Hands-on: Undertale creator releases surprise sequel, Deltarune

Back in 2015, Toby Fox released Undertale, a small sprite-based indie RPG that had one simple gimmick: you didn’t have to kill anyone. It exploded into popularity, quickly becoming an indie success. Over the years, it was eventually ported to the PS4 and Switch, and besides a very small amount of altered content, the games were largely straight ports. Toby Fox did good work and the saga of Undertale was over.

Or at least, that’s what we all thought. Despite Toby Fox saying he was moving on to some new project, a new Undertale game entitled Deltarune was surprisingly released on Halloween. I hesitate to call it a sequel, or prequel, or spin-off, because quite frankly it’s not clear. What is clear is that the two games are connected, involving familiar characters, locales, and plot elements.

I’m going to do my best to not spoil things here, but I’m not even sure I can. You see, Deltarune isn’t a full game. It’s merely a chapter of what appears to be a bigger project. It lasts just as long as Undertale and has just as many secrets,

In Deltarune you take control of a new human (maybe?) and traverse a new world, a world of darkness, in an attempt to get back to the world of light. However, this time you aren’t alone. You have a party of friends and other characters with you, and this is where the game gets interesting.

In Undertale, your choice of whether to fight or spare your opponent was solely yours. This is not the case in Deltarune. You have a party and your party members will have ideas about what the best way to fight monsters will be. If they decide to go aggro, you’ll have to figure out a way to manage both them and the enemy in order to avoid harming anyone. This puts extra pressure in every battle which just wasn’t there in Undertale.

In fact, Deltarune appears to be an attempt to address all the common complaints about Undertale. Many people said it wasn’t much of a game so Deltarune adds more gameplay elements. For example, weapons now have uses even if you are going for a pacifist ending since they give you extra passive effects.

Better battles

Deltarune also integrates TP and magic into the game. While your main character cannot use any magic, your party members can. This opens up yet new ways to end battles peacefully. For example, you can put enemies to sleep and “pacify” them as an alternative to using your ACTs and sparing them. You can also heal your party with magic instead of items, which actually makes Deltarune’s more complex battles a bit more manageable. There are even Chrono Trigger-esque dual techs to use, some of which can end battles relatively quickly.

It’s worth noting that the battle system has received quite the overhaul. Instead of playing out battles in a head on Earthbound style, battles take place in a side-facing Final Fantasy style. This means you can actually see what your party is doing as they attack, defend, and compliment the enemy. You still dodge enemy attacks in bullet-hell style, but since you have multiple party members you can actually spread out the damage, depending on who is being targeted. Speaking of multiple party members, this also means that you get multiple actions in a round. So you can, say, set up the conditions to end the battle peacefully with one character and then do so with another.

Mechanics weren’t the only thing that was overhauled. The entire game has gotten a graphical facelift from its predecessor. Sprites are bigger, environments are more detailed, animations are more fluid. It feels a little bit less like an RPG Maker style indie game and a bit more like a genuine retro production.

And just like Undertale, Deltarune comes with an amazing soundtrack. Many of the tracks are remixes from the original Undertale score, but others are completely new. Honestly, it’s the sound-fonts that I find most interesting. The main game uses sounds that are taken straight form Earthbound, while the battles have a Breath of Fire III quality to them. There are even some dungeons that use Gameboy-esque sound-fonts. It’s once again a treasure trove of fantastic chiptune tracks.

The first chapter of a mystery

But the real reason to play Delatrune is the mystery it sets up. Yes, it is connected to Undertale, but it’s not quite clear how. You get to meet familiar faces from Undertale but they act differently. Some don’t know each other when they should. Some act like the game is taking place in the far future, some act like it’s in the far past. Maybe it’s just an alternate universe storyline. Maybe it’s something bigger. Either way, as an Undertale fan, I was immediately hooked.

There are a few shortcomings to point out, though. First, Deltarune seems to have fewer endings than Undertale did, but that might be because this is just the first chapter. Second, it seems to have fewer hidden secrets, but once again that might be because this is only one chapter of a larger project.

Third, and most importantly, the uninstaller is extremely bugged. Instead of uninstalling the game properly it just deletes what directory it is in. Thus, I highly suggest you put it in its own folder. If you, say, put it in a folder with other games it will delete those games. It might even delete your entire hard-drive if you put it in a root directory! Practice safe file organization, kids.

I hesitate to give Deltarune a score right now, because it’s clearly not done. However, it’s not really a demo either, nor is it a traditional “chapter” of an episodic game. It’s something entirely its own, and that’s kind of what the Undertale franchise has always been about. To be honest, it probably won’t appeal to anyone who hasn’t played the original, but that’s OK. Heck, if there was ever a reason to get into Undertale franchise if you missed it the first time, then Deltarune is it. Heck, it only takes about four or five hours to play Undertale and it will take you about as long to play through Deltarune. So get to it.

Long story short, this is the follow-up that the Undertale fandom has been waiting for and it does not disappoint. Head on over to the official website and give it a try. Just remember, you accept everything that will happen from now on.