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Jul 6th, 2017
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  1. Undertale review
  2. In the early 2000s a lot of people were single handedly making computer games. and putting them on the internet (Megaman rpg, Cat Game, Off, Yume Nikki, etc). Many of them had a top-down perspective, like the first Legend of Zelda, and were made in rpgmaker. They were a lot more simplistic than games released by big developers, but had a unique, surreal charm to them. In recent years a game in the same vein was released called Undertale. Undertale follows the story of a boy who falls into an underground world filled with monsters...and it’s really not that great. Despite all the praise the game gets it’s actually quite lacking overall. I too liked the game the first time I played it, but with time my perception of it fermented and became more critical. I’ve realized that it has a lot of glaring issues and shortcomings beneath the surface that only started being noticeable after it’s novelty and superficial charm, which most games have, began fading.
  3. Setting
  4. First of all, Undertale is extremely linear. Far too much for what it’s trying to be. The world goes in a straight line and is divided into multiple very different sections with little to no transition between them. The world feels cobbled together and mismatched. Games with a top down perspective like legend of zelda typically have an open world you can go around and explore. Not in Undertale. Pokemon which is also linear and also has a top-down perspective gives the illusion of a world you can explore because even though you can only go in a few paths until you get some new ability forcing you into some places before others, the routes go in different directions and branch off from each other making the word feel open and alive. Undertale on the other hand only has a straight direct path to move in making its world far less immersive. Mario, which also has you move in a straight path(and to a castle no less), has a perspective that suits it because you can only go right and left. I can go in four directions in undertale, but why would I need to? Rpgs don't have to be top down. In the background of parts of the game you can see expansive areas like a forest and the city that most of the monsters live in, but seeing them is all you do. The game would’ve been more immersive if you could explore at least a bit of these areas to get some items and interact with npcs there. Having places that you go go to and explore optionally would have given the setting of Undertale some depth. You could argue that because the main character is heading towards a specific place it makes sense for them to head in a direct path, but that doesn't explain why their destination is so easy to find. The underground world is represented as expansive, yet we only get the option to go directly towards the end goal.
  5. Gameplay
  6. The gameplay is unique, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. It's a watered down rpg haphazardly thrown together with a watered down bullet hell shooter. The bullet hell part is lacking a lot in difficulty and variety of attacks, making it repetitive and tedious, while the rpg part is way too simplistic. The two aren’t combined in any meaningful way mechanic wise so they feel separate from each other. It's a little interesting how enemy attacks represent physical objects and emotions, but those are just small embellishments. You’ll start to see a trend in this game where small details attempt to fill the void left by a lack of actual depth.There’s health, recovery items, and levels, but no stats, or anything else that’s unique or would add some complexity to the game play. In Cave Story(not an rpg) weapons gain levels with exp defeated enemies physically drop and you collect which is a concept not seen often seen in platformers and adds to the gameplay. The weapons could have just been consistent in effectiveness, but instead there’s something more interesting. Undertale is lacking in things that make the gameplay more than bare bones. It only has the minimum of mechanics needed to make it an rpg. Levels don’t have any meaningful impact on gameplay. It’s not like when you level up you can choose to increase your speed stat to move before enemy monsters instead of always after or increase your attack stat to hit them harder. Levels only serve to change one character’s dialogue at one specific point and make backtracking(which you probably won't do on your first run through) easier by increasing your health. Throughout the game you get different weapons and armors, do you have to explore and find them? No, they’re just just lying around waiting for you. As soon as you get a new weapon you just just stop using the one you had before. It’s not like there’s a more interesting system where different weapons have pros and cons and are better at somethings than others and change how you play the game(like in Cave Story), the newest is just better. The way you attack is by waiting and pressing a button, if you time when you press the button right your attack will do more damage. This isn't anything new, but it’s a little interesting. There's also an act button which allows you to say and do things unrelated to attacking and health. Acting allows you convince enemies not to fight or mildly affect their attacks. This concept has been done before, but it’s not that common. The problem with this part of the game is how there’s very few options for how you can act and they mostly stay the same the whole fight.Convincing enemies not to fight is as simple as acting in the nicest way possible to them. Spamming the obvious option is all there is to it. This system is a bit like a dating sim where you don't have to use your brain.The final bosses are incredibly disappointing. The, “fights”, are unbelievably scripted and you have to make an active effort to lose them. In the flowey boss you get health continuously removing all actual difficulty and in the asriel fight your hp literally stops meaning anything at the end of it. It feels like toby had a very specific way he wanted the battles to play out and heavily scripted them at the expense of a gratifying fight, which is kind of how the whole game feels. The gameplay is lacking and that’s something that the story just can’t make up for unless it makes up the bulk of the game(visual novels).
  7. Plot
  8. The aforementioned story is decent enough. The best ending is a tad sappy and the characters, while likable, don’t have that much depth or development, but it’s decent. Undertale’s true strong point lies in its easter eggs, action based dialogue, and multiple endings. The amount of little things in this game is massive and it’s the reason why the game has so much replayability. What happens if I do this, what happens if I do that, if I do all of these things what will that character say. The game remembers what you did in your last playthrough which just adds to this. It’s definitely a lot more convenient to watch these things in a video rather than going back and playing the whole game over again out of curiosity. Those little things are probably most of what Toby put his attention into. Focusing his efforts on other things would have been much more preferable.
  9. Music
  10. It’s good. A lot of songs have parts of each other in them which is yet another small detail that people look for and make videos about.
  11. Art
  12. It looks like Earthbound. Some of the enemies were designed by Kickstarter backers and it definitely shows.
  13. Conclusion
  14. Undertale has its good points and is likable, but I wouldn't call it a really good game. It has a lot of charm, but little of substance.
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