Even with just two-sevenths of the full game, “Deltarune: Chapters 1 & 2” provides two fully realized stories with lovable characters, engaging combat and inventive presentation.
When indie developer and composer Toby Fox’s RPG “Undertale” took the world by storm, fans considered it his best work – until he released the first chapter of “Deltarune.” Somehow, the second chapter is even better.
“Deltarune” revolves around the silent protagonist Kris and their monster friend, Susie, as they explore dark fountains, alternate worlds that give life to surrounding everyday objects, and seal them to protect their world. As inhabitants of the light world, they are referred to as Lightners by their friends in the dark world, including their precious and enigmatic ally, Ralsei.
“Deltarune” is a companion piece to the mechanics and themes of “Undertale,” although they can be played as standalone games. Every choice matters in “Undertale,” as every enemy can be reasoned with or befriended instead of killing them. In “Deltarune,” these choices don’t affect Kris’s story, which will eventually have one ending. Most of the supporting cast have story arcs centered around their lack of agency, especially regarding their families.
The first chapter, “The Beginning,” was released in 2018 and introduced Kris, Susie and Ralsei as they explored a closet of playing cards and board games, transformed into a card kingdom by a dark fountain. The second chapter, “A Cyber’s World,” opens a dark fountain in a library computer lab while Kris and Susie are working on homework, forcing them to explore a city within the internet to seal it.
Internet settings are a common trope, but this is one of the most accurate and entertaining fictional depictions of the internet. Films like “Ralph Breaks the Internet” desperately tried to depict the best and worst of online spaces but were completely out of touch. Everything “Ralph Breaks the Internet” failed to do, “A Cyber’s World” does leagues better, right down to a shady salesman character based on ‘90s-era spam.
As a creator whose works have deeply impacted internet humor, Toby Fox understands the internet better than most. This is best exemplified by the antagonistic algorithm Queen, who steals the show and plays wonderfully off the entire cast. Queen strikes the perfect balance of Fox’s charming humor and being a compelling villain; she’s raucously funny without being unthreatening, chaotic without being random and ruthless without being unsympathetic.
Two of Kris’ classmates, the shy reindeer, Noelle, and the intellectual gamer, Berdly, join them in “A Cyber’s World.” Like Susie’s excellent development in “The Beginning,” both are entertaining and have great character arcs. Noelle takes center stage and is controlled by the player in certain sections, and while Berdly’s over-the-top antics make for great comedy, he develops in a way that’s equal parts emotional and silly.
Noelle and Berdly shine in their hilarious group dynamic with Queen. Although Queen wants Noelle to be happy, Noelle fears and avoids her. Queen searches for Noelle when they’re separated, but both are also hiding from Berdly, whose eccentric personality drives Queen bananas. All three form individual truces with Kris to find and/or evade the others, with only Noelle aware that Kris simultaneously has truces with the entire trio.
“The Beginning” expanded on turn-based RPG battles from “Undertale” with multiple party members. Kris uses Acts to peacefully end battles, Susie has strong offense and Ralsei provides healing spells. Like “Undertale,” enemy turns transform battles into bullet-hell minigames inspired by the Touhou series, in which the player’s heart dodges attacks. “Deltarune” adds stronger special moves and Acts that require energy, which is generated by narrowly grazing attacks or guarding.
“A Cyber’s World” further expands on battle mechanics by allowing Susie and Ralsei to Act, allowing for more strategy and character-specific Acts that showcase their personalities. Ralsei also builds the Castle Town as a home base where players can buy items or interact with enemies they spared. Certain boss battles even play with different genres for new twists outside of the RPG/bullet-hell hybrid battles.
Of course, “Deltarune” wouldn’t be complete without Toby Fox’s stellar music. His recognizable compositional style somehow gets better with every game in the series, and “A Cyber’s World” contains some of his greatest hits to date. The chapter’s standout track fittingly belongs to its standout character, that being Queen’s battle theme, “Attack of the Killer Queen.” However, almost every other battle and overworld theme is extremely close to its quality.
“Deltarune” is a world where choice doesn’t matter – or at least, that’s how it appeared in “The Beginning.” “A Cyber’s World” clarifies this thesis: players’ choices don’t matter in Kris’ story, but the impact on other characters does matter. Kris lacks freedom and agency, but they have tangible effects on their companions. Without spoilers, the game mechanics of “Deltarune” are far more connected to plot developments than fans previously thought.
Kris isn’t free, but the game’s price tag is. While all seven chapters will be a singular purchase once completed, the first two chapters are free to download. For players who previously downloaded “The Beginning,” a free update adds “A Cyber’s World” with the ability to start from either chapter, which is helpful for players who want to continue on a new console.
Even with just two-sevenths of the full game, “Deltarune: Chapters 1 & 2” provides two fully realized stories with lovable characters, engaging combat and inventive presentation. For a free game, both chapters combined offer eight to nine hours of content for a single playthrough. If returning players thought “The Beginning” was a great companion piece to “Undertale,” “A Cyber’s World” expands on its concepts in every aspect.
“Deltarune: Chapters 1 & 2” is available for free on PC, Nintendo Switch and PS4. This review was made using the PC and Switch versions.
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Sean Mullins (she/they) is the managing editor and webmaster for the Journal, formerly the opinions editor during the 2021/2022 school year. She is a media studies major and professional writing minor at Webster University, but she's participated in student journalism since high school, having previously been a games columnist, blogger and cartoonist for the Webster Groves Echo at Webster Groves High School. Her passion is writing and editing stories about video games and other entertainment mediums. Outside of writing, Sean is also the treasurer for Webster Literature Club. She enjoys playing games, spending time with friends, LGBTQ+ and disability advocacy, streaming, making terrible puns and listening to music.