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I have spent countless hours wandering a bombed out wasteland in Fallout, venturing to alien facilities in Halo, and warring with dragons in Skyrim. Each of those worlds are fondly remembered, but they are nothing compared to the feelings I have for the world I only recently visited for a dozen hours. The world of Undertale feels instantly familiar and comfortable, filled with characters that are friendly and relatable in a way that most game’s characters couldn’t dream of being. At the end of my journey, I felt that I had made real connections with these figures, I knew their ins and outs, and I felt joyous for helping them achieve their dreams. That is the magic of Undertale, a comedic JRPG that defies expectations at every turn and makes even the most jaded of players transcend into its fiction.

In a time before time, an ancient race of humans warred with the monsters that plagued their land. Humans were victorious and sealed away their foes underground, never to be heard from again. You play as a small child that has fallen into the underground world of monsters, and your actions in this place will determine their future. From there, Undertale does a great job of shaping its narrative based on what the player wants to do. In addition to a turn based battle system, you can talk to your enemies, spare them if they’ve been weakened, or even just attempt to run away. All of these have a significant effect on your progress, and each of the game’s random encounters feel unique thanks to this setup.

Undertale Intro

The intro screen sets out the initial narrative.

Undertale’s combat system is unique both in its function and its meaning. When you choose to fight, you play a timing based mini-game, much like older golf titles. Hit the middle, and you mash on the button to do the most damage. Enemy attacks are realized as obstacles that you must avoid, much like a shoot-em-up. You have a heart that represents your health, and you must dodge the attacks in a box of varying size. In addition, each enemy’s attacks are completely different and themed to its personality, meaning that you’ll never see the same pattern used by different enemies. A sentient vegetable might shoot carrots and tomatoes at you, while a musclebound seahorse might just flex its muscles over and over.

Encounters can go from simplistic all the way to bullet hell nightmares depending on who you’re facing. There are also times when the enemy doesn’t feel like fighting, and during this dialogue their attacks might lose some speed or actively avoid you entirely. In this way, every combat encounter matters to the overall narrative, and your choices in dealing with the creatures in your way are just as important as the choices you make in dialogue.

Subverting combat is just the first trick that Undertale has in store for unknowing players. Much like Portal 2 and its hidden, long-winded conversations with Wheatley, this game is full of hidden areas and comedic dialogue specific to certain situations. Discovering these character moments and world building secrets are some of the best parts of the game, and reveal a developer who understands interactivity should be above all else in game design. There are a few obscure things that require some doing, but most secrets are hinted at enough to allow a player to find them through normal play. There are no throwaway NPCs in Undertale; every part of the game has something to offer, and exploration is rewarded highly.

Undertale Froggit

Monsters you’ll face early on in the game. Anything else would be doing you a disservice.

There has been a short demo of Undertale available for years now, and one of the most impressive things about that was its extensive soundtrack. There were fifteen unique tracks in that demo, and in the full game this has been expanded to seventy-seven compositions. Not since Shovel Knight have I wanted to listen to chiptune music outside of its game of origin, but Undertale‘s battle themes and town jingles stick with you. Listening after it’s all over, I get nostalgic for the specific events the music was paired with, which is not something I’ve experienced before with any game’s soundtrack.

If there is one thing you might have heard about Undertale, it’s that you don’t want to spoiled on this game, and I wholeheartedly agree. I admit that it would be hard to spoil everything in one fell swoop, but Undertale‘s narrative is most effective when a player goes with their own gut instincts and lets the game lead you along to one conclusion or the next. Don’t seek out screenshots, don’t ask for explanations or solutions from players that have already completed the game, just go and enjoy. There are several endings to achieve, each run lasting about six to eight hours, so playing through the game again to see what changes isn’t the hassle it would have been back in the 16-bit era.

Undertale also has a habit of remembering things from previous runs or after hitting a game over screen, and the game will point you in the direction of one ending or the other after beating the game for the first time. This is one of the ways that the game shines, making each choice matter and toying around with the idea of the player versus the character in the game. Much like The Magic Circle earlier this year, the game includes you in the story rather than just allowing you to pretend that you are a part of an imaginary world. Instead, you are invited into what feels like a real place, making every decision count that much more.

undertale torial

Always remember to stay determined.

If I had to criticize something, I’d probably mention that some of the combat patterns later on in the game can get a bit grueling to complete, and this occurs no matter what ending you’re on track to receive. I am not skilled at all with shoot-em-up gameplay, so I had to stock up on healing items to get through certain encounters, and I eventually did run out of funds. It’s also worth mentioning that the game has a limited fast travel system, but there are certain areas that you might want to revisit for unique dialogue that will require wandering through empty rooms. Only completionists will feel that burden, but if you meet a favorite character in a dungeon, expect to have to walk back to them to hear what they have to say about current events.

