It's Halloween, and indie game creator Toby Fox has a trick and a treat for us. Delta Rune, a follow-up to (and an anagram of!) the immensely popular RPG Undertale is here. It's free. You can download it now.
Yesterday, Fox used Twitter to hint he's been up to something. 24 hours later, as promised, he showed us what that "something" is: Delta Rune. A fully fleshed-out RPG that's seemingly a direct sequel to Undertale.
I tucked into Delta Rune as soon as possible, but I'm still not finished (my understanding is there might be multiple episodes, though I've read as little as possible about the game to avoid spoilers). Between the upcoming Smash Bros Ultimate Direct and Delta Rune arriving like a crack of thunder, it's been quite the week. All my best-laid plans have been uprooted, and they're long since blown away on the wind.
Most game sites carefully organize their weekly coverage on Monday mornings. We go over planned reviews, editorials, features, and impressions. Now here's an exclusive look at what happens to those plans when a #NintendoDirect is announced. pic.twitter.com/RkJkuuCbRV— Nadia Oxford (@nadiaoxford) October 30, 2018
There are worse ways for your week to be thrown out of whack. Accidentally slamming your car into a moose, for one thing. Still, Delta Rune's sudden arrival's left me a bit light-headed. Undertale is one of my all-time favourite RPGs, and I'm eager to see how Delta Rune measures up. Like its predecessor, however, Delta Rune isn't an adventure you can make snap judgements about.
I feel confident saying this much: As in Undertale, showing mercy towards the bad guys is the preferred way to "fight" in Delta Rune—unless Fox throws a maniacal twist at me, and a talking cactus laughingly wipes my hard drive clean when I reach the final boss. I'm not ruling that out. That said, playing as a pacifist is a special challenge in Delta Rune.
(Mild story spoilers for Delta Rune follow!)
You play through the game as Kris, an androgynous schoolkid who gets pulled into a mysterious world through a supply closet (Kris populates the world we see at the end of Undertale; a world where monsters and humans seemingly live in harmony). Kris is accompanied by Susie, a violent monster-girl who was instructed to fetch school supplies with them. The duo quickly meet "Ralsei," a kind-hearted monster who explains the three of you are "Lightners"—light-bearing heroes who are destined to travel to the underworld's source of darkness and cut off its flow to restore harmony between Light and Dark. Failure to do so will end the world.
Here's where your troubles begin. Though Ralsei makes it clear you should avoid as many fights as possible (and it's something you might want to instinctively do if you've played Undertale), Susie is initially scornful of her "hero" title. She mysteriously acquires an axe when she falls into the underworld, and she's determined to swing it. Gentle lectures don't dissuade her. Coaxing doesn't convince her. When she enters battle, she'll sink her blade into whomever enters her line of sight.
Yes, fights in Delta Rune utilize multiple party members, and offer a side-view of the action versus Undertale's head-on view (think classic Final Fantasy versus classic Dragon Quest). That means being merciful automatically becomes more difficult; more commands mean more opportunities to accidentally pick "Fight" instead of "Act," and then whatever specialized command might calm down your foe to the point where you can talk things over. But Susie's determination to cut down whomever she encounters makes things that much more difficult. She acts on her own, and if you don't warn your foes that she wants to carve her initials in their hides, she might wind up actually killing them.
Like Undertale, Delta Rune tries to make you think about the lives of every encounter you come up against (enemies are all on-screen now; no more random encounters). You quickly learn a vicious king is bullying his once-peaceful subjects into fighting, which serves as extra motivation for getting Susie to behave herself. Susie's part of a bigger lesson Delta Rune dishes out, though: It's hard enough to keep the peace by yourself, but when you're responsible for the actions of another, it's a real big job.
So far, Delta Rune arouses weird feelings in me (not like that). I don't know how far I am, but the effort of reining in Susie makes me suspect Fox has similar lessons in store for me. "Oh, you think you dismantled my thought process when you beat Undertale all three ways, and you believe you know what to expect from Delta Rune? Well, let me tell you a thing—"
Check back soon for a full analysis / review of Delta Rune, unless the game is engineered to rip my heart out physically. Undertale ripped my heart out metaphorically, and like I said, I feel Delta Rune has a dark surprise hiding behind it. Who knows where I'll be this time tomorrow.