Hi there, TAY-ians! This is my maiden piece on this site, and to start, I would like to share some thoughts on my favourite and most loathed role-playing games (RPGs) of the past two years. As I’m sure most of you are aware, RPGs are tons of fun, but can take approximately two lifetimes to complete, so between juggling a full-time job and a part-time hobby of tinkering with music, I haven’t played that many recently. Hence, I beg your forgiveness if you feel that my opinions are too mainstream, or if you hate what I like, and like what I hate.
Oh, and these are meant to be as spoiler-free as possible.
With that in mind, let the judgement begin.
Undertale. Oh, what a joy to be playing this.
But let me start by telling you about Toriel, the guardian of the underground ruins. The fact that she was a monster made every instinct in my body scream bloody murder initially, but Toriel seemed different from the hordes of monsters I usually hack into pieces without hesitation. For instance, she would hold my hand when walking me through a bridge of deadly traps, or ask me if I preferred butterscotch or cinnamon pie filling.
“Why is she so nice!?” I yelled to myself one lonely night. “She must have a motive!”
But she didn’t. Instead, she just welcomed me to her place for a nap. When I woke up, right next to the bed was a slice of butterscotch-cinnamon pie.
Such moments are what I live for in Undertale, however mundane they may seem. With more heart than the triple-A fare of recent years, the game features a cast of monsters who are extremely personable: one of them just wants to be an idol, and another is a huge anime dork. And most of them are not that interested in combat. It is really hard to not grow fond of them.
As a result, hurting these monsters becomes a conscious and deliberate choice—and this is one of the many ways Undertale explores the heavy themes of morality and humanity. Persisting in killing more monsters actually made me feel guilty, an emotion that is typically hard to convey in most games. Combine this with the ingenious use of video game tropes to drive its narrative, and it is not hard to see why the title is so well-received.
There have been many amazing RPGs in recent years, but none were quite as astute in breaking video game conventions as Undertale. And that is why it is such a brilliant game.
Most retch-inducing RPG:
My pick for this is Fallout 4—but fine, it wasn’t retch-inducing. It was just lame.
Fallout 4 is rather polarising, with people loving and hating it in equal measure. It’s probably a bit of a stretch to say that it’s a terrible game when I’ve devoted about 150 hours into the game—but it is just not a great RPG. Mediocrity and predictability plague the title, and these are two traits that were never part of the Fallout experience.
Firstly, problem solving is all about shooting, smashing and sniping everything in sight. Take for example my discovery of the Combat Zone, a fight club where the wasteland ruffians and riffraff would take bets on who was best at punching the noggins out of one another. Sounds like fun, right? However, when I stepped into the arena, all the cheers, fun and merriment ended—with everyone channelling their murderous rage towards me.
This is the same everywhere: step into any dilapidated building, and its inhabitants will almost always try to kill me. If I were a tad more poetic I might attribute such occurrences to nihilism and fatalism, but the game is not simply not clever enough for that.
Companions are also disappointingly one-dimensional and devoid of any personality. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bethesda eventually revealed that they are all early models of synthetic humans. Their behavior is so transparent and mechanical that getting into their good books is as easy as smashing a radroach.
Finally, Fallout 4’s narrative makes little sense, as decision-making is constrained by the four conversation branches in its dialogue. For instance, Fallout 4 wants me to resolve a major conflict by taking sides with one major faction. But held back by the lack of real dialogue options, the game could never explore better solutions than just choosing one faction to hang out with.
So what do you think? Do you agree, or would you rather hack me into pieces? Let me know what your favourites and not-so-favourite ones are!
Kyun is a copywriter by day, aspiring musician by night, and gamer by midnight, impossibly early mornings, and when it’s time to actually go to bed. If you like what you read, feel free to say hi to her on Twitter. She also writes for Pixel Dynamo.