Overall, Undertale moved me as both a reviewer of games and as a player. It toys with your interactions in its virtual world, preserving the illusion of the monster’s underground home as a real place above all else. It laughs along with you at the absurd gameplay tropes that we have all memorized, and then rips its hand away as it thrusts you into heartfelt moments of character development. The fact that one developer was the primary creative force behind this endeavor is inspiring, and his work is fully realized as a masterpiece of storytelling that will live on for generations. Undertale is an instant classic that deserves to be appreciated in its time. Play this game.

Undertale was purchased by this reviewer and completed twice on PC.

More About This Game

10.0
 

Classic

Summary

An unforgettable journey that will shape storytelling in games, Undertale effortlessly resonates with players and fills its world with depth and joy.


Alex Santa Maria

Reviews Editor

TechRaptor's Reviews Editor. Resident fan of pinball, Needlers, roguelikes, and anything with neon lighting. Owns an office chair once used by Billy Mays.



  • John

    Damn, never even heard about this game and it got a 10/10? Is it really that good?

    Edit : Holy shit it got 10/10 from steam too and currently at 98% from 3000+ reviews. Guess i’ll have to try this game, thanks for the review.

  • braneman

    Its currently the highest rated PC game of all time on Metacritic, which I don’t normally reference but here I actually agree with them so I’ll let it slide.

  • No problem at all! If even one more person experiences this game thanks to my review, I’m doing my job.

  • Xinoea

    It has high scores from both critics and user reviews, though the game does seem to be polarizing in it’s reviews. If the humor strikes a chord with you, you’re going to have a fantastic time with this game, if not, you’ll likely be done in the first 2 hours of game-play (thank-you Steam Refunds!).

    Personally I loved the game, having clocked 12 odd hours into it and numerous play-through’s.

    Given that a fair number of user reviews have praised the game compared to those who haven’t, you’ll likely have a grand time with the game.

    Enjoy and stay determined!

  • Alex White

    WEll, on the back of this I just bought it, I guess I have 2 hours at least and I can refund it if I hate it.

  • Galbador

    Seriously a 10/10? So this game has no flaws!?

    See, this is why I dislike reviews so much; it is personal driven and a 10/10 is in my eyes ridiculous. A 10/10 means that the game has no flaws, has a perfect story with unique characters, which is not the case in this game. Honestly, when I watched the gameplay on Youtube, I had a hard time not to stop the video. Not because of the player, but because of the game itself. It was sometimes so cringeworthy and (sorry for the harsh word) idiotic that I thought “who made this silly storyline?”

    Truth to be told, the abilitly to speak yourself out of a fight is unique, but the way it goes is sometimes so painful, that you thing, it would be better to slay the opponant to spare the embarrassment of what you have to do. And how it give you the feeling that “talking about it is better than fighting” is even a worse message when you recognize that if you show mercy to all enemies, you gain no xp… and on top of it, you get a bad feeling, when you slay an enemy. Why do yo have this feature then at all? This is totally bonkers in my opinion. Absolutely like when you try to go the evil route in a game if this is given. Is this really that necessay?

    But this is what I mean with “reviews are useless” and especially in cases of “10/10”. Numbers don’t say anything about a game, if you don’t like the game in the end. It just boggles my mind how this is in any kind of way helpful at all.

    For me, and those are my two coins, reviews are useless and should not exist or, at least, shouldn’t use a numeric measurement of how good a game is. It only confuses the customer because it doesn’t mean that he or she will like the game.

    Okay… sorry for the wall of words, but I had to get this out of my system, because I really dislike reviews and especially such with a “10/10” in it and wasn’t meant to offence you, Alex.

  • No offense taken at all, I get it. If you check out review policy (http://techraptor.net/techraptor-review-score-policy), it states that no game is perfect, and I believe that. It’s a “Classic”, it’s not a flawless experience. I made a few criticisms in the review, but I had to reach for them if I’m being honest. It’s my opinion, and another reviewer might not give this game a 10. I’m just offering my appraisal and hoping to convince a few more people to pick up the game, nothing more or less.

    As for the gameplay, it’s completely up to you what you do in battle. The game adjusts to you as a player in ways that many games can’t. That’s one of the reasons I like it so much. But hey, it might not be for you, that’s totally fine too. Plenty of games out there to enjoy!

