Undertale (stylized as UnderTale or UNDERTALE) is a role-playing video game developed and published by indie developer tobyfox. The game was written, designed and composed for by creator Toby Fox, with additional art by Temmie Chang, and was released for Microsoft Windows and OS X on 15 September 2015.

In Undertale, the player controls a human child as they navigate the fictional Underground: a large, secluded region underneath the surface of the Earth. The inhabitants of the Underground are called "monsters", a diverse and intelligent group who have been banished from the surface following a war with humanity. The child interacts with many monsters on their quest to return to the surface, with the player making decisions on whether to kill or befriend them. These choices affect the outcome of the game to a large degree, with the dialogue and story outcome changing based on their decisions.

The game received acclaim from video game critics, with particular praise for its writing and characters. Reviewers enjoyed the game's intuitive yet deep combat system, the contrast of its witty humor with a dark story, as well as its references to older role-playing games (such as EarthBound and Shin Megami Tensei) while still having a modern feel.

Gameplay Edit

Undertale features traditional role-playing mechanics, such as experience points,[1] an overworld, equipment, and health, though with several differences. The game casts players in the role of a child as they explore an underground world full of monsters who they can either kill or befriend. The overworld lets the player navigate in a top-down perspective, visiting locations such as towns, shops, and large buildings. Progression through the game requires interacting with puzzles and non-player characters, moving forward through locales. Save points appear frequently in the overworld, refilling the player's health while saving the player's progress.[2]

During battles, the player controls a small heart which represents the protagonist's soul and must avoid attacks unleashed by the opposing monster—in a similar fashion to a bullet hell.[1][3][4] As the game progresses, new elements are introduced, such as colored obstacles which require the player to stand still or move through them, and boss battles which change the way the heart is controlled.[3] The player may choose to attack the enemy, which involves timed button presses, earning EXP and gold for defeating them.[5] Alternatively, they can use the Act option to perform non-violent actions, which vary depending on the enemy.[4] If the player uses the right actions to respond to the enemy, they can choose to spare them and end the fight without killing them—earning no EXP.[6] The game features various story branches and endings depending on whether the player chooses to kill or spare their enemies, and it is possible to clear the game without killing a single enemy.[7]

Monsters will converse with the player during battle, and the game will tell the player about how they're feeling or what they're doing.[8] The monsters' attacks will change in ferocity based on how the player interacts with them, being easier if the player chooses non-violent options, or harder if the player chooses to fight.[1][8] If the player fights a boss character on a second playthrough, their dialogue will change based on the player's actions in previous playthroughs, including whether they appear at all. The final boss of Undertale is different based on whether the player killed no monsters, some monsters, or all monsters.

Plot Edit

Long ago, two races ruled over the Earth as equals: humans and monsters. One day, a war broke out between them and after a long series of battles, the humans were victorious. The greatest of their magicians sealed the monsters to the Underground with a magic barrier, while the humans took control of the surface. However, the barrier is not a perfect seal, and the only point of entrance to the Underground is Mount Ebott.[9]

Many years after the war, a human child falls through Mount Ebott and into the Ruins — a small section of the Underground. Though the protagonist is unnamed throughout most of the game, later dialogue reveals their name as Frisk. They soon encounter Flowey, a sentient flower who attempts to kill Frisk for his own amusement. Flowey is stopped by a motherly monster named Toriel, who teaches the child how to solve puzzles and survive conflict in the Underground. After a boss fight with Toriel, she allows Frisk to exit the Ruins.

