I’m not convinced there’s a way to talk about Deltarune, the surprise Undertale follow-up released today by creator Toby Fox, without “spoiling” it.
I’m also averse to call a reveal of the premise of this lovely game demo “a spoiler” — knowing even the most bare-bones details about Deltarune’s setting, story and combat shouldn’t ruin what is a fantastic demo experience.
All that said, I’m sensitive to the concerns of both fans and Fox himself, as he has asked players to refrain from talking about the game during its first 24 hours out there. Any fan of Undertale, whether they played in 2015 or two weeks ago, should make it top priority to take the three hours or so to play Deltarune, though. Not only because the free download’s a treat, but also because avoiding those specifics is only going to get harder.
For those of you who already found time today to delve into Fox’s latest game, read on. If you haven’t yet? Maybe now is the time to load it up. It’s free on Mac and Windows PC right now.
[I already warned you about spoilers.]
It’s clear from the beginning that Deltarune is, if not a direct continuation of Undertale, set in the same universe. The silent hero, Kris, wakes up in their “mother” Toriel’s house, a familiar scene that reintroduces a major face from the first game. Toriel drops Kris off at school, and is known by Kris’ classmates to be a great mother. (Also making an appearance here is Alphys, another favorite from Undertale.) This seems like a pleasant world, and if nothing else, it’s all a markedly mundane and more social change from the isolated beginning of Undertale.
This hardly lasts. A voyage into a dark supply closet suddenly drops Kris into the surreal underground of surreal monsters and puzzles that Undertale built. The defining features remain, like the sense of humor, despite a smaller cast of characters thus far. Even the law of the land is the same: There’s no need for violence here. Acts of kindness are just as powerful.
Like Undertale, Deltarune has non-combative combat and bullet hell-like battles to defend against. But there are still differences that likely won’t become obvious until the full game arrives. It’s not clear how far along this demo is, nor which portion of the full game — if there is going to be such a thing — it represents. It seems like Fox dropped the very first three hours of Deltarune, but part of the fun here is how mysterious everything still is.
But as for what we can already play, it’s the returning theme of “kill ‘em with kindness” in a world lacking it that is least surprising. Pay attention to how a new game starts. I’m asked to choose a name for my character and myself. I design my character, and are complimented for our work; what a beautiful body we’ve made, the game tells me. I answer some personal questions, including the food I like to eat and my blood type.
“All done!” I think.
Everything the game asked before is irrelevant. The story was not mine to make to begin with. Once again, Fox has upended the expectations we may have about an RPG like this.
It’s a heckuva way to kick things off. Just like Undertale, though, Deltarune is something special; even in the moments where it seems just like a refinement of the distinctive elements that worked for Undertale (the battles really feel like second nature after beating that first game), Deltarune is a refreshing return so far. There’s never room to complain about more Undertale.