Back in the good old days of 2015, Toby Fox’s critically acclaimed Undertale took the PC gaming world by the ankles and gave it a bit of a shake. It was an RPG effectively made by one man that made hardcore and casual gamer alike question the very part they play in a role-playing game.
So naturally, when Toby decided that Halloween 2018 was the time to release a demo for a new game, DELTARUNE (expressed in all caps), the anagram nature of the title quickly led people to make links to Undertale. And yet this game distanced itself from Undertale, claiming, “Your choices don’t matter.” The game tries to trick you into an illusion of linearity, but this is far from the case.
DELTARUNE’s gameplay is a curious mix of Undertale’s bullet-dodging experience and a Final Fantasy style turn-based system. Within it, you have the option to either kill or spare your opponent. If you choose to kill them… well, they’re gone forever. If you choose to spare them, though, Chapter 2 allows you to recruit them to your “Castle Town.” It’s a fun little collecting game that may make you wish to save every charming character you come across. However, the benefits of ejecting your enemies from existence are that you can become a more powerful player character if you don’t mind the stain to your moral standing, that is.
This is basically the core of DELTARUNE’s choice-making, and all signs point to a sizeable impact on the rest of the game. You can see that in the chapter select screen that already points to 5 more chapters on the horizon and with clear progression indicators from chapters 1 to 2. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love cross-story progression and real changes in the narrative similar to what you’d see in, say, the Dragon Age series.
When the second chapter released on September 17, 2021, suddenly, the story had a divergent point, which I won’t spoil here. A secret route appears only for those who had an appetite to find “the dark path” that had been so prevalent in the Undertale fandoms’ genocide route years earlier. The existence of this hidden path likens Toby Fox to a magician to me, still hiding his tricks for all to see later. I can still remember my joy in Chapter 2, finding out that there was such a psychologically intense avenue to this game that could flip the story on its head. It’s a path that, frankly, could send chills down your spine should you choose to pursue it. The impact of this path being so emotionally heavy leaves me clamoring for the next installment out of concern for the characters’ futures.
For the last two years, since Chapter 2 dropped, Toby has been gently pushing the narrative that the game will take a long time. But there’s a subtle message behind the slow progress, and yet the game itself remains in its fans’ consciousness. Those of us who have played this game have become conditioned to expect something grand.
When we compare this to “Triple A” releases, which place a game into early access and save marketing for full release, DELTARUNE’s demo shines in terms of quality, promises, and deliverance. With the Chapter 2 release being a part of Undertale’s birthday celebrations, it became a part of the demo, enhancing understanding of the developer’s vision. Sure, you may feel as though having to wait for possibly years is a little annoying, but the story and mechanical intrigue ensure the game stays in your thoughts. That’s especially true with unanswered questions about its link to the previous game, and we still don’t even know what relation the stories will end up having to each other.
DELTARUNE will release its first paid set of chapters sometime in the future, hopefully by 2023, if Toby’s current progress shared on Twitter is any indication. When it does drop, I expect that I’ll try and fail to be the first to buy it because this series is already ingrained into my heart with its charm and its mysteries waiting to be revealed in future installments.
DELTARUNE’s demo is available for you to play on PC, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch right now. Give it a try and join me in suspenseful waiting for the full story to be revealed! Once you’ve tried it out, let me know what you think.