By IVY VELAZQUEZ
Long ago, two races ruled over the Earth: Humans and Monsters. One day, a war broke out between the two races and after a long series of battle, the humans were victorious. The greatest of their magicians sealed the monsters to the Underground with a magic barrier. However, this barrier is not a perfect barrier.
This is the introduction to Undertale, a role-playing game (RPG) whose outcome relies on the choices of the player. Undertale is unique in that players can go through and beat the game without killing at all. Or by killing everyone.
The game, which celebrated its first release anniversary on Sept. 15, starts off with a young, nameless human child (aka the player) falling down into the Underground. As they go further in and begin to explore, they meet an array of interesting characters, from a murderous flower to an insecure dinosaur who loves anime. As the player goes through, making friends and/or enemies as they go, they can find more than just a fun game to play.
Undertale is more than it appears at first glance, instilling a lesson that it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts. This game has a much more intricate story than its seemingly low quality graphics suggests. There are three ways to play: Pacifist, Neutral, and Genocide. A different outcome occurs after almost every playthrough, depending on the player’s choices, and new elements are often introduced that may not have been available in a previous one.
Unlike most RPG games, where a reset erases all memory in the game that the player ever made a certain decision, characters remember the player from the previous timeline, though some better than others. It adds a weight to the story that isn’t normally there, causing almost a sense of guilt.
In fact, there are a series of messages all throughout the game, some that are quite blatant and others that the player has to go searching for. These messages are about morality, personhood, and humanity (even though the only actual human in the game is the player). One constant theme is that of determination, applied mostly to the player as they struggle to make their way through the Underground. Though determination is mostly shown through the player’s will to live, it is also exemplified in how they interact with the characters, especially in a Pacifist run. By continuing to show kindness to those bent on killing them, it shows how being true to who you are can help others as well as yourself.
Undertale has a prominent fandom players will quickly become aware of, from the multitude of alternate universes (AUs) to fanfictions and comics. In fact, one particular AU, called Underswap, has grown so popular that the game creator, Toby Fox, has given fans permission to make a whole new game based on it. The fans making the game, dubbed Team Switched Official, have already completed the playlist and will soon release a demo, though a release date is still not in sight.
Ivy Velazquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org