  • Kylr Avery

    The thing about reviews is that they’re subjective opinions of the reviewer, with all of their biases and preferences intact. The best you can do is find a reviewer that shares your tastes and/or read many reviewers from many different sources in order to gain a better perspective as to whether you’re going to ultimately enjoy a game.

    For Alex, this was a 10/10. For you, maybe not so much. Personally I like Kotaku’s simple “Yes/No” as that gets me to the meat of what I’m looking for in their review, and paired with the review itself is generally a good enough indicator as to whether or not I’m going to want to buy the game myself.

    The gist of this is, don’t expect some sort of 100% objectivity in reviews Particularly for entertainment media. It’s not the reviewer’s job to protect the consumer from getting “confused” because the consumer can’t be bothered to read the review or look at more reviews than just the one. Know what you like, find reviewers that like what you like, and work from there. My go-to example is that I love Dynasty Warriors games, so the constant barrage of 6/10’s or so that they all get isn’t very useful to me. I usually go to sites that focus on niche games or Musou games in general, so instead of getting the same ol’ “this game is boring and the same as the others” I actually get useful information about new features, changes from the last installment, new characters, etc.

  • Galbador

    It may be your opinion, but it gives me a weird taste in my mouth. A 10/10 game is the perfection of games, in this case as Jim Sterling said, the best RPG he ever played, which I can’t believe. And he is not the only one. So many reviewers said the same and gave it a perfect 10. But this is the problem; if this is really the best RPG of all, there can’t be a better one. Any game, that comes out after this, will be a flop, a horrible game, not worthy the time. This is why a 10/10 is impossible. It can’t be and it irritates people. And as you said, it has flaws, so it can’t be a perfect 10.

  • Galbador

    I understand what you mean, but again, using only the term 10/10 is illogical, because if you think about it, it means that no game can be better that this one and this is wrong on so many levels.

    How often have we seen this? A game was called a 10/10 game and later on, another game appeared in the same category which was even better than the last one and called 10/10 yet again. The 10/10 is impossible and so misleading that I really wish that all the reviewers out there wouldn’t used it, because it gives out that there can’t be a better game, which is not true. As Alex said, this game has flaws and as soon as this is given, it is hard to believe that a game can be a 10/10.

    Honestly, do you believe that there is a game, that is so perfect, that nothing can match it? I simply can’t, because there will always something better than the earlier one.

  • Kylr Avery

    Like I said, I do think that number ratings are confusing but I think you’re still looking for too much objectivity in them. A 10/10 to me just means that the reviewer really, really like the game and that they don’t consider it’s flaws, if any, to detract from the experience in any significant way. I may or may not agree with the reviewer.

    It’s only misleading based on your criteria as to what a 10/10 means, but there’s no reason to assume the reviewer uses the same criteria.

  • Mikalscott

    I personally don’t think 10/10 means “perfect” – because what game is perfect? You could pick flaws out of any critically acclaimed game (hell, any media) to have ever existed if you really wanted to. I don’t really think the rating is really rating the game itself as much as your experience with the game.

    10/10 just means that you finish completely satisfied with the game. It could have had issues, but the presentation and experience of the game were entirely unhindered by them.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge those issues, it just means that the game was so good that holding them against it feels unnecessary.

    I’ve had a handful of games like that, games that I’ve picked up and couldn’t put down until they were beaten – I finish them and just feel really good having played it.

    And I’ve had games that nearly get to that point. They held my attention right up until the end, but right when it was over I had those thoughts – that if only a few things were different, the game could have been so much better.

    It could be the story, the gameplay, the mechanics, the interaction in a multiplayer game. And for every person those are going to be different. My brother’s wife might tell you that cookie clicker is a 10/10 – but occasionally you find those games that hit on broad relatable themes and presentation – like a pixar movie – that has elements that appeal to almost everyone.

    I feel like that’s where Undertale is.

    It might not truly be for everyone, but it’s definitely a broad appeal game. The themes are simple, they aren’t polarizing or political, the battle is engaging but not overly difficult – while still remaining challenging in some ways (especially if you choose paths that make it even more-so).

    I would encourage you, if you judged the game based on gameplay videos, to give playing it a shot. The games starts slow, but it builds quickly. Its major theme is subverting expectations, especially in the old school jrpg genre. Taking things you see in a lets-play or gameplay videos at face value really defeats the purpose of the games major theme.

    Read any review and they will almost universally tell you “they don’t want to spoil the game for you” – but it’s not the story they are saving you from, it’s the feeling you get when the game surprises you, if you give it a decent shot you can really find yourself drawn into this 6-8 hour adventure.

