Poll: Why does nobody seem to have the balls to criticize Undertale and its genocide mode?

Epyc Wynn

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Mar 1, 2012
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I know I'm fairly late to the show on this criticism but I just started using this account again and thought the first thing I should do is get off my chest how bothered I am nobody seems willing to actually analyze a couple of fairly glaring issues in this game. Would I give it a 10/10? Sure, deserves it due to the innovation, quality, and meta nature of it. Would I give it a 100/100? No, I'd give it a distinct 96. That's a small number of difference but let me explain a couple of what I'm going to call the nitpicks I have that I feel should've been addressed more by other reviewers and why I knocked the game down 4 points from the perfect 100.

Nitpick #1: The game supplies an unfair difficulty for half its best content (Genocide Run).

Now you can argue it's a good thing and I get the argument, and as a one-off novelty concept it is interesting to make being 'ethical' the more rewarding easy path and being 'unethical' the unfairly difficult and punishing path. And yes, it is not simply very hard but immensely unfair. The fact I could burn through 20 attempts at Undyne's DDX rip-off gameplay and still not get 2/3s the way through conveys as much and frankly I think Sans was more fair of a boss than she was (though I can only surmise as much by watching videos of his gameplay since I could never get to it). You can get away with difficulties that high if you at minimum have a buildup in games where the player is trained and gradually the game increases in difficulty, but NOTHING in the game beforehand in the neutral or pacifist runs truly prepares you for Undyne let alone Sans which I can only review by means of watching various long-ass videos of his beautiful fight I can't even access because my right hand never learned how to tap-dance to Undyne's little number. Look the bottom line is defending a level of difficulty that's beyond reasonable with 'it's teaching you a lesson' to me is over-defending the game and the game would've been better had there been some sort of training beforehand that actually came remotely close to the challengingness of the two main bosses Undyne and Sans of the Genocide run. Beautiful battles, but the the unfair jump in difficulty should've been criticized FAR more by reviews instead of getting a free pass. It was annoying and it excluded a large portion of gamers including myself from enjoying the rest of the game's content.

Nitpick #2: The game punishes you for playing half its best content (Genocide Run).

Okay, now here's the part where gaming philosophy comes into play because I understand the kind of mindset people are going to come into this nitpick thinking with: "he was trying to teach us a moral lesson that killing is wrong." Okay, fair mindset to walk in with but let me attempt to retort. Okay so first off when I say 'punish' I'm not referring at all to difficulty I'm referring to how the game treats you through its characters and story. I am going to off the bat say, I could be completely wrong on this point, but it needs to be made because it personally bothered me in a manner I hope isn't done in the future and people should be analyzing. The game is so meta, and so personal with its content, that it will make you feel awful. I recall even reading some posts where players reported getting sick from the negativity they felt in playing the genocide run. In a horror game it's usually an easy swallow because the game doesn't have this meta nature going on but with Undertale, you actually feel like you're part of things in a direct alive manner. However, this metaness uniquely displays a new flaw I don't believe videogames have normally shown before and that's why most critics overlooked it or treated it like it was purely a good thing: the flaw is this game is personally causing you to feel bad for trying to enjoy the game. You wanna hear Undyne's awesome music and see her awesome art? Fuck you you monster. You want to play Sans' awesome battle and enjoy an ultimate variety of challenges and dialogue? Fuck you, you monstrous son of a ***** you killed the meta people. How dare you, the player, kill meta characters for fun. That's the main issue. Honestly at some point if the game had just at some point been meta enough to point out "but hey, it's just a game, don't feel bad" or something along those lines I might've been more fine with it. Now I get if a game makes you feel emotions that's a good thing but this game was taking it so meta and personal with me it didn't merely make me feel emotion, it made me feel disgusted on an ethical level and even though I don't believe I should feel bad for the simulated beings that cannot think, I nonetheless still do. There are upsides to this, and as a first-time novelty I can give this a pass, but in the future critics might want to call games out for treating you like an asshole for trying to play and learn ALL of the game's content. This is again a new grey area caused by a meta game like Undertale but it should be understood as potentially a bad thing and to me it is a bad thing because it discourages gameplay.

