My Review: Undertale

Undertale, developed by Toby Fox, has to be one of the best games that I have played in a while. It is quite hard to mention much about this game without spoiling what makes this game great. If you are deciding whether to purchase then I would suggest trying the demo first before reading this.

What first captured my interest in this game was the music. Not only do all the major characters have their own amazing theme, the small touches that are added to the area music based upon your actions was an interesting surprise.

Player character in the starting area

The gameplay is perhaps one of the most unique aspects of this game. It consists of a bar moving along a gauge when choosing to fight enemies (the closer you get to the centre, the more damage you do), and requires shoot-’em-up style evasive maneuvers when defending. Defending can be fairly lax, but, since all enemies attack at the same time, fighting multiple enemies in the same encounter will make dodging become very difficult. There is a similar effect with bosses in that each boss has their own method of attack which requires their own method of dodging.

Defending againt a single enemy

Undertale is advertised as being able to be played entirely non-violently if you wish, which I found to be true for all opponents except one but it is entirely possible that I may have missed something. By learning the personalities of your enemies you can ‘befriend’ them or at least convince them to stop fighting you.

Attempting to befriend an opponent

The characters and dialogue are vibrant and full of humor, even when least expected. General NPC’s that are found in towns, and occasionally outside of towns, have dialogue that relays a sense of their personality, which adds to the feeling that . All of the characters were so original and endearing that I find it in myself to fight them and not befriend them.

Of course, there are many things that are in this game that I didn’t cover, such as the mass amounts of adorable dogs, optional backtracking that leads to even more dialogue with the main characters and my favorite character Napstablook (who I originally pronounced Nap-Stab-Look, but is actually Napsta-Blook), who, if you try to fight him, won’t take damage because he is a ghost but will lower his health anyway just to be nice. In the end, I can’t recommend this game enough. It plays with the typical knowledge that people have about 2D role-playing games and manipulates them, and the result of that is this amazing game.

This review can also be found here, on Steam.

Images:

Undertale Logo [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://undertale.com/images/undertale_logo.png

Screenshot 9 [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://undertale.com/nscreens/xscreen9.png

Screenshot 5 [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://undertale.com/nscreens/xscreen5.png

Screenshot 2 [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://undertale.com/nscreens/xscreen2.png

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Curated Content

I recently created a playlist of games that really made an impact on me. Of course, if I was to list every game that I loved then the list would be ridiculously long. This list contains the games that entered my mind first. The playlist contains the following games, with no commentary, in this order:

Undertale

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

The Wonderful 101

Dark Souls

Bloodborne

Xenoblade Chronicles

Shadow of the Colossus

All of these games have amazing music, interesting stories, great game-play and fantastic design. it is these types of games, games that utilize all creative aspects available, that I really wish to create.

Predictions of the Future

A recent read of the book ‘The Pirate’s Dilemma’ by Matt Mason has presented me with some interesting perspectives on the gaming industry.
The Pirate's Dilemma Cover

The book discusses the impact that pirate media has had on society and how it has changed how businesses operate. Pirate media is media that has been obtained or is shared/broadcasted illegally. Gaming companies have been fighting pirates for ages, believing that they are just common thieves that are trying get free entertainment. Given the recent state of the AAA industries, I believe that these pirates are trying to spark the ignition of change.

These pirate’s are looking at the current state of the gaming industry and seeing the game industry treating their fans, and gamers in general, horribly. With every ‘major’ game release comes a pile of ‘exclusive editions’ of the game at different retailers that offer to people different items that are not available anywhere else. Watch_Dogs was perhaps the most notorious for this, offering items labeled as ‘iconic’ even though the game wasn’t even released yet as well as multiple single-player missions at multiple different retailers (guaranteeing that no player would have the entire game).

Small Anecdote: Even I have had a recent experience with bad retailers. I recently bought Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain on PS4 which came with a free code to unlock some in-game items. When I entered the code into the Playstation Store, I was greeted with a message saying that my code was invalid even though I bought the game new. Sometimes they can’t even have quality in their additional ‘content’.

It is this scale of profit vs quality that pirate’s, as well as gamers, are fighting. The AAA industry sees them as thieves, but their main purpose is competition. The pirate’s offer the same content for free but with drawbacks such as; uncertainty on the side of the consumer since what they believe is a game might turn out to be a virus, possibly slow download speeds and, obviously, it is illegal.

