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Let’s Play #22: Undertale

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The main character explores the first town in the game: Snowdin.

 

What to say about Undertale? Game Of The Year 2015 maybe? Too bad that didn’t happen, even though Undertale deserved it all. The game’s concept is simple, however its structure is more complicated than it seems.

To describe Undertale quickly that’s what I would say: “Take Mother 3, Touhou and The Stanley Parable. Mix them together and you get Undertale.” Why is this true? Let’s analyze each ingredient first:

Undertale is an RPG. Same genre of Mother 3. Plus its creator, Toby “Radiation” Fox, is a member of Starmen.net forums and a great fan of the Mother series. He created an hack for Earthbound and then he created Undertale. He was mainly inspired by Mother 3 so expect a serious RPG with a lot of strange humor involved.
Second is Touhou. For those who don’t know, Touhou is a series of bullet-hell vertical shooters. Toby Fox said he took some inspiration from Touhou to create the battle system. You see the battles in Undertale are unique. While, during your turn, you just basically choose an action, during the enemies’ turn you are shown a box with an heart and the enemies will throw you pattern of bullets you need to dodge. This way you could dodge every single attack, but the better your equipment and statistics, the more hits you will be able to substain.

Third (but this is just my personal opinion) is The Stanley Parable. Let’s see what this game is first: The Stanley Parable is a game about a man named Stanley. He worked in an office of an unnamed company and his job was looking at a screen where orders to push button appeared, then he had to simply push them. He did that every day, of every week of every year. But one day, no orders came on the monitor. Then Stanley realizes that everyone in his company is vanished, except him. He then stands up to investigate. In the game you control Stanley in first person and the story is told you by an external narrator. When you arrive to two open doors, you start to realize what the game is all about. The narrator will say: “When Stanley came to a set of two open doors, he entered the doors on his left.” Here’s the catch: you either choose to follow the narrator, or not to.

Disobeying the narrator will make him angry and will eventually lead to difference path branches. The game’s about choises, and to get every single ending you really need to think outside of the box sometime. Heck, look at this scheme of the endings! there’s so many of them! Plus the more you disobey, the more the narrator will break the 4th wall and refer to you as “the player who’s playing the game” not as “Stanley the character”. Everything you do has an impact on the game. Sometimes even restarting the game has impacts. A new door might have opened due to your restart, who knows what things are changed? After all, the game’s motto is “THE END IS NEVER THE END”. Undertale does just that. Everything you do has an impact on the game’s story. Everything. And even when you reset the game, or reload an older save, something might change. You see, there are two characters who will react to that. One is a bad guy and another one is a good guy (I won’t say who). They somehow know that you are reloading a save file and that you know what’s going to happen next because you’ve already seen it.

You can try this out if you start a new game. After the beginning you’ll meet Flowey. Try to close the game in the middle of their tutorial and load it up. Talk to them again and they will say something like: “You’ve got nothing better to do?” knowing you’ve seen them before.

Undertale basically messes with your mind. A lot. Just wait until you reach the final boss and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

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The fight agains Glide: an hidden enemy.

 

The plot and the mechanics are quite simple though. The story is this: “There were once two races on the earth: Monsters and humans. They fought each other in a war and the human won. They imprisoned the monsters underground with a magic spell, creating a barrier they could not pass. Then on 201X a child falls down a burrow in Mt. Ebbot, waking up in the world of monsters.” You control that child. Your main objective is to traverse the world of monsters, survive, and find a way out to the surface.

But the thing is: this isn’t your usual RPG. The game wants you NOT to kill the monsters. On the opposite, you have to befriend them. Even though, that has pros and cons. Why I’ll get in it in a second, but first:

EVERYTHING BEYOND HERE CONTAINS SPOILERS. SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE TO SKIP THEM.

Ok here I’ll tell you about my thoughts when I first played Undertale, because that reflects perfectly how the game wants you to feel. First off, you meet Flowey who seems like a nice flower and kindly asks you to run into the “Friendliness pellets”. As you do it, and take damage, he turns evil telling you that down there: “It’s kill or be killed.” As he attempts to kill you, Toriel comes by and saves you. She then tells you the opposite of what Flowey said: she says you don’t have to kill the monsters but rather befriend them.

So you do just that, and you see you don’t get any experience out of them. Here’s the first keypoint of all the game: I thought to myself “Wait a sec. If I keep sparing monster, I won’t get any experience and I won’t level up. And how am I supposed to deal with stronger monster later if I don’t level up? I gotta find a compromise between sparing and killing. Plus how can I fully trust Toriel after the first being I found here (Flowey) acted nicely at first but then it turned evil? How do I know Toriel isn’t gonna turn on me? Sure, she saved me, but…”.

So basically what I did was to spare monsters when I could, otherwise I killed them. This way I killed around 50% of the enemies and spared the other 50%. Then you arrive at the second key point of Undertale: The Judgment Hall. Sans the skeleton appears and tells you EXP doesn’t mean “EXPERIENCE” but rather “EXECUTION POINTS” and “LOVE” is the acronym of “Level Of ViolencE”. That flips the table for you, the player, when you realized you were deceived from the very beginning; but that was your own fault, thinking EXP is EXPERIENCE because you are used to see it in many RPGs.

But who cares? You carry on. You defeat Asgore, but you spare him because you want to fix all your mistakes and show that you can be nice too. Then Flowey shows up, takes the human souls, becomes god-like, and takes full control of the game, shutting it down for good. As you reboot the game, you’ll enter Flowey’s personal fantasy, where time is dead, existence is upside down and meaning has no meaning.