Really, the Genocide run is what brings down the game in quality, yet makes it so interesting at the same time for me and others. Genocide run had an interesting story with easy gameplay mixed with two boss battles, the first one being immensely unfair (Undyne with the DDR button-mashing) and the second one being fairly unfair but still mildly fair since at least it tests your skills, rather than how fast you can mash specific buttons (you can argue button-mashing quickly is a skill but for me it is not as fair as being tested for your actual in-game learned abilities like Sans at least does). That's the whole of Genocide along with a messed up story and overly easy fights inbetween the two main hard ones with Undyne and Sans. I cannot play it due to the unfair difficulty and cannot feel good about it due to the game hating me for taking the 'evil' route.

I get the argument you could make that Genocide mode is an easter egg, but it's treated like part of the game by the majority of the fandom and is essential to actually understanding the whole story and enjoying all the quality content of the game so for that reason it must be criticized as if it is yet another part of the game. It pisses me off immensely other critics (thatonegamer thecynicalbrit yahtzee) treat the game like its perfectly great and has no flaws when the genocide mode is a glaring issue with the game that should be criticized. Kind of reminds me of that time everyone called Portal perfect when its color palette consisted of grey and greyer though again, that's just a nitpick but an important one which should've been pointed out just like the couple of ones I've mentioned should be pointed out by more critics.

So what do you guys think of Undertale as a whole and nitpicks you have with it?
 

Pirate Of PC Master race

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Jun 14, 2013
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Epyc Wyn said:
Nitpick #1: The game supplies an unfair difficulty for half its best content (Genocide Run).
So... "The mode is hard". I mean what? Difficulty is subjective. Furthermore storywise it make sense to make them stronger. I see no problem "enemy getting stronger" when it is suppose to do exactly that. The order of the play-wise and story-wise.

Epyc Wyn said:
Nitpick #2: The game punishes you for playing half its best content (Genocide Run).
WRONG WORDING. You mean it's making you feed bad.
But you know, you never had to. Didn't you listen to your best friend? If you never cared for those people, you wouldn't have to feel bad now. Alternatively, You could have visited wiki, watch LP's or just don't play the mode. The entire point this entire cause of "you feeling bad" is caused by you. I really don't know what to say to person who cut himself deliberately and says "OH GOD IT HURTS". Don't do it, I guess?

Which brings me to a point. The game has brought a player to a point where you can either pursue a story, or don't. The player has good approximation what either choice will bring. And this choice in the game is one of what I would consider "Artistic integrity", which I would consider as an integral part of good story-based game.
 

jademunky

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Honestly, while I love Undertale, I do not think I could bring myself to go through with the genocide route. I've grown too attached to too many of the characters and the thought of doing that to Sans and Papyrus...... just no. The part of me that wants to see the content feels so conflicted!
 

Erttheking

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"The balls to criticize genocide?" That's operating under the assumption that people all secretly hated it but just didn't admit it. Which is a bit of a leap.

It makes you feel bad? Yes, it makes you feel bad for slaughtering people. That's the point. Gaming can be about more than making you feel awesome.
 

Sinister Minister

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May 20, 2009
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To answer both nitpicks: you're literally killing everything in your path. Why would it be easy, or why wouldn't you be treated like a monster? Seriously?
 

Drathnoxis

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Umm, I criticized it back when it was new. Apology please.

Basically, my problem is that the game is structured in a way that you can't see all the content without getting a massive downer at the end. If you do genocide first, it ruins the future pacifist ending, if you do pacifist first then genocide you leave the game with a weak depressing ending. I did pacifist > genocide > boss kill neutral and it kind of soured the game a bit.

You don't have any idea what you are talking about with the difficulty, though. Sans is like, 10x harder than Undyne. You need crazy precision to make it through Sans and pretty much every gameplay rule is broken in order to screw you over. Undyne took me like half an hour, I was fighting Sans for like 5 hours until I managed to pull it off. I had a load of fun with both fights though, and think they add a lot to the game.
 