    That said, whether you’re planning to play the game or not, I wouldn’t bother watching videos – the gameplay isn’t anything groundbreaking, none of the individual mechanics are incredible or unique, and the graphics are poor (in a detail kind of way, the art style is honestly charming and fits perfectly). A lot of the games elements lose some of their wonder without their context, and I can easily see why someone on the fence wouldn’t want to play it after watching it.

    But it’s been one of the few games in the last few years that I’ve actually liked so much I sat down and played it from start to finish in one sitting through the night and into the morning. Each little surprise just made me want to get to the next part, 2 hours turning into 4, 4 hours turning into 12. The closest things I could compare it to are the old snes rpg classics.

    There’s pacing issues, backtracking is a bit of a pain at the end (though not required, rewarded with story), the puzzles are very easy (save the piano, which is a pain) – but at the end of the game I didn’t even care about those minor gripes. I could only appreciate the masterpiece I’d just played and lament that it was all over.

    I would give it a 10/10, and if you can afford it I’d say it’s definitely worth the $10.

  • Galbador

    I’m not objective since I don’t care what a game looks like or how a story goes. The point that bothers me, is the definition of a final vertict that gives a game the highest points a game can get and leaves no room for better games… but I repeat myself and it’s pointless.

  • Galbador

    You want to tell me, that this game is better than Final Fantasy 6, Mother 1, Faxanadu or Dragon Warrior? I highly disagree with you there, because in my eyes, Undertale sounds like a child book next to them. Sure, if you like this game, no problem with that, since this is your opinion and I accept this. But in my eyes, this does not deserve a 10/10. But again, I repeat myself so much about this.

  • Mikalscott

    I wouldn’t say better, but just as good in a different way personally.

    You’re free to disagree of course.

  • Kylr Avery

    You’re right, we’re just repeating ourselves.

    My main point is, a 10/10 (and any review score, really) includes the context of who reviewed it and when it was reviewed. A game being a 10/10 does NOT mean that no game can be better than it, just that the reviewer believes that in the context of what the game was trying to achieve and with the quality that it managed to achieve it with, the minor faults it may have do not detract from the overall experience in any significant way.

    Games I consider a 10/10 are Journey, the Stanley Parable, perhaps the 1st Dark Souls, etc. Are they perfect games? No. But at the time that I played them and “reviewed” them they did exactly what they set out to do and at a high enough quality for me to overlook their faults.

  • Kain Yusanagi

    No, see, that’s your view of what a 10 should be, not the scale they actually use. Measure by THEIR scale, not yours. Criticize their scale, sure, but don’t pretend it’s saying something it’s not.

  • Kain Yusanagi

    That “useful information” SHOULD be in every review, not just the niche reviews. If they don’t have anyone that knows that game well enough, then they should get an out-of-publication source to write a one-off for them, IMO.

  • Kylr Avery

    I would be nice, sure, but depending on the reviewer’s preferences and how they weigh the various elements of the game it may not be something that’s particularly expanded upon. In the Dynasty Warriors example, I might expect any major publication to tell me the main feature differences between DW: 8 and DW: 8 Dynasty for instance, but I wouldn’t expect every major publication to go into the details about how the new “Hyper Attack” in Samurai Warriors 4 changes the feel of the combat from Samurai Warriors 3.

    Like I said, I don’t really look at reviews as a list of objective facts but a combination of that and the reviewer’s opinions and biases. By using multiple sources and knowing what I’m looking for, I don’t need every review to tell me every single fact about a game, because I know which reviewers will focus on which parts of the game.

    Some reviewers focus on technical specs, some focus more on the “artistic” merits of a game, and some only review niche Japanese games. There’s plenty out there to peruse without needing to hold everyone to some homogenous standard.

  • I tend to write my reviews at a certain length unless I have a really complex thing I have to spell out and detail. I find it helps with readability, as I know we’ve all clicked on reviews in a certain era of IGN and then immediately stopped paying attention when you see they’re three pages long. I want my stuff to be as digestible as possible while still getting my point across, and sometimes that means cutting out explanations of features that aren’t vital to what I’m trying to get across.

    I love the conversation going on in the comments here by the way, I’m reading everything. There are no right answers, everyone is different, that’s what makes reading and writing game reviews so much fun.

  • Kain Yusanagi

    I have no problem with them including their subjective opinions and biases about the game, but I damn well expect them to at least actually review the damn GAME not self-interview about the topic of the game, as publications like Kotaku and Polygon have been doing.

