Deltarune Chapter 2 offers a brief reprieve in a world that’s still healing
Just an hour into Deltarune Chapter 2, “A Cyber’s World,” the game’s sullen hero, Kris, is negotiating a deal with a monster made of website popups, looking for blue checks (yes, the ones from Twitter), and playing video games with a fighting-game-obsessed, wine-drinking robot Queen whose favorite tagline is “lmao.” All the while, a catchy chiptune soundtrack bumps in the background.
This sense of humor is par for the course for developer Toby Fox. In his latest release, Deltarune Chapter 2, Fox picks up after the cliff-hanger of Chapter 1 only to throw players directly into a cyberspace-inspired city. Players are Kris, exploring the world alongside their friends, Susie, and Ralsei — the same heroes from Chapter 1 — and fight through a series of tough, bullet-hell challenges. Though the battle mechanics feel similar, this chapter complicates the moral and ethical questions posed by the game’s predecessor, Undertale, while adding to the story started in Chapter 1. Fox also lays the groundwork for a giant sweeping adventure, one that explores another section of Deltarune’s growing world. And despite being a harsh challenge, it’s a world that still feels very welcoming.
Though Undertale did give players the option to show mercy or to kill, the game sent a strong message against killing monsters. Undertale encourages a non-violent route, where none of the monsters should be vanquished, and players are more mindful of the impact of their choices. But this also made the game more challenging: when you don’t kill monsters, you don’t level up. Your base stats, like health, remain unchanged, making for a difficult time surviving in later battles.
Deltrarune’s moral stance isn’t totally different, but this time players are on their own when deciding when to show mercy to monsters, and when to fight back. In Chapter 2 certain enemies are worth slaying, like a despotic king who still retaliates when shown mercy. It’s a contrast to Undertale’s more straightforward, purely pacifism-driven play.
Image: Toby Fox
Like Fox’s other games, Deltarune Chapter 2’s battles are unique arcade bullet hells, where every monster’s quirks are expressed in their attacks and lines during play. (And like Undertale, Deltarune’s battles get harder if players refuse to vanquish their foes). In one boss battle, the three heroes fight three monsters who all have speakers for heads, and navigate a barrage of groovy attacks that look like musical notes. For another boss fight, Berdly spams you with deadly A+ papers because he’s a know-it-all at school.
Fox’s bullet-hell RPG is as tough as ever, which makes it harder to decide whether to show mercy or fight monsters. These bullet-hell battles feel all the more difficult when the game is more morally ambiguous, suggesting it’s OK to kill some monsters (which would make the fight easier). A boss fight with Spamton, the monster who spams you with nearly illegible pop-ups with messages like “MEET LOCAL SINGLES” as you fight him, knocked me on my ass more than once. I ended up figuring it out, and I stuck it out for his golden personality. But it did make me wonder if I would have the patience to figure it out with future characters, rather than just fighting them.
Chapter 2 gives players another factor to consider when picking whether or not to spare a monster. This latest chapter introduces a “recruiting” system, which is similar to the Shin Megami Tensei or Persona series, where sparing monsters allows players to recruit them to the team. They may help us out at points, by lending their power in a fight. As we recruit monsters by sparing them, we populate a new town filled with all our friends.
Image: Toby Fox
Still, despite the challenge, the game embraces players with open arms. At the beginning of Chapter 2, Ralsei makes cute bedrooms for Susie and Kris based on their favorite colors and tells them, “I’d be happy if this place … could be like a second home to you.” These scenes made Deltarune Chapter 2 feel like a kind of second home. Supporting the idea that these games can be an escape and a source of comfort, Fox released Chapter 2 for free and ahead of its initial release date. “The world has been really tough for everybody recently,” Fox said on the game’s website.
Of course, this is just one chapter. This is not the conclusion of a conversation, but rather the start of one. Fox warmly brings us into his worlds, but some core questions remain: Which characters get to feel comforted by these worlds? (Certainly not our dear hero, Kris.) What are the implications of our actions? In Deltarune Chapter 2 our choices matter. But the story is still ongoing, and we don’t quite know how these choices will affect the characters. For now, players will just have to wait until the next three chapters come out.
Deltarune Chapter 2 was released on Sept. 17 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC. The game was reviewed on PC. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.
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