Undertale is a game where the decisions you make as a player influence the outcome of the game. There are three main “paths” through Undertale made possible by the ability to either kill or spare every enemy in the game. The neutral route is likely what most players are going to experience first – you maybe kill a couple guys on accident or you spare the important characters but kill the mooks, something along those lines. You meet and defeat the “final boss” and are sent back and told to try again without taking the life of a single monster. Doing so successfully unlocks the second ending, often referred to as the pacifist route. If you don’t kill a single monster, you get more dates, more lore, and a true ending in which everyone is able to find happiness. There’s also a third route named the “genocide route” by the fandom where you kill every single monster in the game. Each ending gives different information and has a unique vibe, so when Deltarune rolled out and also featured the ability to either fight enemies traditionally with attack commands or to spare them, it’s a natural conclusion to think that similar differences are possible.
During the first chapter of Deltarune, there’s sort of a running motif – the idea that your choices don’t matter this time. Perhaps to position the game as a departure from Undertale, there are many moments which make an effort to reinforce this idea. The player character you design at the very beginning is discarded in favor of protagonist Kris, many of your dialogue options get cut off by other characters who do not care what you say, and trying to kill enemies still results in them escaping as if they were spared. Your uneasy ally Susie reminds you on multiple occasions that “your choices don’t matter.” While there will be no way to really see the full impact of your decisions in Deltarune until the full game is released, chapter two has revealed some of the more meaningful ways that elements in the game will, in fact, change based on the choices you make.
*mild mechanical spoilers to follow, story spoilers will be marked later*
Deltarune is a spiritual sequel of sorts to Undertale, featuring a new cast of heroes and villains adventuring in “dark worlds” while the more familiar faces are primarily confined to the real world segments of the game, with their personalities and role in the setting being very different from the original game. Mechanically a lot of the same beats are present – you explore a puzzle-filled overworld where you regularly battle monsters. Battles are turn-based and offer either a violent path where you make attacks using timing-based moves or puzzle your way to a peaceful solution by testing out a variety of actions. Either way you play, there are bullet hell elements as well as enemy attacks pull out your “soul” (a small red heart) which you use to dodge their attacks inside a small movement area. Different enemies have different attack patterns so learning to maneuver around each type of bullet while also learning what actions are most effective for pacifying (or punching) the bad guys is core to the combat. While in the first chapter of the game the outcomes of combat were largely the same whether or not you spared enemies, the second chapter has added a mechanic that makes this choice more interesting.
The mechanic in question is the ability to recruit enemies. After the events of chapter one, a little town is formed at Ralsei’s castle and monsters who have been spared can gather at this “hub” of sorts. The town features a couple of different facilities such as one for combining items into more powerful or useful tools as well as a training dojo with solid rewards for overcoming the harder challenges. Enemies can be recruited to come live in the town by sparing a certain number of them during combat. This number varies per enemy, with some more unique types only needing to spared once while common enemies may need five or six spares to be recruited. Once an enemy is recruited, they will live in the town where they can reward you in the form of quirky dialogue, lore about the game world, or additional opportunities at the existing facilities.
You may wonder why one would choose not to recruit enemies, with all of these benefits. As with Undertale before it, Deltarune does not grant combat experience or level ups when sparing enemies. A party of heroes who recruits every enemy keeps the same stats throughout the chapter. Busting up these recruitments by solving problems through violence grant small HP increases per battle that meaningfully add up over time. In my violent run versus my pacifist run, my party had about 40 more HP per character, which made battles a lot simpler. It is also often the case that for many enemy types, “killing” them rather than puzzling through their ACT options is a simpler and quicker path. Particularly during the sequences of the chapter where you have all three party members in play, most foes will go down to one targeted attack from each party member. Quicker, simpler battles plus extra health against tough enemies can be a meaningful incentive to be a jerk in Deltarune.