My prediction for the future is that AAA companies need to see this as a challenge and not as a threat. If they continue to hinder consumers with ridiculous DLC (downloadable content), which is sometimes on the disc that consumers buy but is locked away behind a pass code, and DRM (digital rights management), they will begin to see a dramatic loss in consumers willing to buy their games. They need to begin to see games as a form of creative expression and not as an outright business.

If they do nothing, they will be beaten by the many creative and amazing developers that are starting their own projects at Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.
Kickstarter Logo

IndieGoGo Logo

There are developers there already that have created award winning games before, seeking or have attained funding, for their projects, by people that trust their work. The current AAA industry needs to facilitate their own change otherwise talented developers will rise and start their own companies, which will replace the current AAA companies.

Additional Material 1:

The following is former EA CEO John Riccitiello at a stockholder’s meeting.
My apologies for the bad audio quality (this in not my upload but the uploader added some, fairly fitting, music).

Hopefully I won’t see the day where I need to pay to reload my gun in any game.

Additional Material 2:

Due to WikiLeaks’ recent unveiling of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), it appears as though my prediction my not come to pass. It seems as though, at least from a video game perspective, that companies and countries continue to view piracy as an outright threat and are drafting the ‘TPP, the largest-ever economic treaty’ to deal with all forms of copyright. Now, I know that video games aren’t the only thing that the TPP can target and that this draft may just be to protect pharmaceuticals and other large markets, but since the agreement refers IP (Intellectual Property) in general it is safe to assume that this agreement could be used to target the video game industry as well.

References:

Mason, M. (2008). The Pirate’s Dilemma. New York, America: Free Press

The Pirate’s Dilemma [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://thepiratesdilemma.com/images/us-book_cover.jpg

Kickstarter Logo [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.kickstarter.com/download/kickstarter-logo-light.png

IndieGoGo Logo [Image] (n.d.). Retrieved from https://g1.iggcdn.com/assets/site/brand/IGG_Logo_Frame_GOgenta_RGB-2-f8565fa188a9dd16fb6c67321150b94e.png

My Media Use

As a prospective video game designer, the media technology that I use most would be the PC, and mp3. Not a day goes by that I don’t use my laptop to play games, study, do work or look at the news. Same goes for my music that I store on my phone. I am always wearing headphones, listening to music, podcasts or youtube videos whenever I get the chance.

The PC is what I use most. The sheer breadth of information that is accessible via the PC is astounding as is ever-increasing. People can start careers, learn about the world or even create an online persona through their PC and the Internet. There is very little that one cannot do with a PC and an Internet connection.

My other most used media form, mp3, I use as a luxury. Most of the music that I listen to consists of video game and anime soundtracks. What I enjoy about that music the most is that good video game and anime music conveys the feelings of the scene that the music was played in.

What brought me to study Games Design.

Video games are a medium of entertainment that I am very fond of. They have helped me to expand my views by presenting new ways of thinking, new cultures (real or otherwise) and have allowed me to momentarily remove myself from reality. For me, there is no specific genre of video game that stands out above the rest. I see video games as a culmination of almost all, if not all, creative mediums. I suppose my view would be best defined by the term Immersion, meaning that if a game can’t make me believe that what happening in the game is natural or if certain elements of game design clash, then that can really hinder my enjoyment and dissuade me from playing.

The game that perhaps influenced me the most would be Dark Souls. It was really the Souls series that facilitated the change from my previous tertiary studies to Games Design.

Dark Souls Cover Art

Dark Souls is an action role-playing game developed by FromSoftware and is one of the most amazing games the I have ever played. Everything from the music to the game-play and to the design of the game is great. The music fits well with the game’s theme and story, with fast,heavy music for intense boss fights and sombre music for the final boss which ties in with his backstory. The game-play is rewarding and requires you to learn about your opponents and their position, but once but you have learned that then the pace of the game is entirely dependent upon you. There are also different stats which, when increased, allows the use of specialized abilities which can entirely alter the style of game-play.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this game is how the story is conveyed to the player. The only section of story that is given to the player is an overview of events that happened before the player started. Every character that the player can speak to has their own bias and the only other available source of information is on item descriptions that can be found in the player’s inventory. Dark Souls does an excellent job of trying to get the player to actively search out threads of story so that they can unravel the mysteries of the game world on their own.

The culmination of all these elements, and many more that aren’t listed here such as multiplayer, NPC’s, enemies, architecture, etc., are what make this into a fantastic game. I hope that, in my future endeavors, I can make a game such as this,

Image:

Dark Souls Cover Art (Western Regions) [Image]. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/8d/Dark_Souls_Cover_Art.jpg