Let’s end the year with something positive.
I checked out the UnderTale demo. It’s pretty awesome and you should try it out.
Did you try it out? Go try it out first. It’s not too long and it’s actually a surprisingly complete tale all on its own.
Really. Go do that, then come back once you have opinions.
So anyway. I found it a really good take on RPG games at large. I spend a bit of time trying to figure out where I go from the starting area, which is, sadly, actually pretty nostalgic for me, then friendly flower friend wants to help me gain LV from LOVE! I guess it’s one of those friendly games where oh god OH GOD OH GOD
So okay. It’s the dark and miserable take instead, and I fell for it like a sucker which proves its point. This is a place of monsters who want to kill me.
But then yet another monster shows up to “rescue” me. So presumably, there’s some fate worse than just getting my heart blown apart, and this monster’s here to escort me to it. Or perhaps it really is friendly, but in such a nasty world I can’t imagine it’ll have much tolerance for a dumb kid like me. So, either fattening me up for something worse or about to abandon me after a short tutorial/get mad and attack me when I screw up.
It seems to be going the latter way at first. I mean, she’s telling me how to solve the puzzles, I guess she’s nice just for being willing to give a bit of aid to the newbie before cutting me loose to try to survive or die on my own. And then the levers to solve the puzzle are marked up so I won’t miss them…so, what happens if I disobey and try the unmarked one?
So what does that mean, then????????
The puzzles that she’s actually solving for me continue. Maybe it’s to lure me into a false sense of security? Then she says I need to walk down a hall alone now. We’re back to either me getting marched to my death or her deciding she’s done enough and thinking this is the best way to part.
But there’s nothing in the hall, and then she pops out again to tell me she was there the whole time and was just testing me to see how brave I was.
It’s by this point that the third possibility is growing, that she’s legitimately coddling me. Is that what I have to escape – or will she react badly if I step outside the narrative she’s created by trying to do stuff on my own and be attacked?
And then she leaves me and says to wait for her. Obviously just waiting won’t do anything, so progressing the game means moving on in defiance of what she told me.
But I don’t really want to. It’s obvious I need to do things myself to actually get out of the cave I’ve fallen into, but she seems to be sincere about wanting to protect me, and leaving will presumably wreck the relationship.
Still, what else is there? So I start walking.
I’m told not to try fighting anyone and just try talking to delay them until she rescues me, and, due to not understanding the mechanics when I accidentally selected fight against the training dummy, I thought I actually didn’t have any means of fighting at the moment. (I was also told to call her if anything happened, but as I was in the act of disobeying, I didn’t dare touch it. It was nerve-wracking enough when she called me.)
Mostly because of that misunderstanding, I don’t try fighting the first monster. I compliment the frog instead. And it still attacks me…but it says it’s not that into attacking me. When I try the option of just examining it, it seems even less like an actual monster. The anxious, unwilling fairy reinforces this, and the ghost just confirms that I’m supposed to be engaging with the monsters, not killing them for their stuff.
But while talking and then running lets me end battles, it doesn’t get me anything. I try the “spare” option, and find that gets me a bit of gold but no experience points. So I’m slowly whittled down.
And I find myself looking for acceptable targets. Mold?…but when I try engaging it rather than attacking, it responds favorably. There’s another one that seems pretty evil, but I’m told it merely fell in with a bad crowd – I can’t kill something that’s just trying to sound evil because it thinks it has to! But there’s some vegetables. They don’t react favorably to me talking to them and there’s an eat option and they seem to want to be eaten, so I attack them and eat their weakened bodies (they told me to!) and heal. A little. Not much. And the rest keep coming.
And it’s not fair – they’re the ones attacking me. I spend my turn talking, and they spend theirs attacking – and when there’s two, that means one is trying in earnest even though I’m not hurting them at all and keep doing my best to be peaceful. One of them yells at me not to pick on it – and so I pick that option, it’s pleased, and yet it’s still attacking me just a little less violently, and anyway, I wasn’t doing anything wrong when it started this fight, was I? I wasn’t picking on it before it attacked me either. Why should I have to be nice to something like this? What’s even the point? If I just kill them, I can level up and I’ll be safer from them.
But I don’t need to – not yet, at least. The save points heal me and I’m getting better at the dodging minigame, and it’s not like killing them speeds the battles or anything.
And then I’ve made it to the helpful monster’s house. And she’s not mad at me, just happy I’m not hurt, and the pie she was talking about wasn’t anything sinister but just an actual pie. She really was just concerned for me.
She doesn’t want me to leave at all, in fact.
But is that unreasonable? No one who disappeared on this mountain ever made it back, and I don’t think it was because she was killing them. She does seem lonely and glad to have me here, but that doesn’t mean she’s acting selfishly.
I can’t stay, though. Even if no one’s made it back before, I have to try.
So she says she’ll blow the portal up. I follow after her, trying to talk her out of it, and finally in front of it, she says I have to prove I’m strong enough if I want her to let me through.
I see if I can talk, but it seems I can’t think of anything to say. I try to spare her, but it doesn’t work. And she’s battering me with her attacks. I don’t think she’ll kill me, but if she wins, she’ll say I have to stay and destroy the portal.
She didn’t say I had to kill her, just show her how strong I am, so I start attacking. I do damage, although not as much as she’s doing to me. I try to spare her again, but it seems I haven’t done well enough for her to listen, so I go back to attacking. It seems I’m getting better or luckier with the attack patterns, because I stop taking damage just before I run out of life…and then, while I’m whittling away at her health, I suddenly do massive damage and kill her.
She lasts long enough to prove that all she cared about was protecting me and tell me to stay safe. And then the door’s open and I won the demo. I walk forward and forward and forward. And Flowery’s there to rub in what I did. He says I can’t go back and undo it, and he’s right – reloading the save file wouldn’t change the fact that when I was presented with this world, I tried the nice way but in the end I defaulted to violence because it seemed what I was supposed to do. I was always looking for a justification to resolve things in the way that benefited me, to pick the simpler route.
If I had failed – died or simply not been allowed through – I could have just tried a different way afterward, more secure that this really was my only option. Instead my first try was to play the game and attack someone who’d been nothing but kind to me, because it’s how these games work, right?