noiseredux vs.

Posted on Oct 18th 2015 at 08:00:00 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PC


Undertale

Metagaming is a series where I force myself to play through Metacritic's highest rated PC games, working my way down the list one game at a time. There's no real goal other than giving myself an excuse to experience these critically acclaimed games. Sometimes I'll beat the games, and sometimes the games will beat me.

I started playing Undertale a couple of weeks ago, when it miraculously dethroned Half-Life 2 as the #1 PC game on Metacritic with a beyond impressive score of 97%. I say beyond impressive not because the top games are actually a six-way tie with 96%, but rather because Undertale is a pretty small, indie game developed by one guy using Game Maker Studio. I'm not knocking such a thing, since the same can be said for Spelunky, one of the most perfect games released in the last decade. But I mean, look at these graphics! The overworld map feels like we're in a SNES game and then the battles shift to something out of an Apple II game. It's all so lo-fi that I'm amazed - maybe impressed - at such a universal acclaim.

And maybe that initial hype simmered a bit as well. In the weeks since I've started playing, Undertale has received further reviews and dropped "all the way down" to #13 with an average of 94% where I suspect it will most likely remain comfortably wedged between Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Civilization II....still, not bad company to keep. Now before we go any further, I must warn you:  to talk about Undertale at all is to give away spoilers. So if you're planning on playing these soon and want to keep as many surprises as you can, I suggest you stop reading here. There are plenty of other good posts to read on these blogs.



Admittedly, I approached Undertale with reluctance. See, I've got to admit something here. And don't get mad, but I never thought Earthbound was all that great. Don't get me wrong, I think it's unique and interesting and I get why folks like it, but it could never really hold my interest for more than an hour. So going into Undertale, I had this worry that I'd feel the same way, and at first, I actually did. The very beginning seemed rough to me; it felt too cute, too self-aware, too quaint, too much. But as time went on, this whole weird world really started to win me over. Though on the surface it appears that this is a throwback RPG, you'll soon come to realize that the visuals are a ruse. Instead, this game turns all conventions on their head, sometimes throws them out, and marches on proudly as one of the first truly original RPGs I can think of playing in a long time.


What sets Undertale apart from the many, many retro-inspired indie RPG's out there is just about everything. It's neither full of the usual tropes, nor does it rely heavily on poking fun of those same usual tropes. Instead, it forges its own unique and quirky identity. But a game cannot get by on charm alone, so I suppose it's fitting that just below that level of fun is a subtle feeling of dread. In fact, I haven't felt such a hopeless sense of doom in a game since Majora's Mask. So while one minute you'll find yourself in a silly spot (maybe you're on a date with a skeleton and trying to make him feel like he's too good for you, or maybe you're taking part in a game show with a killer robot as host) moments later you might be feeling like there was no point to any of it in this tragic world.

Though the story can be jarring in tone and at times even confusing, it's always intriguing in some way. But even if you're not a fan of the narrative, there's lots to love about the battle system. It plays out in a manner similar to a 2D shmup, except you can't shoot. While this makes no sense on paper, trust me it's awesome and adds a lot to the game. Battles become tense and exciting this way. Oh, and there's also the fact that many of the battles involve not battling at all. Instead, your actions can be things like insulting, complimenting, petting, hugging, feeding, or just talking to your enemies. It is entirely possible to play this game without ever killing a thing.

The truth is that though it is not implicit from the onset, your morality plays a huge role in this game. It's not just in how the story plays out, but even as far as determining what bosses you'll face and so on. Each play through can be pretty different from the next. Perhaps that's why I'm sitting at the end of the game right now, stalled nine hours in. I've got a brutal boss battle ahead of me and I'm not sure I even want to finish it. Not because it's too hard, and not because I'm not having fun, it's just that I'm not thrilled with the decisions I've made that have led me to this ending. Perhaps knowing what I know now, the story will make me feel less awful about myself if I go back to the title screen and select "Reset."


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Comments
 
Just saw this and I have to admit it does look intriguing, much in the same way The Stanley Parable did.  What hooked me was what you mentioned in your article noise, when you call it, "the first truly original RPGs I can think of playing in a long time."  That is pretty much enough for me.  The most original take since Ultima IV?  Perhaps.
 
Noise, this article is great, looks like a fun game for sure.  I will be sure to consider it the next time I need to play an RPG.
 
I had to stop reading to avoid spoilers but I hadn't heard of this game.  It's on the wishlist now.  Thanks noise!
 
Very interesting idea for a series. While I have no interest in Steam games, I look forward to seeing you where you go with this.
 
Duke.Togo - You can also buy it from undertale.com. But, without giving anything away, it pretty much has to be a PC game to do the things it does.

Undertale is the best game I've played in years. But it's so hard to explain why it's great without spoiling anything, while at the same time avoiding recommending it to people who won't enjoy it. You need to be prepared to engage with the game on a meta level, but not in the way you have in other jRPGs (not in the numbers-managing sense, for example, but more in the "yeah you were supposed to make that mistake and restart from your last save" sense). And to get the full story, you need to be prepared to play it multiple times (your first full playthrough is 6 hours at most, so it's not a huge time sink to play it 2 or 3 times).
 
I've been hearing a lot about this game lately, and it seems like it's something I might want to check out.  Thanks!

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