Undertale starts with a classic storyboard introduction showing that years before the story that the player will be in control of, there was a war between monsters and humans which the humans won. The monsters were driven underground by the victorious humans to live out their existence in subterranean exile. You play a child, of no background, personality or defined gender, who as fallen down a hole and woke up no longer in the surface world of humanity and in turn ended up in the realm of monsters. Your goal is to escape back to the comfort of humanity by any means necessary, or not.
Undertale does have combat as do most games and is a kin to turn basedgames like Earthbound. It is however the only game I've played to combine both real time game play elements with turn based combat without the feeling of having the worst of both worlds. When attacking there is a quick time event where you have to time your attack to the center of the used menu, pretty standard for a turn based game, similar to Paper Mario's timing required. The interesting game mechanics come into play when you go down the path of the merciful protagonist.
Mercy is this games unique addition which will make any player see that this title has much more to offer than it seems at first glance. Basically you don't have to kill any enemies as long as you find a way to appease them, which is different for every enemy adding an element of puzzle gameplay which I cannot deny is very satisfying when that yellow mercy button shows itself and you know you have spared an innocent life. Especially when the aforementioned enemy is a dog just needing love, or a singer who only has to gain confidence with your help.
During combat there are 4 actions that you can take which are fight (self explanatory), act (which involves efforts in trying to appease enemies), item (which only is for health items and swapping equipped weapons and armor), and mercy (for sparing or fleeing from an encounter). These are for your turn obviously, but when the enemy attacks this game gives you opportunity to avoid all damage entirely via a mini game which is basic but very fun. To avoid taking damage all the player has to do is move their heart, which is the player, and dodge all the objects the opponent throws at them. Simple. but as you'd expect, the farther through the game you go the more elaborate the attacks become.
There are boss enemies in the game which all offer their own unique challenge, when you try to spare them. They all need their own gratification from you and each and every one of them change how your dodging of attacks works, such as adding gravity or adding a play style reminding older players of space invaders, ensuring that you can never become bored with this game's game.
The morality the game has is purely for the player to feel good with themselves - or bad if they decide to become a monster. The pacifist play style creates a disadvantage for the player throughout their adventure as you can only level up by killing monsters and leveling up gives you more health (as many would expect). This does mean that the game can absolutely be completed at by staying at level 1, I did. And by reverse logic killing any and all enemies makes the player a near unstoppable force to be reckoned with.
As this is an RPG game in style there are weapons and armour to find and equip in the game. However they are easily distinguished and most equipment is just basic upgrades from earlier finds and drops with very few having extra abilities for the player.
As previously mentioned the aim of the game is to escape back to world you are from by overcoming all challenges set by the monsters if this underground environment. Now you can choose how you go about freeing yourself from your predicament by being a true pacifist and all round nice guy, a completely genocidal psychopath, or by being somewhere in the middle. It is nice to find a game with morality and not feel that there is only one real ending as they are all viable and just change how the game treats you.
The game encourages you to be forgiving and merciful in its character dialogue but there are plenty of enemies which will test your resolve, especially when your first encounter is a murderous flower who is also incredibly judgmental on you as a player. Personally, by sparing all creatures in this underworld, I really felt a part of it when reaching the hub towns and homes of the monsters (as well as seeing many of those you have spared in taverns and hotels). I'm not sure if they are always there, but it made me feel happy to see them regardless. This is why I recommend turning the other cheek to insults and trying to look on the bright side of the monsters' world.
Like most games with any moral choices, there is definitely more reward for choosing different paths. Awarding the player with a completely new boss for pacifists or maniacs. However if you feel a mixed run is necessary, the ending for that still feels right and complete so don't feel a mixed run is required for a first play through.
The world which is laid out before the player is completely filled with life, every NPC feels alive and not at all just flavour text or filler and is brimming with humour. As one for comedy I found this game's writing felt like it was made for me. This is the first game that I have ever played where every defined character is enjoyable to have around, even the enemies and bosses are great fun to listen to and interact with.
I will state with complete certainty that this is the first ever game to put going on a date with a skeleton in the same game as being a contestant on a game show, and make the whole thing feel completely organic and relevant to the plot.
The only downside I can find is my personal distaste for the silent protagonist, as I felt that it makes the player character an empty shell and not at all interesting when compared the world itself. Which, although not a bad thing, made me progress purely to meet more characters rather than because the characters goal is worthy of my time.
Undertale adopts an 8 bit style, which I implore any graphic-obsessed freak to look passed as world and characters are only improved because of their simplistic and bold design. Personally I think a full 3D model of game would only have hurt the game. Every character model is perfectly designed and nothing feels rushed or just thrown together to increase the game's capacity. Also the over world itself is, although simplistic, very refined and memorable. I can easily remember everything from the Snowy Wastelands to the lava filled Hotlands.
Everything in this game feels perfectly crafted for an adventure which you hopefully want to be a part of. The combat feels very engaging, even though turn based combat usually feels detached from the player themselves. The writing is absolutely superb with every line and character filled with comedy, which should make even the most cynical person, such as myself, remember that games are still worth defending as an art form.
Basically I am recommending that if you own a PC of any kind this game should be a priority, even over the most flashy of Triple A titles.
A worthwhile purchase for £6.99.