Review – Deltarune: Chapter 1

As much as I adore the game, I don’t want a sequel to Undertale. It’s not that I think that developer Toby Fox wouldn’t do a decent job of it, but it’s a self-contained story that wraps up in a satisfying way. Any attempts to extrapolate on it would feel cheap and lessen the impact.

Luckily, for his follow-up game, Toby Fox isn’t going that route and is instead doing something similar yet wholly new with Deltarune: Chapter 1. It’s something that you can certainly tell is adjacent to Undertale, but doesn’t rely on its presence. It certainly winks and nods at the player who has experienced Undertale, and it states at the beginning that you should probably play that game first, but I don’t see what someone would miss out on aside from those winks and nods.

The winks and nods are pretty great, though.

This is how most of my attempts to make friends go.

OLD FRIENDS

Deltarune doesn’t exist in the same universe or continuity as Undertale, but it borrows heavily from it. At the beginning of the game (after it chastises you for trying to create a character for some reason), you awake as a person of ambiguous gender named Kris and are whisked away to school by your mother Toriel. The town you live in is populated by familiar faces from Undertale, but it’s obvious their characters have simply been transplanted to a new narrative with no connection to their alternate universe selves.

Shortly after arriving at school, you and the school bully, Susie, are whisked away to a dark universe. They’re tasked with saving it by Ralsei, the third member of the principal cast, because apparently there are dark geysers that threaten the balance between light and dark. Uh-huh.

A PLATFORM FOR THE CHARACTERS

The premise sucks, but that’s only because it’s meant to simply serve as a platform for the characters and the dialogue. That’s sort of a shame since Undertale had the best of both worlds, but Deltarune has one major difference in its approach: you travel with a party.

The most compelling part of Undertale was its willingness to let you simply befriend everyone you met, regardless of how hostile they are initially, rather than murder them as you would in any other RPG. Deltarune continues this, but you only speak for yourself. While Ralsei seems to romanticize his role in a great prophecy, Susie thinks everything about it is dumb and prefers to muscle her way back home. It creates friction that, impressively, you get to be part of. You may want to take the friendly route (or maybe you don’t, you fiend), but Susie doesn’t. If you want to be a pacifist, you’ll have to rein in Susie’s impulses and even warn enemies of her hostility.

The combat itself is expanded upon. While Undertale had you engage in battle by your lonesome, here you have up to two other party members that you need to manage. This adds a layer of strategy as you choose who takes action and who hangs back and supports the party. Alongside it is the traditional Undertale system of avoiding conflict by navigating a heart through various hazards, which surprisingly never gets old.

This is how most of my attempts at flirting go.

HEARTBROKEN

Much like Undertale before it, Deltarune is a wonderfully written, optimistic, and lighthearted game. The dialogue pops with witty puns, clever jokes, and heartfelt intimacy. The characters each have a wonderfully established arc that they’re guided through to the satisfying end. It has a lot of the same qualities as Undertale before it.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid comparison with Undertale because it’s so obviously cut from the same cloth. The sound, the music, and, most starkly, the graphical style, are all identical to Undertale.

So, with that in mind, how does it compare?

Not well. It’s still pretty great, though.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Deltarune, but Undertale is a monolith in my mind. It’s a warm, funny getaway with fun characters, a unique world, and a rocking soundtrack. Deltarune has those, but not at the same level. It has fun characters, but the focus is jammed so close to the main cast, that you never really get to meet anyone truly memorable and unique. The world is… Actually kind of crap. It’s a bunch of corridors and doesn’t feel like a cohesive, living place. It’s also really ugly, lacking in detail and featuring way too much blank space. It lacks the warm havens that punctuated Undertale, and instead railroads you from fight to fight without really letting you off the rails.

No complaints about the music, though, but I didn’t find anything as memorable as I did in Undertale.

UNDER UNDERTALE

It’s hard to complain. Deltarune: Chapter 1 is free, after all, and it’s pretty impressive because of that. It’s a 6hour slice of adventure the feels complete, despite what the whole “Chapter 1” business implies. It’s left open, but the tale it tells is fully wrapped up by the end. It’s a gooey slice of warmth. A nice little snack provided with love.

There are not many substantial complaints I can make about the game except it can’t escape comparison with Undertale and it’s easily lost within its shadow. A lot of what made Undertale great is here, it’s just not as pronounced. It doesn’t hit the mark as often. It wasn’t able to drill quite as far down into my heart. It hasn’t nestled itself into my psyche. It’s Undertale Lite. All the flavour, but none of the calories.

On the other hand, it’s still a pretty great game in its own right. If you’re a fan of Undertale, or even if you aren’t and just want a nice and positive game to curl up with, you owe it to yourself to check it out. After all, you’ve got nothing to lose except an afternoon.

8/10

This review was conducted on a Nintendo Switch using a digital copy of the game. It was free, which the author appreciates.

About Adzuken 154 Articles
Adzuken has been gaming for as far back as they can remember. Their eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer.

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