Updated: Jan 25, 2019
Developer: Toby Fox
THIS ENTIRE REVIEW IS A SPOILER FOR UNDERTALE (not for Deltarune). It's kind of impossible for me to talk about this game without giving away at least some details about its predecessor.
I debated whether to review a game that already has so much attention and hype around it; however, in essence, it's still an indie project that many have yet to play, so I figured I'd jump on a very current game for once.
Most are familiar with Undertale, a 2015 indie 2D RPG game that the gaming community collectively calls one of the best games of this generation. Deltarune isn't exactly a sequel to Undertale, but it's definitely connected (how it's connected is the real question). Nonetheless, If you haven't played Undertale, you definitely shouldn't play this game yet. It definitely will not be as enjoyable without full previous knowledge of Undertale and all of its endings.
Now, I should preface with my own opinion of Undertale. It's a clever game, but - I do think it is overhyped. I don't think it's as genius as people claim it to be. The weight placed on your choices can be paralyzing and can almost feel judgemental. The game's sarcasm and awareness was humorous at times, but other times just felt a little too forced. I mention this only because these are attributes about Undertale that, to my happy surprise, were toned down in Deltarune.
Deltarune was released in a most unconventional, unexpected way. Toby Fox released it on Halloween without any prior warning and actually called it a "survey" file in the first 24 hours when some had access to it. No one was really expecting an entire game from Toby Fox, so it was a pleasant surprise. It should be noted that this is "Chapter One" of Deltarune - which means there is definitely more to come.
Deltarune is the same type of game as its predecessor, with a few key differences. Graphics are still retro-style and pixelated, but definitely improved. It has Undertale's bullet-style RPG combat, however, it occasionally breaks away from that for some live attacks while you're traveling. Also, you get to have a party, as opposed to fighting alone. Despite the fact that Undertale had quirky and lovable characters, it didn't have companions that could join you for your journey. I find that a party RPG system can sometimes be overwhelming and confusing, especially with different types of characters. However, since Deltarune's combat system is as simple as Undertale's, it works splendidly.
I loved Deltarune's primary characters, or party characters, probably more than I liked any character in Undertale (I know, don't kill me - I do like Sans). They were colorful, literally and metaphorically, and dynamic as the story progressed. It's clear why there's so much great fanart spawning from this game. The protagonist Kris, who you play as, is given much more context and backstory than you would be used to from Undertale. The rest of the party characters, who I won't spoil for you, each serve a vastly different role from one another. Despite the fact that this is not a long game, you see each of them grow through the events of Deltarune. Much like Undertale, Deltarune is full a little secrets. After having finished my playthrough, I streamed others playing the game on Twitch and discovered I had missed some non-essential parts of the game. Finding this out was surprising but also exciting, and it gives me a reason to go back to the game.
As expected, the whole of Deltarune's soundtrack is excellent. It doesn't completely rely on Undertale to build off of, but it does remind us of its beloved score. Anyone who's read my previous reviews knows I'm a huge fan of Laura Shigihara's musical work. Hearing that she was involved in Deltarune's official soundtrack was one of the motivators to play this game so soon, and I was not disappointed. Her voice perfectly conveys a sense of child-like wonder and loneliness at the same time, so her song in this game is on point.
I won't go as far as say I think Deltarune is better than Undertale, but there's qualities about it that appealed to me specifically and made it connect with me a little better. Once I started it, I wasn't really able to stop until I finished it. I highly recommend it, whether you loved Undertale or you thought it wasn't worth all the praise. It feels short, yes, but it is only chapter one - I promise you'll be intrigued to see the next chapter(s) when you reach the end of this game. Lastly, it's free, so why wouldn't you play it?
Deltarune is available for PC.
Played on: PC (direct download)
Playtime: 3 hrs
How I heard about this game: The hype on Twitter
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR DELTARUNE BELOW THIS LINE
Again, please do not read this if you have not played both Undertale and Deltarune.
The first thing Deltarune tells you is "YOUR CHOICES DON'T MATTER". Despite the fact that I enjoyed learning about Undertale's multiple endings and repercussions of choices, this felt like an excellent way to preface a sequel. I felt less pressure to overthink every action, and just enjoyed the ride.
I'm sure this has already been pointed out by someone else, but it's worth pointing out. I believe Ralsei, the sweet and peaceful prince, represents the Pacifist route. Susie, the violent and selfish "mean girl", represents the Genocide route. Kris therefore, should represent the neutral route. He's definitely very neutral in that you can go either way, switch midway, and so-forth, to the same outcome.
One of the reasons I really enjoyed Deltarune was for it's incredible ending. Yes, it's basically the same as one of Undertale's endings, one that is activated if you initially went down the Genocide Route. However, it's shocking, because this time you didn't make any choices to lead you to that result. You could have done everything right. No matter what you do, Kris is still a dark, dark character who only reveals their true nature once everything seems to be okay. Your choices actually don't matter. I applaud Toby Fox for somehow turning the idea of his first game on its head, and yet still making this game equally surprising and impactful.
We're aware from the title that Toby Fox clearly likes to play with rearranging words, so I'm open to any and all theories of Ralsei and Asriel being one and the same. Kris and Frisk are only a little further off, but I'll take it all the same. Oh, and let me to take this last moment to just tell you how much I adore little Ralsei. I know there's Susie people and there's Ralsei people, but he's just such a good boy, and definitely the best character (onion friend in the photo above is second).
There's still a lot of theorizing to be done about how and when Undertale and Deltarune connect, but Toby Fox has assured us that it is not "a prequel or a sequel, but taking place in an alternate world". This world is one where it seems that not only have the events of Undertale not occurred, but perhaps the Monster and Human War never occurred. The next chapter may answer more of these questions, but until then, keep those theories coming.