MHR

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You expect "genocide" to be easy and for it to have a satisfying conclusion?

Cmon

You get what you get for doing genocide. You get no more or less than what is deserved, so that's great.

Edit: okay, wait. I actually read the meat of your 2 walls now. You get horror games/movies, but you're not "punished" for getting scared in them, that's what they're for. No games make you feel bad morally as a central theme except this one, but it's not wrong for doing so. It's the first time this is happened to you with a game, so as something new, you need to back away from this emotional response. Yes it makes you feel bad. It's supposed to. Not expecting or being ready for that is on you.

A scary movie taking a small intermission to turn around and talk to you directly to reassure you that the movie isn't real and you shouldn't actually be scared by it is no more appreciated than if one of the non-flower characters in Undertale suddenly reassured you that mass murder was okay.

But then you have ludicrous criticisms on the other side of the coin. I got this girlfriend that creeps around Tumblr like a vine in a chain-link fence, and she found a part of it where sociopaths are bitching that the genocide run is dumb and the game is trying to be pretentious and edgy for no reason. They don't have the faculty to care, this game wasn't for them. The content has to be taken for what it is, not expect it to be an all-encompassing crowd-pleaser.
 

Elvis Starburst

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We can easily flip this the other way around and say "You're entering an entire civilization that has managed to live in its own form of peace until you showed up and killed every single one of them." And you say it's a bad thing for the game to tell you that you're a monster for doing so? Games don't always have to make you feel good, and Undertale had the balls to call someone out for murdering hundreds of innocent creatures who didn't want you around. You don't get that from a lot of games cause they're meant to make you level up to keep up with stronger foes and make the plot happen and feel good for it. This game turns that on its head and portrays the emotion mass GENOCIDE we perform in many, many games in our lives actually should.

For the argument that it basically requires you to kill the friends you made first... Or do this first and lock away content, well... The whole argument stays sound regardless. You just made a bunch of friends and saved everyone. So now you're gonna go back and kill them all knowing this? Then you deserve to feel bad for it, cause you ARE a bit of a monster for doing so.
For doing Genocide first... You went into this game with the intention to kill everything in sight, without taking the chance to understand the world, its people, and solve the problems it faces. You better god damn feel bad for that and accept the consequences for it.

The difficulty is supposed to reflect that. The two strongest people in the Underground are your biggest challenges. You're killing everything in sight without remorse. They're not gonna be push-overs and let you steam roll them. That's a crazy backwards expectation/perception. Sure the difficulty spikes are high, maybe a little staggering, but you got yourself into this. You get the chance to turn back to a Neutral path just before her fight, and you can avoid saving just before it to reverse you're choice if you're unsure. Undyne is your wake-up call to the path you're going down. It's not going to be easy, and you won't be shown any mercy, just like how you haven't towards anybody else thus far.

So no, I don't really agree with this idea at all. I understand the idea that "locking" stuff away by requiring you to be a murderer might be a bad idea to some. But that's just it, that's the ENTIRE POINT of this run. You're not supposed to feel good about it, for the reasons I stated above. It's counter productive in a way for those who want to experience all of the content without feel this way, but... again, that's the idea. If you aren't prepared to act like a monster, then you aren't ready to see the consequences of your own actions. So watch an LP of someone else doing it
 

default

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Not all games have to make you feel awesome. A large amount of Undertale's strengths come from the fact it is willing to break the rules and make you think. Do you seriously want the game to go 'haha don't worry buddy it's just a game'? Wow, way to ruin the experience and emotional impact. Way to miss the point of storytelling in general. That goes beyond Undertale's particular brand of meta, that's breaking the fourth wall in a way that invalidates all of what was carefully built up.

