Undertale, a Game Rewriting RPG Standards


Kalley Russell, Reporter

Have you ever sat in class and wondered, “what would happen if I just punched someone in the face?” Wouldn’t it be so easy to stand up, walk over to a random person, and strike them right across the nose? Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to do something like this without repercussion. But just imagine for a moment, performing a stunt like that, and nothing happening.

In the world of RPGs, where you have unlimited freedom to do whatever you want, this is almost always the case. You’re able to enter NPC’s homes in search of loot or clues to progress the story, you can grind for experience levels by slaughtering hundreds upon thousands of monsters.

Craziest part. There is virtually no consequence to this. In the end, you’re hailed as a hero. You want to punch that NPC? Go ahead, because I can assure you that, aside from a rude remark you might receive in response, nothing happens. Of course, not every RPG is like this. In games like Skyrim: The Elder Scrolls V, punching an NPC might result in them fighting back. But this is also a game where hitting a chicken can result in an entire town turning on you, so take that with a grain of salt.

However, Undertale is unlike every RPG I have ever played. While appearing reminiscent of old-school, retro RPGs, upon playing it you almost immediately notice the differences. Created by American Indie developer Toby Fox, in the world of Undertale, you play as a human child who has fallen into the Underground; a massive, secluded region found deep within the Earth. Long ago, two races had ruled over Earth: Humans and Monsters, before they engaged in a war that resulted in the imprisonment of Monsters. Ultimately, humans decided to seal Monsters underneath Mount Ebott with a magical spell, leaving them to rot for a millennium underground.

What makes Undertale any different from any other RPG, then? While it may borrow many elements seen in classic RPGs, the game would be properly classified as an anti-RPG: a category of game that goes out of its way to criticize or poke fun at the strange behaviors of many RPG heroes. A fantastic example of an anti-RPG game would be Moon: Remix RPG Adventure, developed by Love-de-Lic, which tasks the player with repairing the damage the “Hero” had caused.

How does Toby Fox apply these elements in Undertale? As previously mentioned, the game Moon is a great example, and a huge inspiration for the creation of the Undertale. In Moon, you’re required to repair the damage the Hero had done and to increase your LV, or Love Level, by helping people instead of hurting them. Although the concept is slightly altered, Undertale follows the same idea, where you don’t have to hurt anybody to win the game. The game makes it an active habit of encouraging you to find other means of winning the fight through its ACTing and sparing mechanic.

Earlier, I had made a big deal out of morality and consequences that come from making decisions. While Undertale encourages the player to spare and befriend the foes they may encounter, it tests the will of the player. In Undertale, you’re given the ability to “reset,” or start the game over from the very beginning. Every decision you make in Undertale can send you off into a differing route, making the search for unique dialogue or character interaction tempting.

But there’s a catch to this. Although you start the game over, characters may talk about feeling déjà vu, knowing details about the player they wouldn’t know about otherwise. It gives you a sense that the characters are real, that you’re purposefully toying with their lives until you grow bored and move onto the next save file. Suddenly, sparing monsters doesn’t feel as satisfying as before, and you might move onto killing every monster in the Underground instead. Don’t think Undertale will forget this either, because it will hold you responsible to whatever decision you make.

Overall, Undertale is an amazing game. It’s emotional, hilarious, fun and can be whatever you want it to be. It’s a game that got me to consider morality, temptation, and the weight of my decisions in video games like I never have before. Take some time off to just play this game and really get into it. You won’t regret it.