tried to tell that story...I just can't do it.

I didn't like the demo, but I liked the full game. It wasn't the second coming of Christ, but it was a fun experience. I don't think it's that special, but the writing is better than most other games.

The demo just didn't have enough world building. I seriously thought Toriel was a child kidnapping murderer, and that she was luring me into a false sense of security.

The full game makes character intention clearer. I'd put it in the same genre as Shrek. It takes a preictable heroes journey type fantasy story and sprinkles some twists into it.

As for the turning mechanics on its head thing. Just don't take it personally. There are hundreds of books that might critize an aspect of the reader. It's not directed at you. It's a broad statement about society, or in this case videogames.

I have a real hard time trying to convince people why they should play this game.

It's hard to define a genre, starting out by saying it's a retro RPG would be selling it short.

It's hard to sell it on the demo alone. It's not until much later in the game that it really starts to mess with your head and it's not until after the part the demo covers that you start meeting more interesting characters.

It's hard to sell it on the story, because even I don't quite know myself how Toby Fox managed to do it. I could say that the pacing is perfect, feeding you just enough information to keep you curious but also presenting mysteries to mull over in your head. I could say it has a lot of identifiable characters with their own flaws and feelings that get fleshed out over time.

I don't know. This game is like a modern fairy tale. You feel warm inside when you read it and it leaves you feeling like you've made a friend (or hurt a friend) when you're done.

Am watching a friend play through it now as well.

But yeah, aside from some nitpicking about the game graphics being a little too simple, Undertale was a very special experience for me. I'm so glad a lot of people are also enjoying it just as much.

Eric the Orange:
A month after release is timely for a review right?

Two months actually. But hey, anything to boost that Metacritic score.

Anyways, I also agree with this:

EyeReaper:
You know, I really hate to be that guy but... Am I the only one who has trouble calling Undertale an RPG?

The game bypasses the normal hallmarks of RPGs like grinding, or equipment and state micromanaging in favour of more of an action bullet-avoidance thing that I personally really loved but I imagine many traditional JRPG fans would find off-putting.

I mean, Undertale is my GOTY, I loved it a lot. But I have a feeling part of that love is my dislike for FF-style turn-based combat which Undertale completely tosses out the window.

No genre in any media will ever be "dead" as long as there is someone somewhere indie or not that actually cares enough in order to put some actual effort into what they are making. There will always be those that don't give a rat's ass about what they are making and are just looking for a paycheck, thus half assing everything and copy pasting whatever worked with the last guy that actually tried, but in the end there will also always be those who actually have the motivation and ability to innovate where everybody else is just lazying out, and that's where games like this come from.

Is it better than EarthBound?

RedRockRun:
Is it better than EarthBound?

I would say no, but primarily due to the budget difference between the games. It's a great game, but is noticeably lower quality in some aspects due to a small team of developers and available money.

Earthbound is a prettier and longer game. I found Undertale fits a lot more variety into a smaller package.

And of course, as the title of the actual review points out, it's main selling point is the storytelling where as Earthbound was somewhat lacking in that regard.

Undertale really only resembles Earthbound in a superficial way. The experience is quite different between them.

Coruptin:

As for the turning mechanics on its head thing. Just don't take it personally. There are hundreds of books that might critize an aspect of the reader. It's not directed at you. It's a broad statement about society, or in this case videogames.

Indeed. This game is certainly enough of a love letter to games past that I can tell the creator doesn't personally despise video games that involve violence and the people who play them. (Which was more than I could say for Spec Ops: The Line, for instance; that game just incessantly beats you over the head with how deliberately un-fun it is and what an asshole you would are for even playing it.)

Just try telling that to the fans, though. Good lord! Go into the comments section on virtually any Let's Play that isn't doing a pure pacifist run and you'll find no end of people unironically calling the players horrible people IRL.

RedRockRun:
Is it better than EarthBound?

Let me put it this way. Did you like EarthBound? Did you love EarthBound? Did you like EarthBound but wish you'd loved it? You should appreciate this if you answered yes to any of those questions, but especially the third one.

 

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