Spoilers for the demo of Deltarune. It’s a free demo and it’s ~3 hours long, so play before you read or risk being spoiled!
Undertale was a game that presented players with moral choices that had irreversible outcomes. If you kill a character and then restart the game, you will be reminded somehow of your sins. These heavy consequences left me wracked with guilt over accidentally killing Toriel in my first playthrough, and feeling like the game never forgave me no matter what I did. I got my happy ending and redemption, but I never forgot what I did on my path to get there.
Deltarune starts off by explicitly telling you that your choices don’t matter.
It’s a very different mindset from Undertale, which takes great notice of the choices you make. As Tobyfox stated in a long tweet, he plans for Deltarune to have only one ending. So no matter what you do, you’ll get the same outcome. Of course, this can change as he makes the rest of the game and brings more people on board to help, but for now, it really seems like the genocide vs pacifist options make absolutely no difference. It’s up to you.
Deltarune begins by having you create your own character, which I did…painstakingly. It then deletes that character and makes you play as Kris, telling you that you don’t get to choose who to be in this game. You even create a “boss” later and it is similarly discarded (read: blown up). There are constant reminders of how little your input matters. Susie often poses questions and then stops you before you can pick any of the two options supplied, saying she doesn’t care or that it doesn’t matter what you say. In fact, Susie doesn’t even do what you say in battle for most of the demo. Your orders mean nothing to her.
It’s interesting that you have the ability to win without fighting, and yet it doesn’t seem to amount to much. I played the demo as a pacifist and was still greeted by the horrific ending cutscene. I thought I had messed up somewhere but apparently no matter how much of a nice guy you are, the demo ends with Kris ripping out their heart and yeeting it into a conveniently placed, open birdcage.
Honestly, I’m a little relieved I don’t have to walk on eggshells for this one. No accidentally killing someone and then ruining the chance of getting the true ending! But at the same time, I think Tobyfox can do some scary things with it where the player has no control and has to do…bad things. Or else quit the game. If focused on, the lack of player control can actually an interesting topic, by showing how games can limit what we do. After all, there are so many games that give you dialogue options and the illusion of choice, but ultimately they don’t end up changing anything important in the game. Why not spin that on its head and make the lack of player choice something the player is meant to reflect upon? The game asks you to agree to accept everything that will happen from now on in the site’s disclaimer.
Tobyfox…Chara…what are you going to make us do?