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Lessons learned from of The Last of Us and Undertale

The article explores how the immersive nature of the storyline and the integrated unique combat systems, of these apparently unrelated games, were the reasons behind their success, and proposes that these main components should never be compromised.

Rarely would you find two games more aesthetically at the opposite ends than the action adventure horror: The Last of Us and roleplaying video game Undertale, and yet they have some things which put them quite close together. To understand what they have in common we must first understand what is different between them.

Undertale is an indie title which was developed mostly by Toby Fox across a time period of 2.7 years. Despite the limited resources employed to make the game, it has sold over 1.5 million copies on Steam and won various awards to boot. Visually speaking it is akin to 16/32 bit games from the 90s. The music employed is likewise. On the other hand, The Last of Us was developed by a whole team and published by Sony Computer entertainment. It took four years to develop. To date it has sold almost 6 million copies and won over 200 Game of the Year awards in 2013, its year of release. It had top of the line graphics and has since been re-mastered for PS4. 

Now that we know the differences we can finally move towards the unifying characteristics of the game. They both had excellent storylines. The Last of Us (TLoU) makes excellent use of cinematic and graphical elements to tell a story. Despite the genre being horror, the music score produces a feeling of sadness rather than horror. It may not have the most original story line, being a post-apocalyptic survival horror, but the depth of characters makes gamers relate to them like nothing else. It is pretty much like being in movie where you are able to control the main characters. Overall this means that the immersion achieved is almost unprecedented.

The violence is there, but at no part does it feel glorified. This creates pseudo realism, which is at once both terrifying and captivating. But, the visuals and main storyline isn’t the only thing, it is the attention to detail in building the world and then staying true to it that truly makes the whole thing wondrous. The story of Ish pieced through notes is especially heartbreaking. Ish is the only character which comes close to an optimistic idealism that could develop in this post-apocalyptic world, and yet for all his efforts in the end he has to take decisions which are less than ideal. There is no black and white morality in this game. It is this level of connected realism which is achieved by staying true to the world that tends to enthrall gamers to the end. So, it isn’t just about a storyline, but a storyline which stays true to its world. This is a stark reminder to the world at large that a well-executed storyline will always triumph.

Of all the games, why did I choose Undertale to compare with TLoU? The simple reason is that Undertale, just by existing, poses a challenge to studios and developers around the globe. Visually speaking the game can be called the opposite of TLoU, but still it is good in what it tries to achieve. Accepted that, at least visually speaking, it is more of a cult game, which is made to ingratiate a nostalgic gaming community which still appreciates titles like Mario & Luigi from the mid-90s, but its true accomplishment does not lie there. Once more the true accomplishment lies in the story telling. RPGs have always been valued more for their story telling than actual visual graphics. That is not to say that gamers do not enjoy both, of course they do, but if you would choose one over the other, it would always be story.

Undertale manages to breathe fresh air into an overused concept and forces it to live again. On its face, it seems to be another RPG where you have to kill monsters to level up and gain experience, but nothing is as it seems. Things are far more complex. The story line follows a human child who has fallen into the underworld, the place where monsters were banished with the help of magicians. Despite this, there are actually ways to complete the whole game without killing anyone. The dialogues and the overall story element is often witty and nicely done. It urges you to go one till the very end.

Although the plot of the game and its enactment play a major role in both games, yet there is another factor for their popularity as well. They both had unique combat systems which actually made sense. Of the two Undertale would probably rate higher when it comes to combat. There is no other game that I can personally recall where the monsters were too depressed to fight. Or they were just simply too afraid. Every monster in this game has a story of its own, which makes it into a relatable person. It is up to you to decide whether you want to choose the sword or try to understand them. Often times it takes the established principles of the genre and turns them on their head to achieve a humorous end, which sort of makes sense. Games can be purchased from G2A, Use G2A Cashback code to save.

In contrast, TLoU’s combat system seems to have the regular melee and gunplay. But, both of them are implemented in such a way that things are more realistic. The ammo in the game is rather limited, which means that firing through everything is never an option. That is why stealth is the best option even when a player is spotted. Crafting weapons is all about choices, you have to make the decisions and live with them. The level design facilitates multiple options to protect the game from becoming frustrating. But, the AI’s response is grounded in realism which just increases the overall immersive nature. The greatest fear with having a dependent character in any game is that it will become a chore to babysit it, but Ellie actually helps you out in situations without breaking the realism. According to the Marketing head of Games Keys, this game is going to be the best of decade.

What are the lessons then? In recent years, we have had some really excellent titles which feature high end graphics and gameplay features which are ever more advanced. Yet, I personally feel that major game developers often tend to sacrifice storytelling and fail in the implementation of the combat system with respect to it. Both TLoU and Undertale, did this right and the results speak for themselves. If we are to get more games like TLoU and Undertale, then the focus has to be on both of them and if the they have high end graphics then all the better, but a great game engine cannot ensure high sales alone.

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