When it comes to the story impact of these decisions, the choice to rely on violence becomes way less interesting. You cannot, for example, change the outcome of a whole chapter by choosing to address your problems with the sword. In most situations in chapter two, the exact same outcome is achieved, such as a miniboss who in both paths becomes friendly to you and opens up their shop along with a path forward through the game. The final battle of the chapter plays out the same, the character arc of the major characters involved plays out the same – at least in the first two chapters, playing violently doesn’t grant you access to new lore or deeper lore. Instead, choosing the sword is a lonely path where you sacrifice information about the setting and characters in exchange for power. Once I fully recognized this during my own playthroughs of the chapter, I found myself beginning to regret the decision to try both paths. But it turns out there is another choice from chapter one that has a big impact on chapter two in terms of mechanics, but it is a choice that has nothing to do with whether you are solving problems with violence or kindness.
*story spoilers incoming for Deltarune chapters one and two*
During the first chapter of the game, school bully and tentative friend to the protagonist Susie teams up with the villain Lancer to stop the player’s progress. Susie and Lancer work together to come up with a plan to stop the player, and it’s a pretty brilliant plan – ask the player to build a badass killing machine and then kill them with it. During this sequence you choose from a number of designs which can emphasize the cuteness, sexiness, coolness, or duck-ness of the killing machine. When you finalize the design, Susie and Lancer scrap it and move forward with a different plan instead. This is the last we hear of the machine and for all the player knows by the end of chapter one, the decisions made about the killing machine are essentially pointless, alternate goofy setups for the same final punchline.
You can imagine my surprise then during the second chapter when minor
villain annoyance Rouxls Kaard attacks you while riding the very killing machine you designed during your run of the first chapter. I got a good chuckle out of seeing the machine again (I had certainly forgotten what choices I made about it), but little did I know that Deltarune still wasn’t done with it. The final battle of chapter two is a giant robot fight, and during the formation of your own giant robot, the head of your killing machine becomes the head of the robot you control. It was yet another funny gag involving this machine and had I stopped after rolling credits instead of replaying the chapter from my violent save file, I would have totally missed what is really happening here: the killing machine you design in the first chapter mechanically impacts the abilities of your fighting robot for the boss of the second chapter.
You see, when I did my violent run of chapter one forever ago, I also tried to make as many alternate choices as I could to see if I could find new funny dialogue that I missed. This included designing a very different fighting machine, one that was made all out of duck parts instead of a cannon and a tank. When I faced off against Rouxls Kaard I chuckled as this time he came to me astride a giant ducky, but I stopped laughing when my giant robot appeared with a duck head during the boss battle with an ability called “sucky punch.” Not only did sucky punch sound like a lousy attack based on its description, but it was totally different than the move I had during my previous run: fire punch, an attack that made my subsequent attacks have higher power. My different killing machine from a throwaway joke in chapter one had actually changed the abilities available to me during chapter two’s boss battle!
My second playthrough also helped me to find some areas where choices you make could expedite things in terms of the amount of time spent making your way through the game. During chapter two there is a segment where Susie is separated from Kris and Ralsei to go rescue one of your friends from school who is trapped in the dark world. After you’ve been adventuring with Ralsei for a bit, he asks if you’re wondering what Susie is up to. I said yes during my first run and doing so gave me the opportunity to see some cute interactions between Susie and her friend, explaining everything that was happening offscreen up to the point when Susie falls from a higher floor and lands on top of Kris and Ralsei. During the second run I wanted to see what happened if I said no. Ralsei asks if you’re really sure you don’t care what Susie is doing right now, and if you insist that this is the case then BAM! She drops on your head from above and the game picks up from that point, having completely skipped all the events that were happening offscreen. They still took place from a story perspective but I didn’t have to watch them, giving me a funny gag and allowing me to go ahead and progress the game.
If you’re wondering whether or not violence changes Deltarune’s major story beats, I think it will continue to be hard to answer that until the full package is available at last. What I can say is that even if your choice of whether or not to kill may not change the game as much as Undertale fans might expect, your choices do matter in Deltarune’s first two chapters (take that, Susie!) ((just kidding you’re cool please don’t beat me up)). While Deltarune’s first chapter suggested that the impact of your decisions would primarily affect how specific characters interact with you, the second chapter has shown that your decisions have longer term impacts than you think as well as unlocking new mechanics that make the path of violence and the path of peace more divergent. I’ll be looking forward to the next batch of chapters, particularly to which of my flippant and ridiculous choices will somehow come back to bite me in the future.