Warning: potential spoilers
Toby Fox may have dug himself into a hole. After Undertale, a game whose success came from its uniqueness and subversions of typical video game tropes, he may have made it impossible for his future projects to live up to his own success.
With that said, Deltarune: Chapter 1 was a pretty strong contender. It kept Undertale’s signature style and complexity, but also actively tried to challenge the expectations it had set. The game was a short, rewarding experience: a successful proof-of-concept that introduced a lot, and promised a lot more to come.
Now, almost three years after the release of the first, Deltarune: Chapter 2 is out. Taking place the day after Chapter 1 ends, protagonists Kris and Susie are still reeling from the excitement of their last adventure. With the appearance of another portal to a different fantasy world, the two travel through it to find out what’s causing them.
While Chapter 2 certainly stands out among other games in its genre, it’s the first of Fox’s games that just feels like ‘another Toby Fox outing’. His usual staples are all here: wacky internet humour, characters that are somehow both surreal and extremely relatable, atmosphere that can switch from wholesome to unnerving in an instant, ‘battles’ that encourage pacifism over combat. They’re all good elements that work well together in Chapter 2, but they don’t have the same impact as they do in his other games: the protagonists discovering another world, with a new villain and new side characters, is not as interesting as them coming to grips with a new reality and learning how to interact with each other. It feels like the second episode of an amazing Saturday-morning cartoon, that released two-year after the pilot. The pilot set up the characters, got its audience on board, and now they’ll do their thing every episode until the epic conclusion. It’s a series I would be extremely invested in, if not for the fact I might not see the conclusion until 2036.
With that said, this new approach seems intentional. It feels like Fox knows, perhaps more than anyone, that he can’t follow up Undertale. So he’s not attempting to. Instead, he’s writing enjoyable adventures for fun characters to go on, tied together with an interesting mystery that’s sure to get the internet buzzing with each release. It’s not Undertale, but it’s not trying to be.
Even then, Deltarune: Chapter 2 is still a great time, and leagues more creative than much of what the gaming industry has to offer. Whether the potential three year wait between chapters will be worth it remains to be seen: I don’t know if I’m patient to engage in a series with such a broad release schedule. But when a game made almost entirely by one person is allowed to thrive by being as unique and wholesome as this, at no cost to the player, it’s a price that’s certainly worth paying.