Video game

DELTARUNE: The Poster Child For Patience in video game releases

Return in the good old days of 2015, Toby Fox was critically acclaimed Subtitle took the PC gaming world by the ankles and shook it up a bit. It was an effectively one-man RPG that made hardcore and casual gamers alike question the very role they play in an RPG.

So naturally, when Toby decided 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 link to Undertale. And yet, this game strayed from Undertale, claiming, “Your choices don’t matter.” The game tries to trick you into an illusion of linearity, but it’s far from it.

DELTARUNE’s combat system allows you to dodge everything from bones to hairballs.

DELTARUNE’s gameplay is a curious blend of Undertale’s bullet-dodge experience and a Final Fantasy-style turn-based system. In this one, you have the option to kill or spare your opponent. If you choose to kill them… well, they’re gone forever. If you choose to spare them, however, Chapter 2 allows you to recruit them to your “Castle Town”. It’s a fun little collectible game that may make you want to save all the charming characters you meet. However, the benefits of ejecting your enemies from existence are that you can become a more powerful player character if you don’t mind staining your moral standing, that is.

This is basically the core of DELTARUNE’s choices, and all signs point to a huge impact on the rest of the game. You can see that in the chapter select screen which already points to 5 more chapters on the horizon and with clear progress indicators from Chapters 1-2. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love the cross-story progression and true narrative changes similar to what you’d see in, say, the Dragon Age series.

Deltarune - Chat Trader Screenshot
Even traders seem to have a glimpse of future events…

When the second chapter was released on September 17, 2021, suddenly the story had a point of divergence, which I will not spoil here. A secret route only appears for those longing to find “the dark path” that had been so prevalent in the Undertale fandoms’ route of genocide years earlier. The existence of this hidden path compares Toby Fox to a magician to me, always hiding his tricks for all to see later. I still remember my joy in Chapter 2, discovering that there was such a psychologically intense avenue in this game that could turn history around. It’s a path that, frankly, could give you chills if you choose to pursue it. The impact of this path being so emotionally heavy leaves me clamoring for the next episode out of concern for the characters’ future.

Deltarune - Screenshot by Kris Susie Ralsei
Kris, Susie, and Ralsei take in the scenery of the “Dark World” from Chapter 2 on the Internet.

For the past two years, since the end of Chapter 2, Toby has gently pushed 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 the consciousness of its fans. Those of us who have played this game have become conditioned to expect something grand.

When we compare this to the “Triple A” releases, which put a game into early access and save marketing for a full release, the DELTARUNE demo shines in terms of quality, promise, and delivery. With the release of Chapter 2 being part of Undertale’s anniversary celebrations, it became part of the demo, enhancing understanding of the developer’s vision. Sure, you may feel like having to wait maybe years is a bit boring, but the story and the mechanical intrigue ensure that the game stays in your thoughts. That’s especially true with unanswered questions about how it relates to the previous game, and we still don’t know what relationship the stories will end up having to each other.

DELTARUNE will release its first set of paid chapters in the future, hopefully by 2023, if Toby’s current progress shared on Twitter is any indication. When it drops, I expect to give it a try and not be the first to buy it because this series is already embedded in my heart with its charm and mysteries waiting to be revealed in future episodes.

deltarune - silly vendor strings screenshot
This man looks trustworthy. I bet he has a lot to sell you…

The DELTARUNE demo is available for you to play on PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch right now. Give it a try and join me in the suspenseful wait for the full story to be revealed! Once you’ve tried it, let me know what you think.