The gaming industry today is seeing an unrivaled amount of purchases and releases and with all of the games coming out now, you might expect to see a whole lot of games that are totally unique and represent a clear vision. This is not always the case, however, as game developers today tend to focus on what has worked instead of what might work. That is why Undertale was such a breath of fresh air to me. Every aspect of Undertale is something completely original and it was all executed perfectly. Surprisingly, the entire game was made mostly by Toby Fox in a program known as GameMaker. It was funded on Kickstarter with a goal of $5,000, but it surpassed that goal tenfold, eventually netting over $50,000 by the end of the campaign.
Undertale puts its own spin on a lot of elements that most gamers are used to seeing in the typical video game. The monsters that see you as an enemy all have their own personalities and on top of that, there is an option to spare them instead of always fighting. Contrary to the ideology in most games, the hero in this game is the one who refuses to fight enemies. The player can kill any monster that gets in their way, as well as all of the major characters in the game, but in Undertale, it becomes exceedingly clear that those who do that are the villain in the game.
One other unique aspect of Undertale was its incorporation of the "save" and "load" features that we as players are used to seeing and utilizing and it was made into a core part of the game. The first encounter that the player gets into is a talk with the game's main antagonist, Flowey the Flower. Flowey, a seemingly friendly yellow flower, is actually a demonic entity with sinister plans for the world. Flowey somehow knows that the player has the ability to "control time" through the use of saving and loading and stresses that the world has a "kill or be killed" philosophy. This really transcends the immersion that game developers strive for and it felt, to me, like I was being involved in the game as opposed to my character being involved.
Although the game has these unique and heavy themes behind it, it balances it out with a lovable level of humor that makes exploring the game and talking to characters actually enjoyable. Undertale is the only game that I have ever played that made me feel compelled to talk to characters and complete everything due to the thought and effort put into every detail of the game. Every action taken is reflected on later at some point, whether it's to make the player laugh, or (and believe me when I say this) to make the player cry.
In terms of gameplay, the mixture of bullet-hell and RPG was something that most would have scoffed at before seeing Undertale firsthand. It provides a skillful and meaningful challenge in the midst of turn-based RPG-style combat. Whether you choose to face your enemies to the death or try a nonviolent approach, you always react to the abilities of their enemies by maneuvering around as a red heart, known as the player's SOUL. Should the SOUL take too much damage, a game over screen will appear and the player will need to restart at their last save point. Each boss fight introduces a new mechanic in their fight, for example, one boss fight forces the player to guard against attacks instead of trying to dodge them.
Throughout my entire experience playing Undertale, I was constantly listening to the brilliant soundtrack created solely by Toby Fox. The music in this game always compliments the environment and creates tension where needed. The sounds and visuals in some parts of the game were actually enough to make me feel unsettled, despite the retro-style graphics and music. In addition to each boss bringing on new mechanics during their fights, they also have their own themes that mirror how they are in-game. The entire soundtrack fits with every character and every area in the game and it is no exaggeration to say that Undertale has one of the greatest soundtracks ever composed.
With its unique themes and concepts, its hilarious and lovable cast of characters, the magnificent soundtrack, and its deceptively heavy and dark story line, it's no wonder that Undertale has gotten the reception that it has. Everything in this game caught me off-guard and it defied every single expectation I had for it in the best way possible. It's normally easy for me to catch and point out flaws in games, but I've yet to be able to think of one for Undertale. The game has more character and effort put into it than any other game released this year and without even waiting for the year to end, I would say, without a doubt in my mind, that Undertale is my pick for Game of the Year.