Frisk ventures through the Underground in order to reach the barrier located in the castle of Asgore Dreemurr, the king of the monsters. They learn that the king needs seven human souls to destroy the barrier and free the monsters - of which he has six. Throughout the game, they meet many monsters, which they may kill or try to resolve the encounter peacefully. Among the monsters that the player encounters are Sans, a wisecracking and slothful skeleton; Papyrus, Sans' enthusiastic yet incompetent brother; Undyne, the boisterous head of the royal guard; Alphys, the kingdom's reclusive royal scientist; and Mettaton, a robot with dreams of super-stardom. The choices that the player makes determine the route that they take through the story, as well as the ending sequence. Further playthroughs are irreversibly affected by all routes, with differences in dialogue dependent on the decisions made in previous playthroughs.[10]

If Frisk at any point kills a monster in combat, or if relationships with certain characters are not fully developed, the plot proceeds linearly with Frisk progressing to Asgore's castle. Upon arrival, Alphys reveals that it is only possible to leave the barrier with a monster soul, meaning that they must kill Asgore. Frisk confronts Asgore and begins to follow through with this, though the player may eventually choose to spare him before dealing the final blow. Unfortunately, Flowey appears and kills Asgore regardless, stealing the human souls and transforming into a monstrous abomination that the player must then defeat. Frisk wakes on the other side of the barrier and receives a final phone call from Sans informing them of the state of the Underground after their departure.

However, if the player successfully resolves every encounter in the game peacefully and befriends key characters, Frisk learns that Flowey is the deceased son of Asgore and Toriel - Asriel, inadvertently revived as a result of Alphys attempting to give the will to live to a vessel with no soul. Despite Toriel intervening before Frisk fights Asgore, Flowey ambushes the cast at the barrier and absorbs the souls of all the monsters in the underground. Taking the form of Asriel once more, the souls give him the power of an angel of death - however, he acquires with them the love the monsters feel towards Frisk and ultimately loses the will to fight, instead using his power to destroy the barrier and free the monsters for good before reverting back to Flowey. The game concludes as the monsters begin to integrate once more with the surface world.

A significant change comes as a result of killing every monster in the Underground in one playthrough; Frisk becomes influenced by a malevolent entity known as Chara, another human who previously fell into the Underground and was adopted by the Dreemurrs. Chara journeyed to the mountain because they actually hated humanity; they died soon after, with Asriel also being slain the same night when he attempted to return their body to the human world. As Frisk reaches Asgore's castle, Sans attempts to stop them in a climactic battle but Frisk is ultimately successful in slaying Sans, Asgore and finally Flowey, despite the latter's attempts to win Frisk's goodwill as a former friend of Chara. Out of control of the player, Chara destroys the world and mocks the player should they attempt to reverse their decision through resetting the game. If the player agrees with the demand for their soul in exchange for resetting the world, Chara makes several appearances in later playthroughs and this change is irreversible without the deletion or manual editing of hidden game files.

Development Edit

Undertale was funded through Kickstarter with a goal of $5,000. The campaign resulted in $51,124 being raised by 2,398 people.[11] Fox has stated in an October 2015 interview with Game Informer that he did basically everything except for some of the art, as he did not want to rely on anybody else. Fox also stated that it took roughly 2.7 years to create the game. Originally, he predicted that the game would be about two hours long, and that it eventually grew to three times that size.[12]

Fox had gone on the record that he does not think about where his inspirations are coming from, and that the writing was a combination of everything he had ever read. He cites the silliness of internet culture as one of his influences, as well as comedy acts like Mr. Bean. He also stated that EarthBound has had a large influence on him, because of its unsettling atmosphere.[12]

In an interview with The Escapist, Fox listed off inspirations for the game: "The talking system came from Shin Megami Tensei. I feel that it's important to make every monster feel like an individual. If you think about it basically all monsters in RPGs like Final Fantasy are the same, save for the graphics. They attack you, you heal, you attack them, they die. There's no meaning to that."[13]

Fox has stated that he did not want grinding to be necessary at any point, wanting people to be able to do it if they wanted to while still making it as optional as possible. He also did not want to introduce fetch quests, as they involve backtracking that he does not really like. He said that he likes Super Mario RPG and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, the latter having one of his favorite RPG battle systems ever, and that he wanted Undertale to have an equally engaging system.[12]