Defeating Flowey makes it possible to restore the world as it was, granting you access to the real ending in which you realize the thing you would never have imagined: The character you’ve controlled wasn’t the one with the name you’ve inserted at the beginning. The character you’ve been controlling is named “Frisk” and only looks like the character you named. Again you were decieved from the very beginning. But, who really was that character then? What were their real plans? That’s what you find out during the Genocide Route.

You see, Undertale has many different endings, but it actually has only 3 major endings or routes: Pacifist Route, Neutral Route, Genocide Route.

The Neutral is achieved by killing at least one monster and sparing at least one monster (depending which bosses you spare/kill/befriend the ending dialogue will change).

The Pacifist ending is achieved by sparing/running away from every monster AND befriending all the major characters. It is impossible to get this ending on your first try as it is required you see the Neutral Ending at least once before you can fully befriend Alphys.

The Genocide Ending requires you to kill all the monsters. and when I say all, I mean ALL.

The Genocide Route is the hardest, longest and most boring path of the three. In order to do a “Genocide Run” you need to kill all the monsters in an area before killing the relative boss: Toriel in the Ruins, Papyrus in Snowdin, Undyne in Waterfall and Mettaton in the Hotland (The Core is considered to be in Hotland too).

In every one of these areas there is a limited amount of monsters you can kill in random encounters. You need to kill monsters until you get random encounters with no monsters, then you can move onward. That takes an incredible amount of time of just runnning around to get into random fights, infact I cut those parts in my Let’s Play.

The Genocide Path has some pros though. All the puzzles are solved and most cutscenes won’t even take place, so you save some time there, but you lose it by hunting monsters to death. But there IS a catch in the Genocide Path. Even if you basically one-shot ever monster and boss, as you one-shot Undyne, she reveals herself as what she really is. Her real from: Undyne The Undying. She is considered to be one of the hardest (if not the hardest) boss fight in all the game. Her attacks are crazy, hit hard and frequently, and she’s has an incredibly huge life bar.

After you kill her though, the game becomes easier again. Mettaton reveals its real form: “Mettaton-Neo” but incredibly, you one-shot it. After Mettaton-Neo you’re officially “locked-in” the Genocide Run (unless you reset the game of course). And then you’re presented the hardest challenge yet. Sans.

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Fighting Sans at the end of a “Genocide Route”

 

Sans’ battle is a unique fight for an RPG. First, it is unfair in many different ways. Second, it messes with your mind. Third, it’s hard. But it’s always the same. It’s “static” so you can learn the patterns, While Undyne’s fight is more randomized, thus some attacks can’t be learned because they come different every time.

Sans’ fight opens up with him speaking and then attaking you right off the bat (he’s the only monster to get the first strike on you) with a combo of bullets and lasers which is incredibly hard and is meant to catch you off guard. Plus he changes you between blue mode and red modes as he pleases. Sans’ fight is also different because you don’t have any “invulnerability frames” when you get hit by a bullet. So you will keep losing health for as long as you are colliding with a bullet. Sans doesn’t have a life bar either, he dodges every your attack. But since the only way to proceed in the fight is attacking, you have to attack. Infact his description says: “Sans – 1 ATK 1 DEF – The easiest enemy. Can only deal 1 damage. Can’t keep dodging forever, keep attacking.” Sans will throw you insane platforming attack for the “blue mode” but each of those has his own tricks to avoid.

But then he spares you. Should you try to spare him as well, he seems to accept your mercy at first, but then he stabs you in the back with an unavoidable attack, killing you, and he tells you to not come back anymore. Instead, if you attack him, he will dodge once again and start the real fight. Sans will then use some “blue mode” attacks, in which he can even change the direction of gravity, some “red mode” attacks where he uses lasers, and an attack where he changes pattern and modes randomly. And if that was not enough, he adds some moving bones down in the menu and up in the dialogue box; because your heart that you use as a cursor to select the actions in the menus, still has an active hitbox. Yeah. It sucks.

After a while, Sans stops attacking and starts a turn where he does nothing. He says that in this way, you will never have your turn, thus you’ll never win. But your Determination is so strong, you’re able to push the box to the FIGHT option and surprise him.

After Sans’ death you go on and kill Asgore in one hit (you’re forced to kill him, it’s a cutscene) and then someone appears. A kid that claims to have your name. He thanks you for having brought him back to life and he tells you, that now that you and him killed everyone in that world, it’s time to move onto the next. Whatever you answer to him, he will ultimately destroy the world (and the game).

Re-launching the game makes a black window pop up, and the game seems unplayable but, if you dare to wait 10 minutes, the voice of the child with your name will appear asking you to give them your SOUL, and they will bring the world of Undertale back. The game is then reset, and everything seems to be back like nothing happened or has it? Remember, like in The Stanley Parable: “The end is never the end”. If you were to complete a Pacifict Run, instead of Frisk, the kid with your name will be in the ending, meaning that he managed to go back to the human world, and will probably kill everyone.

Undertale is a great game, and is meant to be played blindly to get the full experience. But seriously, even if you know what’s going on, there are so many secrets in Undertale that the game will never stop surprising you. Never.

Let’s Play’s stats:

-First episode aired on: Nov 21, 2015
-Last episode aired on: Feb 19, 2016
-Number of episodes: 35
-Total time of Let’s Play: 12 hours