Undertale Review

Curtis Newton, Staff Writer

Every few years, the gaming community gets an RPG game (a “role-playing game” in which your character becomes part of a vast world of characters and cultures) that becomes wildly popular. The RPG trend started with Yume Nikki in 2004, followed by OFF in 2008 (with an English translation that increased its popularity in 2012), and then Ib in 2012. This year, on September 15, the next game in the trend was released: Undertale.

Undertale, created by Toby “Radiation” Fox, chronicles the story of a struggle between monsters and humans. After a war between the races, the humans seals the monsters in the Underground with a magic spell. You play as a character known as the Fallen Human, who stumbles through the barrier between monsters and humans in the year 201X and finds himself unable to escape the way he came. The only way to leave the Underground is to traverse through and reach King Asgore’s castle, where the barrier lies. Oftentimes, the monsters of the Underground confront and fight you on your journey. As the player, you have the choice to spare them through passive methods, or take their lives.

While there are many outstanding points of the game, including its humor, stellar characters, and soundtrack, there is one quality of the game that stands out among the rest: its violent opposition to the “grinding” trope.

In gaming, grinding refers to the performance of repetitive tasks in order to level up and gain in-game gold. In an interview with the Existential Gamer, Fox mentioned that he dislikes this concept, saying, “The addictive quality of ‘numbers increasing’ is what drives a lot of games. But some of the most important things in life can’t be accurately represented by numbers.” With this in mind, Toby added the option to spare and befriend monsters that come across the Fallen Human’s path. Sparing all monsters in the game will result in the Pacifist Route, the game’s supposed happy ending.

However, Fox’s aversion towards grinding appears in a darker playthrough, aptly named the Genocide Route. On this path, the Fallen Human goes out of their way to destroy everything before them. On this disturbing route, most enemies won’t try and kill the Human; most won’t even fight him. Instead, they try to befriend him. But on the Genocide Route, the player has no friends. After hours of grinding and the game itself warning you not to continue, the Route comes to a terrifying and undesirable end.

With a True Pacifist Route, True Genocide Route, and over ten Neutral Routes, each determined by the player’s individual decisions while playing, Undertale lets the player experience many different endings, each wrought with wit, emotion, and outrageous humor. Should you befriend the pun-loving skeleton? Should you fight the reality TV-obsessed robot? Betray the motherly goat? The choice is up to you. In a “Kill or be Killed” world, the story depends on the player.

Undertale is available on Steam for $9.99 and has been nominated for “Best Independent Game,” “Best Role-Playing Game,” and “Games for Impact” by Game Awards 2015.