How would you feel if, in character creation, a game just straight up told you that no matter what you did, none of what you chose in the game mattered? Naturally, you would assume that one would react poorly to this sort of thing; but when I first fired up Deltarune, I was initially curious as to what they meant by that and decided to play along.
A lot of this is because I never played Toby Fox’s other game Undertale (hah, I see what he did there, that smart guy) and wanted to see what he was aiming for when Deltarune also openly stated, if not outright warned me that this game was mostly intended for players for finished Undertale (which again, I never did), and largely in part because my friend Lauren recommended I give it a try. So if things went sideways I could at least have someone I could just say “Yo What the Fork?” when it was all said and done.
The chapter started as a weird rejiggering of Undertale’s characters in a way that I most likely won't have the context to understand. But from there it transitions to a standard Hero’s Journey, albeit one that is told well. A lot of this has to do with some of the newer characters that are introduced; Ralsei and Susie both remind me of the ways I behave in that the former wants to try their best to be a good person and avoid conflict and the latter is just a giant asshole about most things (though if you got stuck in a weird new world, you’d be a reflexive asshole too). It’s largely through the perspectives of these two characters (though more from the former than the latter at times) that you can see the greater thematic of Deltarune unfold through the ways they talk to and treat others and the ways they deal with conflict, the latter of which is greatly represented through gameplay.
The gameplay is presented as an old-school JRPG, but with the main conceit of enemy encounters being largely done non-lethally. While you can attack and treat enemy fights like you would in any other game, here they are treated as being less than optimal. This is best exemplified in the tutorial where Ralsei straight up tells you that the actions of convincing and sparing foes are straight-up a part of the battle system.
But I noticed an interesting wrinkle to the whole thing to tie into the whole “your choices don’t matter” bit I mentioned earlier. When you get into combat and choose to fight enemies, they run away when they get brought to a low enough health threshold. This can also cause certain scenes in the game to play out slightly differently depending on if you choose to go violent or peaceful, but the overall outcome is based largely on replaying certain bits of the game out of curiosity. Even the secret boss, who is the definition of chaotic evil, only changes slightly (turns into a weapon for you to use if violence was used and a piece of armor if peaceful). Combine that with a bonkers ending and it leaves you wanting more.
Deltarune is a weird game. And I say that in the nicest way I can think of. Its story, while well-worn fare, is well told and has a pretty…interesting sense of humor; I’m not entirely sure it’s my bag, but I certainly chuckled more than once at the absurdity of the whole thing. That combined with a cool as heck pacifism-as-JRPG-combat system and an ending that I REFUSE to go in detail about (seriously it’s a needs to be seen type deal) just leaves me wanting more out of this wild ride. Consider me in, Mr. Fox.
MOJO’S NOTE: It also has some of the most Kicking music, battle or otherwise I’ve heard in a turn-based RPG in forever.
All images provided from here https://www.igdb.com/games/deltarune/presskit