Over the years, good storytelling has become an integral part of many video games. As the genre ages, developers continue to find creative new ways of crafting meaningful pieces that are capable of eliciting deeper feelings and emotions as opposed to the more traditional goal for a game to only hit the bases of "fun and entertaining."
Undertale makes me want to be a better person. It tells a story so well that it truly made me want to play differently than I would have otherwise. Video games can be cathartic and allow you to act out fantasies, aggressions and actions that you may not normally experience in real life. Unlike a typical routine in role-playing games of getting your character as powerful as possible to defeat enemies with acquired skills and abilities, Undertale allows for you pacify any encounter you have with an enemy rather than only having an option to resort to violence. The solutions range from crystal clear to clever and crafty, and I had a lot of fun navigating those interactions. I actually re-started the game after killing a main character because it made me feel bad. This game has made me laugh, nearly cry, feel fear and excitement all through interacting with the characters.
When my husband told me I had to play Undertale, I was a bit dismissive because he says that about damn near any game he plays (except Final Fantasy XIV; he knows better than to ask me to play a massive multiplayer online role-playing game). I figured this was his flavor of the week and that his excitement would pass. But it did not. Once I finally did start playing, I see that his strong desire for me to experience this game was completely warranted. The gameplay is unique, the soundtrack is fun, and the graphics are nostalgic of old Nintendo role-playing games.
The story, writing, and interaction with the characters are, in my opinion, the defining quality of this game. You play as Frisk, a very determined human of ambiguous gender who has fallen into a mountain where monsters were trapped after they had lost a great war between themselves and the humans. I was under the impression that Frisk was a little girl due to a lot of the fan art depictions (and because my husband had told me so). But there's also a plethora of fan created art on the internet that acknowledges this ambiguity, and the Wiki page only refers to Frisk as “a human child” and otherwise uses singular they pronouns.
I feel as though having a gender-neutral hero is important as it allows people of all genders to project their own thoughts and feelings onto this character without any restrictions. How often does that happen in a video game? I can't name one instance.
Not only does the game feel progressive for its gender-neutral protagonist, but there are other instances in the game that feature queer content when you’re least expecting it.
The humor is on point, the characters are interesting, and unlike other role-playing games, it's not a huge investment of time (you can complete it in about six hours). There are different paths you may choose, and all of your actions down to the last battle will change the outcome of the game. I am in the middle of my second play-through as I would like to experience those other outcomes. Plus, I want to interact with these characters again. And again. And maybe even again.
There are unfortunately too many opportunities to reveal spoilers in this game, so I'm choosing not to go into details about the story itself. I can only sing its praises and share my newfound love for this refreshingly wonderful little indie game.
LQQK Rating: Quality: 5/5 Queerness: 4/5