  • Kylr Avery

    Why have those expecations? Some reviewers will go into detail about the game’s mechanics, others will mention them but go into detail as to why they enjoyed the tone, or it’s themes, or whatever. That’s why it’s important to go to many different sources and know what they focus on and their preferences, like I said. Kotaku and Polygon are left-leaning publications, so they might put more emphasis on what they consider problematic themes or cliches/stereotypes they perceive in the game, and that’s perfectly fine. If that’s not what you’re looking for, then there are countless other reviews and perspectives to peruse.

    Hell, Jim Sterling’s review of The Beginner’s Guide mentions the game once and then goes into a very personal story about himself dealing with social anxiety and the difficulties that arise when you try and push yourself creatively and keep pushing even when you might be pushing too hard. Then he says if you found that story intriguing and worthwhile, you should check out The Beginner’s Guide. That review was perfect, even though he essentially gave us the name and a vague idea about it’s themes and that’s it.

  • Kain Yusanagi

    Who said anything about expectations? They’re what I want to see in every review, not what I expect to see in every review. Not even mentioning the change to the musou system, as in your example, is not even mentioning that change to the game’s mechanics. That is shoddy reporting.

    For art games like The Beginner’s Guide (or Wreden’s earlier work, Stanley Parable), that sort of review can work because it’s entirely about the experience created and how it affects you rather than any particular mechanical experience, so recounting how it affects you as the majority of the review is fine. Traditional games, it doesn’t work that way at all. Plain and simple.

  • Kylr Avery

    I used the word “expectations” because you said “I damn well expect them to […]” in your comment.

    I guess we just have different views as to what we should want/expect from a video game review. Let’s just agree to disagree on this one.

  • KindraPring

    Then no game would ever received a 10 though. There’s so such thing as a perfect game. It is about how much those flaws weight down the game as a whole. Some, the flaws are all that you can see. Others, you can barely see the flaws through the excellence of the game as a whole.

  • LeonSouryu

    I understand your opinion. and I agree, perfection is impossible, BUT, from a review stand point I understand and agree with giving a 10/10 especially to something like undertale.
    Games are like art, you can’t guage the good or bad but you can guage your EXPERIENCE, and that’s what reviews are, sharing your experience (and this is really what playing undertale feels like because it really drives these everything home). a 10/10 in a review means it’s an irriplacable or fantastic journey that they enjoyed and highly recommend, maybe it did have shortcomings but they were either swept away by everything else or never really noticed until you focus on them.

  • John Fraser

    it starts out looking like a child book but near the end, depending on what you do, it can get frighteningly deep and intense and sometimes horrifying.

  • Ben Jeanotte

    Ugh, I think this is the most overhyped game I’ve played in a long time. Ugly, boring, and mostly just about a bunch of childish friendly monsters. It’s basically 8-bit Sesame Street. The combat dynamic is cool, but with just white monsters on a black backgrounds every single battle, it gets old almost immediately. There’s no way on earth this game deserves a 10 outa 10!

  • Airyl

    So your entire point is that you don’t like the graphics?

  • Airyl

    It doesn’t mean there can’t be a game better than this one, it means this game fits every single criteria of a good game for the reviewer.

  • Ben Jeanotte

    The graphics are not just bad, they are lazy. I loved FTL, Binding of Isaac, and Rogue Legacy, fun games with minimal graphics, but you can tell someone put some love into the graphics. Not so in undertale. That is not the only thing though. While the story may be unique and interesting to some, the writing is atrocious. A complete mess, nonsense sentences and poor punctuation.

  • Heather single

    I wanna say to all these people who are bashing this game, I have come to realize most of its because of graphics! Games are apart of art from the experience and story line. If you all are just gonna say ” OMG THIS GAME IS THE WORST BECAUSE GRAPHICS SUCK” It really reflects on how ignorant a person can be. Many games that have “Old/bad/died out” graphics are usually the ones that most people don’t give credit for the amazing work put into the story and characters of the game. Personally I think this game has by far amazing characters that almost seem like they could be real. What lacks on the games today is the same kinda stuff with each game Call of duty, Battle field, ect. I think these games are personally down right lazily done, I mean literally even Smosh makes a joke sating in one video * Showing many titles of games until* ” Do all we do is shoot the bad guys?” Then the other responding ” Hmm.. Yea” Honestly most games are only up to 3 hours and what most games today are shooting the bad guys in areas that seem incredibly similar to the last game. Now to not only point out shooter games but now sports. Sports games alike football today, yes have amazing graphics but what has it become? More alike an app game where you purchase card packets to get your favorite characters at a random? I have to say most games including Skylanders have become what? Just another “Pay to play” kinda game. Its sad to see these games go down the drain from just the greed of money, and to see whats even worse, the idiots that shoot down other games unless there alike the games trending.