Oh Undertale, where do I even begin with you? I haven’t fan-girled so hard about something in a long time, probably since I first got into Disney as a small child. An indie game that was released in September 2015, Undertale has exploded all over the internet as a title that challenges standard RPG game play and what it means to live with the consequences of your actions.
As a lifelong gamer, I started playing games at a very young age, starting with the original Nintendo all the way up to now on my PC with Steam. I have always been drawn to RPGs, as I have loved the deep stories and the character connections that we can make until you care about what is happening to your band of misfits. Once thing that was always instilled in me as I played titles such as Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger is that monsters are bad, humans are good. You trudge around the overworld map, killing respawning enemies to gain EXP or experience points to progress the game until you eventually confront the big baddie and take him down for a happy ending.
Anyone that has ever played games or seen a movie knows that this is how it often plays out, and I was no different. Undertale takes that ingrained thinking and flips it on its head. The story begins with you, a child who has fallen into the underground. Monsters and humans inhabit the world, but war broke out with the humans eventually winning, sealing and trapping the monsters underground forever with a barrier. You as the fallen child must navigate your way through and find a way home through this underground while encountering enemies and various creatures on your journey. It sounds like a typical RPG, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
You meet a flower that seems very friendly in the first few seconds of the game, but in your first meeting he tricks you and almost kills. You are resuced by a monster named Toriel, who guides you throughout the ruins where you meet several interesting monsters that in any other game would be respawning EXP fodder. Toriel walks you through puzzles and the gameplay mechanics and invites you into her home for pie and to live there with her since you are also trapped and she is lonely. I grew to love this character through our interactions, but knew I needed to progress the story, so I tried to leave.
She became upset and told me to fight her to show I was strong enough to survive. Sensing a fantasy gaffe where the character has me prove I’m strong but ends up helping me along my adventure, I obliged. I stuck with her and I looked on, confused as her sweet face turned to shock, and she told me she was afraid of me and for others I would meet. She died right then and there, and I felt such guilt. This was the first time I had ever felt like this, and I’ll admit I reset right then and there.
This game gives every action you make a consequence, and the gameplay and character interactions completely changes depending on the choices you make. You are rewarded for being merciful, and characters remember what you do to them even after you reset the game. A chilling lesson in morality and responsibility, I couldn’t stop playing it and I find myself telling everyone I know to play this game: it will change how you see characters in your favorite games forever.