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Undertale’s sense of ambivalence – My take on the game

Gamingtodaynews1b - Undertale’s sense of ambivalence - My take on the game

A couple months back I made a post asking whether people here agree with Undertale's overall message or not (Link). This obviously didn't really get anywhere since, in the end, what really mattered was what you would take away from it, not that if it's agreeable. But at the same time what I really wanted to do was try my best to express the way I saw how the game handles it’s messaging and themes. I personally found that it was rubbing me the wrong way, in a good way.

I recently rewatched H.Bomberguy’s video on it again (
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link), and while I do agree with his assessment overall, it made me think about how the game presents itself to newcomers. The way people talked about it’s story, it might come across as this holier than thou judge of character that wants to put on this front of being an innocent and lawful experience that demonizes any wrongdoing. People told Let’s Players to play the Pacifist route only (
to the dismay of one in particular), starting with the best neutral route, and then do Genocide. It’s like the Genocide route isn’t meant to be an important part of the game to these people, so it’s cast to the side. But to me, that’s what really makes the experience of playing it work. In my opinion, the game could be played however someone pleased. And the need to work out how the game works instead of specifically being told makes it work. I just get the feeling most people, including myself, experienced it only like this, and it would cloud their judgement as a result.

Once you actually play through it, then you get to see what it has to offer: you get to see how you can get different outcomes, learn as you go, and the overall experience feels more organic and legitimate. Plus, you can come to your own conclusions about certain elements therein. Which brings me to this one thing: what I see as this game’s sense of ambivalence.


What I mean by this is that I see the game itself having no bias towards any philosophical idea, but that it simply has the attitude of “whatever happens happens, and you should accept it.” It especially shows you how much power you truly have over everything. An example of this is how you can choose to go through the game doing pacifist, but also treat everyone around you poorly, even violently beating them to near death (link). There’s the parts where you “backstab” certain characters when you get them to a state of vulnerability, specifically Toriel and Papyrus. Then you can simply go back and retry as if it never happened. That’s quite evil all itself. Another is how on the final screen of the pacifist route, you see all of the main characters you’ve befriended standing in a line, happy, with the regular menu showing how you can reset and undo all of that progress. (Link) If you do so, you come back to Flowey, him talking as if you hadn’t gone through that emotional battle with him before.

It can even go as far as superseding the Genocide limitations on the game itself. Simply put, all you have to do is go to the save data for the game, and delete certain files so you can get the good ending back (here’s how you can do it, it’s a little easier if you have your own copy not related to steam. It’s the best I could find: link). You can undo all of that violence and hardship, and erase the curse the game put upon your run after the fact. After doing this, and getting the ending back, I honestly didn’t want to play the game anymore. Simply working to do all of that, to me, felt like enough. Plus it gave me this disheartened feeling afterwards. Like I didn’t feel it to be necessary to go on. I just never felt the need to play anymore.

In summation, and to be quite frank, this all could just be a lack of foresight on Toby’s part, but for me at least, it adds to the experience in a way. It showed me personally that this game is about how life has a lot to offer, and it can be taken way or lost in an instant. Thus, you have to learn to cherish it while you still can. Toby said how he wouldn’t be able to get the same feeling people had with this game ever again with any future project. I can at least understand where he’s coming from now.

Leave your thoughts below. Positive. Negative. It doesn’t matter.

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