So… Where do I begin? I don’t really know. I think this task is, well, impossible. How do I do this game justice? What exactly can I say that will influence you as a reader to comprehend Undertale, and what the game is in its essence?
I do not know. I don’t even think I can. However, I am determined to make an attempt.
Rarely have I ever played a game that cared so deeply about making your choices matter. Every step of the journey, every interaction and action towards other characters – it all influences the story. There are so many endings to Undertale depending on how you play the game that it’s actually somewhat… Well, hard to comprehend. The time invested into making every choice matter is astonishing and something to be admired. The attention to details is sublime, and at no point do the player find him- or herself lost in the plot. That said does not mean the game cannot frustrate or confuse you, because it does… But in all the right and completely new ways.
I’ll be honest with you, I can’t let go of this game’s story. I have had dreams about it for three nights in a row. If that doesn’t mean that this game got to me, I will never know what will. It’s rare that you find a game that grabs and emotionally invests you so heavily into its world and atmosphere. Undertale is one of those games. And the reason the storyline is so captivating is quite obvious…
I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun getting to know characters. Every single character you meet, from the main characters to minor roles and nameless NPC’s, are all introduced so incredibly well. With witty remarks and hilarious interactions, Undertale introduces characters fluently in a masterful fashion that is truly an art in itself. Humor is a strong factor throughout the entire game, but that doesn’t mean the game doesn’t take itself serious, because it certainly does. Not many games have as serious consequences as Undertale has. If you kill someone in the cleverly constructed turn-based combat system, there’s no going back. That character dies, and there’s no way to change it back. However, this again goes to show how deeply devoted this game is towards player choice. The player can go through the entire game without killing a single person, if he or she decides to do so. The power of the world is entirely in the hands of the player, and with it lies the fate of the characters as well.
With all the power invested with the player, Toby Fox serves the entire world of Undertale on a silver platter for you to do with as you please. But the world – and the game – reacts to the outcome you choose for it. One of the most interesting interactions is how the world and its characters truly resets, when you reset the game. The world of Undertale isn’t just a regular game world – it’s reality to its inhabitants. What you do is reflected. Resetting the game is no longer just a reset to play the game again: It wipes out every characters memory and resets it to square one. And if you do things differently, skip through dialogue like you know what they’re going to say, the characters become suspicious and act in a different way towards you. The game lives, so to speak. Yeah, I told you the game took itself seriously.
And that’s what’s so fascinating about Undertale. It’s not just another very brilliantly designed and incredibly atmospheric game. It has a soul. Undertale is a game with a soul. It is a living world in itself, a world that you alter to your wish, but also leaves you as a player responsible for your actions. Let it be known that I love this game and its characters and the world very dearly, but… I will not play it again, and I will tell you why.
The game is over for me. I ended it just the way I wanted it to. To me, the way I ended my playthrough, I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I wouldn’t want to reset the world or the characters. It’s perfect just the way it is, even though I already miss it, and so, I will leave you with these final words to attempt to fully grasp the essence of Undertale:
This is a serious game. This is a silly game.
This is a funny game. This is a scary game.
This game made me laugh. It made me cry.
It made me hate. It made me love.
It made me feel powerful, and yet I have never felt more powerless.
But most of all…
This game filled me with determination, and I hope it will do so for you too.
Thank you for reading. And thank you Toby Fox, for this astonishing masterpiece of a game.
By Amir Al-Saffar