Deltarune first appeared online out of nowhere, masquerading as a free-to-download “survey” program. Of course, it only took a few minutes to discover that this wasn’t any ordinary program: it was a whole new game. Or, at least, the beginnings of one.
Created by Toby Fox, Deltarune expands on the world of Undertale, introducing familiar characters, roles, and gameplay while twisting them around — characters maintained different relationships (or none at all) and conflicting narratives encouraged players to put on their theorizing caps to figure out how the worlds of Undertale and Deltarune linked up.
With future installments underway and the first chapter now available on the Switch, it’s a good time to pause and consider what’s to come. Fox clearly has a vision in mind for where this story is going but I have a few hopes for the future of the game, too.
Susie Gets Lots of Hugs
If any game can make you love a monster, it’s Undertale. Or Deltarune. Or both. Purple bully girl Susie grew as a character throughout the course of the one short chapter, her relationship with protagonist Kris likely being the first meaningful one she ever had… her weird friendship with Lancer close behind.
We don’t know what kind of home she’s going back to when she and Kris leave the Dark World, but we can hazard a few guesses. Considering she’s hungry enough to eat chalk and bonds immediately with the few people who give her the time of day, it can’t be a happy.
Whatever happens next in the world of Deltarune — whether it’s another trip to the Dark World, a journey somewhere else, or something closer to home — I’m holding out hope for Susie to continue to find friendship. She thrives when she has it, clearly, and it brings out the best in her. Plus, she just really deserves it.
Spotlight the Soundtrack
One of my favorite things about Undertale is its soundtrack. It’s no surprise it’s solid: Toby Fox composed music for Homestuck before launching his own famous world, so he was already known for his tunes within at least one subset of fandom.
The Deltarune Chapter 1 soundtrack is equally strong. From the chilling “ANOTHER HIM” to the lively “Rude Buster,” the new music expands on the range of styles presented in Undertale and takes them even further than before. Of particular note is the Laura Shigihara-fronted “Don’t Forget,” the motif of which winds through the entire game.
Fortunately for all of us, Fox put the soundtrack up on his Bandcamp page a day after the game’s release — clear of his own 24-hour press embargo that gave players time to explore and discover the nature of the game for themselves. At $7, it’s a worthy purchase, especially considering the game itself was, and remains, free.
With the initial surprise release element over, I’d love to see future installments launch with the soundtrack as an immediately available extra. I don’t care what it costs. What is it the kids say? “Shut up and take my money”? Yeah, that.
A Stand-Alone Story
There are lots of theories as to the nature of Deltarune in the Undertale universe, and that’s no surprise. Undertale laid down tracks for all sorts of ideas about the nature of its world (or worlds), the player’s influence on them, and even what happens when we reset the game.
Deltarune contains references to some of Undertale’s unanswered questions, especially the elusive W.D. Gaster. Dig into the image assets, music, and even font styles and colors long enough, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to believe that Deltarune will finally be what cracks open the last of its predecessor’s unsolved mysteries.
But, while that would be fun and interesting, it would be better by far to see all this take a back seat to the story already being set up concerning Kris.
Our new protagonist has a rich story already: a human in a world of monsters, constantly in the shadow of their older brother, journeying through a fantasy world with a younger, more playful version of that brother. Clearly events and circumstances in Kris’s life are taking a toll, as we see their soul cut from their body and caged up at the end of the chapter.
As much as I’d love some more deep lore concerning Toby Fox’s previous creation, I wouldn’t want it at the expense of losing out on Kris’s story and growth as a character. Of the two possibilities presented in game — Kris’s narrative and the promise of Undertale answers — it’s the former that intrigues me more, and that would make the game a more fulfilling stand-alone piece in the end.
On a similar note…
It wouldn’t be going at all overboard to say that Undertale was a game-changer when it comes to, well, games. Not only did it create new experiences based on your active choices, it integrated your play style into the ending. Seeing everything the game had to offer, and getting an ending where the protagonist doesn’t jump out of your hands and become a murderer, required discipline and patience.
Then along came Deltarune and slapped you right in the face with how little choice you had. No matter what you tried to do, you always ended up in the same place. At some points, characters (or the game itself) even reminded you point blank of how little control you actually had in this environment. One route, one ending — and apparently the plan has always been for the full game to be like this.
Toby Fox pointed out in his TwitLonger on the initial release that “most games” don’t have multiple endings, noting that “for some reason it feels really oppressive to say here.” And it’s true that he did inadvertently set himself a high standard. At the same time, he’s also given himself a bit of a gift. In the context of the Undertale world, the removal of choice is an active narrative decision. It presents us with a world where we’re no longer in charge; and for Kris’s story, that carries a lot of weight.
As unique and effective as the branching stories of Undertale are, I actually hope that Fox means what he said, and that the entirety of Deltarune will be one set story. There’s little reason to doubt he’ll stray from that, though, seeing as this story has apparently been in place for quite some time.
It’s reassuring to know that more Deltarune is already in the works, despite the knowledge that it will likely be a while ‘til the story continues. Nonetheless, it’s exciting — and all told, my one main hope for this new game is that Toby Fox continues in the vein he’s begun, showing love to traditionally monstrous characters and playing with his own format to spin out a new, fulfilling story for Kris and Susie.