This is a special multi-part post for New Year’s Eve moving into 2016 and while I don’t usually put spoilers in my posts I’m warning you right now. Do not read this post if you intend to play the game ‘Undertale’. What is
What is Undertale? A roleplaying game that takes about 10-20 hours to complete to its full capacity. I’ll mention Star Wars: The Force Awakens a few times in it, but you’re safe with that. Nothing I say will be any more revealing than the trailers, so your mileage may vary.
Also, I’m sure there’s going to be some people telling me: “But that’s not the way you’re supposed to play Undertale!”. I know. I decided to play it wrong on purpose. I paid for my sins. This is a cautionary tale to those who have never played it, or never wandered over to the ‘dark side’.
Moving on, you were warned.
This post is about three things, the holidays, nostalgia, and the feelings that come from watching / reading a story that accomplishes exactly what it aimed to accomplished. In my case, it’s not a very happy story.
Stay a while and listen.
You don’t need to be a gamer to appreciate this cautionary tale, only someone that can appreciate a good story.
I heard about Undertale like most people had, though the Internet’s praises of its unique approach to the classic formula. You’re told very little about the Protagonist and the situation. What you are told is pretty formulaic. Humans and Monsters at odds leading into the monster’s banishment into the underground.
The thing is, I was told choice made a big difference in this game and playing the way you would usually play an RPG… killing the monsters to gain power sets you up for a ‘bad time’.
The Protagonist is a Human Child that falls into the underground. The first thing I meet is a talking flower—yup, I’m serious. He tells me the basics of combat, except he thinks I’m dumb or something… trying to convince me bullets are ‘friendship pellets’. After dodging his first few ‘attacks’ easily, he dons a wicked smile and says: “You know exactly what’s going on here, don’t you?” and fires a ring of unavoidable bullets.
Standard fare for RPGs. I stay cool and surprise surprise, someone saves me, shooing away ‘Flowey’ and takes me into her care. A goat woman named Toriel. She seems nice enough, offering the odd suggestion to resolve fights by ‘striking up conversation’.
Of course, I thought that sounded rather silly, as my first ‘opponent’ was a training dummy. There was a command to talk, but instead, I did what I usually did in roleplaying games: I hit the ‘fight’ command.
Toriel didn’t seem too happy with me, but she led me deeper into the ruins to show me something. Along the way a monster attacked… some frog thing. I mashed my trusty fight command and got a satisfying hit, but Toriel stepped in, shooting a withering glare over at the frog. It skulked away.
I was annoyed. I could have handled it myself.
Real talk here, this happened a few times through the ruins. Toriel held my hand, walking me through inane tutorials that seemed pointless. I knew all this, as I played plenty of games before. I was genuinely happy to cut to the chase.
Once free of my goat lady overlord I got my first shot at combat. It was pretty interesting, not in the ‘fighting’ part, but the means of defense, protecting my soul (shown by a simple red heart) from the onslaught of monsters. Once I made their HP go to zero, I got me some delicious exp. (that’s Experience Points to you roleplaying newbies).
I paced around, waiting for the ‘random encounter’ mark to appear so I could level up. It didn’t take long until I got a pretty nice start with a pocket full of gold and a few levels. Toriel even left me some candy to restore my HP in a pinch.
Eventually, though, something weird happened. I triggered an encounter, but instead of the groovy battle music, I got the simple message: “But no one came.”
I felt real disappointment. The game was limiting me from advancing. In order to become stronger, I had to press on. So I did. After pushing through the ruins, I found Toriel’s house. Looked pretty cozy but she didn’t like it when I tried to go downstairs. She offered to read me a story about snails or something, but instead I asked her ‘how do I leave?’
She dodged the question and told me to get some rest. So I did (after checking her house for useful items: I found a toy knife that hit harder than my stick). When I woke, there was a slice of butterscotch – cinnamon pie on a plate near my bed. I picked it up. Roleplaying games need healing items after all.
After pressing the point, she told me to wait in the living room. I went downstairs instead. She was down there too and told me she planned to destroy the way out.
I was pissed so I followed her. She stood between me and the way out and said: “If you want to leave so badly you have to get through me.”
I readied my toy knife and steeled myself for battle. Like any responsible gamer, I went to the ‘check’ command to see her stats and she assailed me with fire magic. So after dodging as best I could, I readied the fight command and… destroyed her in one hit.
Honestly, I was shocked. She fell to one knee, bleeding. She said with a wild smile:
“I understand now. I wasn’t protecting you from the underground. I was protecting the underground from YOU.”
She faded away to a little white heart, which promptly shattered into a million little pieces. Needless to say, the chunk of EXP I got from the fight was… bittersweet.
I pushed on, with Toriel’s blood still fresh on my hands through the door to the underground, only to be greeted by some obnoxious skeleton named sans. (I put his name lowercase on purpose.) He and his brother, Papyrus, are guards keeping an eye out for humans.
He seemed amusing enough, but the Protagonist greeted sans bad puns with a blank stare. He asked me to play along with being a human to make his brother happy. I felt like it was a passive aggressive way of calling me a monster.
Snowdin was full of monsters too, just as eager to attack me. Including several weapon toting dogs. Many of them seemed scared of me. (I guess they were pretty smart. Emphasis on was.) There were puzzles laid out by the skeleton brothers, but I was able to just walk past them for some reason. I didn’t mind so much, and instead focused on getting EXP.
Save points even helped me know how many fights I had left till the area was empty. I also noticed my Protagonist’s dialogue was very blunt now. Once I killed everything save points simply said: “Determination.” I felt pretty bad ass, honestly.
I came across my first town, ready to shop for new armor and weapons… instead, I found the town barren. No one was there. I stole what the shop had, I mean… no one was there to stop me after all.
With nothing to do but push on, san’s goofy brother stopped caring about trying to give me puzzles and bailed on me. His jokester brother pulls me aside and tells me I’ll be fighting his brother soon. But he tells me: “If you keep going the way you’re going: *his eyes grow creepy and sunken* you’re gonna have a bad time.”
I shrug and move on, pushing into a snowstorm. Papyrus appears and challenges me, telling me how weird I am. (the nerve!) But he insists I can still be a good person and tells me he’ll spare me. I one shot him instead. He wore his stupid smile to the last moment, holding onto the idea that I’m a good person and fades away to nothingness.
I felt like a jerk. But hey. EXP.
It only gets worse people. Try not to judge me too harshly. More in a few hours.