Undertale ★★★★★

Undertale is an RPG that pulls you into a world of tremendous characters, has a unique combat system, and I can't stop thinking about it.

'The RPG game where you don't have to destroy anyone' reads the Steam description for Undertale, and the trailer also stresses this point. Every encounter can be resolved without attacking, whether it be through hugs, pets, or laughing at the enemies joke. Each encounter can be thought of as a puzzle, find the correct set of actions and you'll end the fight and receive some gold. No EXP however, if you want to level up you must attack and kill things using a rhythm mini-game to determine the damage done.

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Taking either option will still have you defending against incoming attacks. You take the form of a red heart and must dodge incoming projectiles, for the most part. Every enemy has different attacks and patterns, with many introducing unique mechanics for you to defend against. For example blue coloured objects will not hurt you as long as you do not move, and orange colours don't hurt if you are moving. If an encounter contains multiple enemies their attack patterns will occur together, adding further challenge. Bosses add further twists to the combat mechanics and avoiding all of the attacks can be tough, but rewarding. You can also use items in combat, mostly food to recover health, and even this part of the game is not devoid of jokes. Using a packet of instant noodles during a fight has you waiting for the water to boil, pouring it in, eating them before you put in the flavour packet, correcting that mistake, and finally getting some health back.

Undertale will let you play however you like, for my first playthrough I attacked and killed most enemies and all the bosses. My second playthrough I went full pacifist and spared everyone. These different playstyles resulted in very different endings, different final bosses, and extra story beats happening, as the characters that hadn't died could still participate. There is also a playthrough deemed Genocide that involves killing everyone, including clearing each screen of random encounter enemies. I plan to do that next, if I can stomach killing some of these characters. The game is more aware than it seems, as characters can drop hints that they have knowledge of previous playthroughs. So fair warning, you may want to save killing everyone to your last run through. Or perhaps you want everyone to live on in your save file forever and don't want to rob them of their happiness. I really don't know if I can do the genocide playthrough.

The writing is fantastic, the characters are fun but serious and emotionally impactful when the story calls for it. Humour is extremely subjective and jokes in games can be extremely hit or miss, but I laughed out loud multiple times throughout, at funny lines or even gameplay reveals. It would be easy to list off some of these moments but having them surprise you is a huge part of the fun. The story manages to switch from goofing around to characters discussing serious feelings without skipping a beat, and some of those moments are extremely touching.

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Undertale feels special, like it has real heart and soul put into it. The crazy amount of effort that has gone into things most players may never encounter, even if they play through the game a couple of times. The meaning behind different aspects of the story have message boards covered in spoiler warnings as people try to discuss everything in this wonderfully realised world. There is also what seems like an ARG developing from people decompiling the game. This time there is information for them to find, put there by the developer on purpose just for the people who do that sort of thing. Undertales' complexity seems to know no bounds. 

This game will surprise you, and it feels wonderful every time.