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Chris Kavan's Video Game Reviews (473)

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Boot Hill Heroes 3.5/5
Control 4/5
Victor Vran 3/5
Katamari Damacy REROLL 4/5
SIMULACRA 3/5
Hitman: Absolution 3.5/5
Alternativa 2.5/5
Stardew Valley 4/5
Undertale 4/5
Cyberpunk 2077 3/5
Fable Anniversary 3/5
Strange Brigade 4/5
Satellite Reign 3/5
Watch Dogs 2 4/5
Divinity: Original Sin 2 4.5/5
Marvel: Ultimate Allian... 3/5
Star Trek: Bridge Crew 3/5
Metro 2033 3.5/5
South Park: The Fractur... 4/5
Sundered 3.5/5
Mass Effect: Andromeda 3.5/5
Life is Strange: Before... 4/5
God of War 4/5
Doom (2016) 3.5/5
Armada 3.5/5

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Undertale   PC (Steam) 

Killing You with Kindness    4/5 stars

Indie games come and indie games go - many simply go under the radar and fade into memory but a few manage to not just stand out - they make an indelible impact on gaming. In 2015, Toby Fox, almost on his own, released Undertale, an offbeat, heartfelt RPG that took inspiration from everything from Earthbound to Touhou Project and went from a cult following to a mainstream success. From Twitch to Youtube to game awards - it scored big with major critics and audiences alike, spawning a large fandom along the way. While I don't think the game is the be-all, end-all of RPGs, it does have a cast of quirky, fun characters, a unique battle system and surprisingly emotional story. For RPG fans, it should not be missed.

Looks and Stuff: First off, the aesthetic of the game will either be charming or kind of ugly depending on how you look at it. The overworld is certainly filled with a variety of strange and charming characters - from the doggos to the skeletons, frogs and sea creatures - it's certainly filled with unique monsters. Provided you don't kill everything in your path, most of the monsters you battle eventually become overworld characters you can talk to later on. The game is played in a top-down perspective, but when you enter battle it changes to a first-person RPG battle system - and the monster designs are also spot on in this mode. But while the looks of the game may be divisive, the one thing this game has going for it is the soundtrack. Fox did almost everything in the game himself, including the soundtrack, and this game hits it out of the ballpark. In fact, I would say that aside from Celeste (another indie, how about that), there hasn't been another recent game that has had this good of a soundtrack. One of the most well-known songs from the game is "Megalovania" which, surprisingly, you can only get during the Genocide run that is frowned upon by the rabid Undertale fandom - but it is a banger and if you don't decide to kill everyone in the game, you should check it out on its own. The dialogue throughout the game is also pretty hilarious (when not trying to get all emotional on you) - with brother skeletons Sans and Papyrus, Royal Guard captain Undyne and anime-loving scientist Alphys and her creation entertainment bot Mettaton providing plenty of amusing content throughout the game. But don't skimp on the side characters at all - especially the shop-keepers, there are some great little asides to find as you play through. I had no crashes and only ran into one odd feature - for the first part of the game, I had no music - sound effects, but none of the awesome soundtrack. Once I dug into Steam and synced things back up, it worked fine, however, so I chalk that up to Steam and not the game itself.

Story: The intro spells out what we're getting into - the world of humans and monsters - and, of course, a war has driven the monsters underground and, not only, that, a barrier prevents them from entering back into the human world. The game begins with your character falling down into the land of the monsters and being faced by the helpful Flowey - before he goes all mental and tells you it's kill or be killed world and just before you unceremoniously get an early game over, you are re-rescued by the kind-hearted Toriel. She is nice enough to walk you through a few puzzles before absentmindedly leaving you on your own while making a pie. Despite her nature, she realizes she cannot keep you forever and sadly lets you go to journey back to your home but not before trying to fight you - and you can choose to fight or not - and this is the main theme of the game. Soon enough you meet Sans and Papyrus (also the face that launched a thousand memes), skeleton brothers (and named after the fonts - as well as how their dialogue is presented) who "guard" the first area of Snowdin. Sans is a slacker extreme while Papyrus wants nothing more than to join the illustrious Royal Guard - but their puzzles and traps are no match for a young boy - and you might even make a couple of new friends. But your next challenge is a tougher nut to crack as you enter Waterfall and find yourself behind pursued by the head of the Royal Guard, Undyne. Should you survive (or take down) Undyne, you find yourself in Hotland and meet the scientist Alphys along with her creation Mettaton, an entertainment/killer robot. Your goal is the reach the CORE and head straight for the surface - where you must face the kind king Asgore - well, kind, but also collecting human souls so he can break down the barrier and free the monsters once and for all - and guess whose next on the menu? But should you survive (or eliminate) the good king, a familiar face is there to taunt you with fourth-wall breaking madness - Flowey, who hides his own secret.

Gameplay: As with a typical RPG, you can fight and kill any enemy you encounter but, unlike a typical RPG, you also have an ACT ability - from hum to unhug to pet to joke - each enemy has from two to four options and choosing one of these instead of outright attacking opens up a mini bullet-hell lite fight. Pick the right options and eventually you can SPARE every enemy in the game. While things start off easy, late boss and mini-boss fights can get hairy but he game provides ample save points and if you fall, you won't lose much progress. Each enemy you SPARE gives you DETERMINATION while every enemy you kill increases your EXP and LOVE. You can acquire gold as well and buy a few weapon/armor upgrades as you go as well as healing items. Each area of the game has a set number of enemies to get the True Pacifist end you must not increase your EXP or LOVE ever, while the Genocide route is the complete opposite - you must kill EVERY enemy in the game, spare even a single one and you will get the Neutral ending instead. The game features a fair bit of lore and it's recommended to talk to every character for flavor and examine everything you can for context. Despite its fairly comedic tone, there is plenty of emotion under the surface, especially as you reach the end game.

Replay value: There are three main routes one can take - true pacifist, neutral and genocide - along with a Hard Mode for those so inclined. Of note is that the Genocide route, if completed, alters the other endings you can get and, aside from hacking the game, cannot be changed once unlocked. The game also has a few secrets for those who like to poke around.

Final Verdict: And indie achievement for the ages that proves you don't have to have AAA aspirations to make a lasting impact.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 4/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Replay: 4/5
Overall (not an average): 4/5

 

 


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