Undertale is one of those games that the Internet discovered, for better or for worse, and spread the obsession. I wouldn't have discovered it otherwise and am grateful for that, but as a result, it's harder to introduce the game to new people. When you share the obsession with nameless faces, new players may find out details and spoilers that they would have more fun discovering on their own. Stepping back is important.
A few years ago, I would have considered it unrealistic that someone would play Undertale without spoilers. I looked up spoilers and Let's Plays for myself before buying and playing, since I had never played an RPG before, and wasn't planning to start anytime soon.
2022 and 2023 have dispelled these preconceived notions. My friend Harel Cohen played Undertale this year. He understood my obsession better, and my buttoned mouth about spoilers. When I found out my friend Risa was having trouble with a glitched version, I got her the Switch version as a late birthday present since she was playing on the Nintendo Switch.
They're Called Spoilers For A Reason
For a few years, the fandom had a reputation for spoiling the game when new people entered the scene. Others take issues with the ships that have emerged, and the many AUs. YouTubers like the RPG Monger have covered the worst stories, and we will go into some of them below.
I still believe that new players at least need to know that there are three main ways to play. Otherwise, you may end up on a path that you do not like and would have to reset, which can undo hours of work.
Sometimes, however, a player requests to not find out anything. They want to experience the journey firsthand. If that means having to go through a reset? So be it. I respect that.
A "Right" Way To Play Undertale?
Undertale is an RPG deconstruction where you play as a child navigating a world of monsters. Quirky characters enter battle with you, and you can decide if you choose to spare or kill them. Your choices do affect how the rest of the story plays out. Even better, on resets, the game will have characters subconsciously remember all of these choices. As a result, you can play around and find out what chaos you can cause as the text narration judges you.
There are three main paths that you can take when playing the game: Pacifist, Neutral, or Violent. Neutral is the most common for players that may treat the game like a standard RPG. I have tried being a Pacifist in other RPGs like Grimm's Hollow, and it didn't work out for me.
Pacifist is where, no matter what happens, you spare all the monsters. You find solutions when mercy and endurance do not seem to work. This path will lead to my favorite soundtracks, and the best ending, or at least the best ending for everyone involved.
Players refer to the Violent Path as either No Mercy or Genocide, but it's where you aim to kill all the monsters. You know you are on this path when the areas become deserted, and an ominous drone replaces the bouncy soundtrack.
If you play Pacifist after No Mercy, you get a different ending that shows you are not above the consequences of your actions. Doing No Mercy after Pacifist can twist the knife after you spent a long time saving everyone. Not to mention that No Mercy is the hardest, because some of the bosses up the ante and fight much harder than when you are on Pacifist. The final one, in particular, has frustrated many a Let's Player.
Still, some friends don't want to know anything. They will accept the consequences. A few players would rather go in not knowing as well. I did have to play Deltarune with some violence, because I had no idea how to play as a pacifist, thanks to Susie. Fortunately, my playthrough in the first chapter didn’t impact the second.
Where Did Fans Go Wrong?
Not every Undertale fan will micromanage how someone else plays, let's get that out of the way. The joy of Undertale is that new players don't know what they're getting into, and how their actions will impact the story. More likely, a nerd like me will share my favorite soundtracks or covers of certain themes. My tradition every year is to do some Undertale-themed baking on September 15 or October 31, when Deltarune, chapter two, was released. I hope to nail chamomile tea cake and make it fabulous, and to look up other golden-flower ideas.
A minority, however, believes you have to do Pacifist first, No Mercy, and then Pacifist again, that it is the "right" way. If you just want to play once and be done? No dice. The same goes for if you want to do Pacifist but feel guilty when the game begs you not to reset, so everyone has their happy endings. I stopped after Pacifist because I have lots of empathy.
Then we have another minority. They respond viscerally to those that kill monsters. I jokingly call one friend who loves the No Mercy route a "monster," but I know that she will see that as a high compliment. Harassing a stranger for their choices? That is unthinkable.
There is a simple solution if you cannot watch the routes where monsters die: don't watch them. If there were videos where a YouTuber or a VTuber turned Whimsun or Froggit to dust, I would switch to another video. It's as simple as pressing the back button.
What About Let's Players?
A few of the Let's Play creators asked for no spoilers when they started. YouTube and Twitch comments failed to oblige. As a result, the game experience was ruined for them.
RPGMinx was one of the most famous or infamous examples. She requested no spoilers, and yet people yelled at her for killing a monster, and talking about the endings. As a result, she pursued a mostly violent route and admitted that she didn't like the game by the end of her videos. Reddit and Tumblr have the tea.
Markiplier did some voices for the characters, and he received death threats, including some aimed at his dog. As a result, Markiplier stopped his first Let's Play and only resumed a year later for a stream. RPG Monger recounts this harassment in his video.
These actions miss the whole point of Undertale twofold: that your choices lie on you, and showing mercy matters. You have to accept that people will make choices different from yours in games or in real life.
What Do We Need To Remember?
Undertale is not real. No player is turning monsters into dust. You can erase the No Mercy route from your game files if you follow tutorials online. It does not matter what you do within a world of pixels. We are in for the story.
Video games are not real. No matter how meta they get, each one is a work of fiction. Someone put love into every pixel, line of music, and soundtrack.
Fiction can have a positive impact on us, but we can't let it guide us into acts of hatred. Instead, we can let it change us for the better, and inspire actions like baking, creating, or providing emotional support.
When we introduce people to Undertale, we need to let them enjoy the journey and their choices. If they need help, experienced players and the Internet can provide it. It was more rewarding to hear Harel's thoughts without my influence, and for him to understand my love. Hearing Risa’s thoughts will definitely be a treat when she is ready.
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