Undertale is a video game created by Toby Fox and funded using Kickstarter. The game was released in September 2015. Like many independant game before this one, it uses a simplistic art style to make the experience seem more personal. This game is all about the choices you make and how they have a lasting impact on both your current playthrough and any future playthrough you may have.
Before the game even starts you are given a little narrative about the world. There are two major species in the world: humans and monster. These two groups used to live in harmony till a war broke out between the two groups. The humans locked the monster under the mountain and they name this new area the Underground. Years later a child wander up the mountain and falls down a hole into the ruins which is an entrance to the underground. Once you actually enter the game the you are taught about how the world is runned. You then go on a journey to escape the Underground. Like many RPG games before this you encounter many creatures on this journey, however how you interact with them will dictate how your story will go. Normally in a RPG you can only kill whatever you encounter here you are able to kill, hurt, and spare. These interactions are what leads you to one of the possible endings of this game.
The visuals, music, and interactions all play a huge part in the telling of this story. The art is simplistic, but it still sets the mood for the game. Using animated, cartoon-ish pixelated characters makes it easier to see one’s self in that character. The main character that you play as has a very generic look and is referred to as “they” or “them” making it easy for the player to see themselves as this character. A lot of the character design have simple feel to them, however they play around with conventional symbolism. Some things that are typically a symbol for something good very much isn’t. While the characters themselves had fairly simple designs the world art was very detailed. Each locations gave the tone of the area and make you understand the culture that was created in the Underground. The art in this game also will mirror art from another area giving the area a very familiar feeling which lets you know what you need to do. Toby Fox not only programmed this game but, design the game, made many of the art assets, and the music for this game. The music leaves an impression on you that when you hear it again you remember that part of the game. The music evokes emotion into the player, when you hear a song or a song with a certain aspect that is found in another song it lets you have an idea of what is about to happen. Each one of the major character you encounter in this game also have their own theme which also helps show the personality of those characters. Some songs are very intense while other are light and fun loving
The biggest part of this game is the interaction between you as the character in the story and you the player and the game. Within the story you have the option to not hurt, hurt, or even kill the various monsters you encounter. These choices impact if you can go into certain locations, if you can meet certain characters, if you have to go through one of the toughest boss battles in the game. This game also interacts with you as a player of games. This game is aware that it is a game and even the main antagonist even mentions how you are in a game. Every choice you make is remembered even if you do not save, even if you reset the entire game. It knows what you have done and it will remind you of that. You cannot get that level of interactivity anywhere else.This game is on PC so all control is done through a few keystrokes giving this a different feel. The interface for the game is simple and does not distract from the main function of the game.
If I had to think of this work in a more formal way I would say that this game is closely related to a novel. In my opinion games that have boss battles can be divided up into chapters and having the boss battle be the conclusion of that chapter or arc. The time before the boss is the learning experience, figuring out why you need to fight whoever you are fighting and also learning the skills necessary to successfully fight against the boss. This novel follows the narrative pattern of the hero’s journey: living a normal life, the call to adventure, the refusal to the call, meeting the mentor, etc.. This can all be seen in this game. What makes this different from any novel is the layer of interactivity in it. In a novel you do not tend to have choices or control over the main character. Only choose your own adventure stories can give you any amount of interactivity and having your choices even somewhat matter. In a novel you are basically getting the retelling of a tale so the choices have already been made.
This work is significant because it shows how important your actions can be in the world, not just a digital one but also the real one. Every choice you make in Undertale is final, even if you do reset because the game knows what you have done. Every action you make in this game has an affect on what will happen to you in this playthrough. This level of interactivity is very unique for a game. While most games that have your choices many times do not actually affect the ending of the story, but this very much so does. Even your choices from your first playthrough of the game will affect future playthroughs. This level of interactivity is very unique to the game world and that’s why it matters. Our choices matter in life and Undertale reminds us of that. This game is also the reminder of how video games can be used to tell a story. This isn’t a story being passively told, you are actively being apart of how this will all end. That’s the importance of Undertale.