Soundtrack Edit

Fox discussed aspects of the official soundtrack in an October 2015 interview with Game Informer. He stated that he was responsible for the entire soundtrack, and that he is a self-taught musician. He expressed that there were no iterations for the soundtrack, and that what came into his head was what he composed. Some of the inspirations for the soundtrack include Super Nintendo role-playing games and the webcomic Homestuck; Fox previously served as a musician for the latter. All of the composed music is original, with the exception of "MEGALOVANIA", which Fox originally created for an EarthBound ROM hack in 2009,[14] and later featured in the Homestuck album, Heir Transparent, where it was covered as "MeGaLoVania".[12][15]

Fox has stated that he likes all the songs equally, but his favorite songs include the title track, "Undertale", and "Hopes and Dreams", the former being one of the only songs in the game that went through multiple iterations. He also said it was thrilling to hear remixes of his music.[12]

Future prospects Edit

Fox has said that he has an interest in porting Undertale to platforms besides PC. He said that it would be great if he could put it onto a Nintendo platform, but he could not do that because GameMaker: Studio does not support these, so that he would need to reprogram the entire game.[12]

When questioned on the possibility of making another game, he said he would like to, with the knowledge that it will not be as successful as Undertale. He has not confirmed or denied a direct sequel, but added that he would think about it.[12]

Fox has also repeatedly said that adding to Undertale would likely not happen unless for bug fixes, despite leaving "avenues for expansion" such as the game's parodious Hard Mode.[16]

Reception Edit

Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 94%[17]
Metacritic 94/100[18]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 10/10[4]
Game Informer 9.5/10[20]
Giant Bomb [19]
PC Gamer (US) 91/100[21]
US Gamer [22]

Undertale received critical acclaim and is considered a cult video game by numerous publications.[23][24][25] The game holds an aggregate score of 94/100 on Metacritic,[18] and 94% on GameRankings.[17] As of November 2015, approximately 350,000 people owned the game on Steam, according to Steam Spy.[26]

Reviewers praised the game's unique combat system. Daniel Tack from Game Informer wrote "The combat is incredibly nuanced. ...every fight has its own special signature".[20] Austin Walker from Giant Bomb said the combat is "unconventional, clever, and occasionally really difficult. It's a surprisingly complex system...".[19] Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw from The Escapist claimed the game "manages to hybridise turn based and live combat elements in a way that actually fucking works".[27]

The game's writing was especially praised. Ben Croshaw considered Undertale the best-written game of 2015, stating "what really makes Undertale is the story and writing, which is on the one hand hilarious enough to suck you in from the start, and is also, by the end, rather heartfelt as well."[27] Richard Cobbett from PC Gamer wrote "Even its weaker moments where it veers too close to reference and inside joke oversaturation—the stuff of many a comedy RPG Maker game—just about work."[28] Ben Davis from Destructoid remarked that "One of Undertale‍‍ '​‍s greatest strengths is its wonderful cast of characters and its extremely witty sense of humor."[4]

Some critics were less enthusiastic about the game's visuals. Austin Walker from Giant Bomb wrote, "it's something like a jaundiced Mother. Simple, but communicative".[19] Ben Croshaw remarked "It wobbles between basic and functional to just plain bad".[27] Other reviewers liked the graphics, with Daniel Tack summarizing them as "retro and threadbare, the visuals successfully deliver the charm of each character and setting".[20] Richard Cobbett enjoyed the "excellent use of simple graphics to convey emotion."[21]

Fox himself did not expect the game to be as well received, saying he "didn't know that people would like it as universally as it's been acclaimed", and expecting that "people that were like me would like it".[12]

Awards Edit

[hide]Date Ceremony Category Result Ref. 3 December 2015 The Game Awards 2015 Best Independent Game Pending [29]
Best Role-Playing Game Pending
Games For Change Pending