In terms of difficulty, you aren't meant to 'accidentally' perform genocide. It's meant to take psychotic dedication, and the comparitively super high difficulty ensures you are dedicated instead of just going 'Oh yeah, let's try genocide now for fun' and wrecking the good ending forever. You have to REALLY want it, and you are not rewarded for doing so. Thematically it also makes sense, because these characters aren't holding back anymore as they did in the pacifist and neutral routes, where they didn't REALLY want to kill you.


If I come off as a dick please don't take offense. Your thread title was very inflammatory and presumptuous but this is an interesting discussion.
 

Saetha

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Jan 19, 2014
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I gotta admit, I still don't understand the "Why does genocide make me feel bad?" argument. Like, you're murdering hundreds if not thousands of innocent people. Even the "it's in self-defense" argument doesn't work because Mad Dummy expressly refuses to attack you on genocide. You have to murder him for the hell of it. So...? Where's the complaint coming from, exactly? That the game doesn't just sit back and encourage your senseless slaughter? Is it supposed to be approving of your senseless slaughter?

The "The content shouldn't have been in the game if everyone makes you feel awful for taking it" argument makes a bit more sense, but still not a whole lot. Because how else would the message have gotten through? The genocide route, simply by being there and being an option, adds depth to the story that it'd be lacking without. And it wouldn't have been half as good a subversion of the typical "murder everything" approach without genocide. Like, the fact that it makes you feel shitty isn't a drawback, it's the point.

Undertale isn't the first or last game to offer you the chance to be evil and get yelled at for it - yet people seem to give genocide no end of flak for it.
 

Nazulu

They will not take our Fluids
Jun 5, 2008
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It's not a nit-pick if you genuinely feel it ruins the experience.

Anyway, I have to disagree with your points. The game is built on those kind of surprises, giving little hints here and there about the worst case scenario, Sans even counting your losses. And it really built up to those moments as you discover more about the world/characters through the forbidden run.
Also, a game doesn't have to make you feel 'good'. You are missing the point of becoming the psychotic murderer. Though I do believe the game pretending like you purposely wanted to be evil is sloppily done, but meh.

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As great as I think Undertale is, I have some problems with the genocide run myself, like why did Flowey just stay still or even bother sucking up? Did he know Chara was going to destroy the world? Also, why couldn't he get the souls himself? Did Asgore use a voice activation system?

Why the Fuck does Sans wait for his brother and everyone else to be killed before making a move, even when he knows you killed so many before with the town becoming empty? I know he kept a promise, but c'mon! That's pretty fucking stupid. If he had attacked earlier in the game, I'm sure you know where I'm going with this.

Why the hell didn't anyone keep the Hotland puzzles activated? I'm sure Frisk couldn't get through alllll those lasers and doors without help. Also, Mettaton can fly, and he also received upgrades from Alphy's, and Alphy's seems like she could build anything..................... USE A NUKE!!!

I had more but I can't remember them right now.
 

BX3

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Mar 7, 2011
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Eh, I wouldn't really count it as not having the balls if the exact things that make the Genocide run shitty is what makes it great in a lot of peoples' eyes, including mine.

Sans pretty much sums it up while you're trying to murder him: "you're not doing this because you're evil. You're doing this because you can, and because you can, you feel you have to" (paraphrased). Yeah, it does kinda stink that literally half the game's content is hidden behind that mode, and yeah it's frustrating that the game take an unnatural leap in difficulty (though, it's only 2 fights, so I'm not sure if it's fair to count that), and yeah, the ending is confusing and unsatisfying, and yeah it blows that once you actually do 100% the game, it literally permanently wrecks itself unless you hack it (except on Steam, where you're just fucked.), but... well... that's the point.

Yeah, the option is there... but did you have to take it? Sure it can be argued that if the game was going to yell at you for playing half of its content, the developers could've just not put it in the game at all, but nothing's really forcing you to hurt anyone except your own sense of completionism. The spike in difficulty was put there in order to get you to be so frustrated with the game that you stop playing. "It's there, so I should play it, right? Otherwise, why the hell would it be there?" It directly spits in the face of its very essense of being a video game for the sole purpose of creating something that feels like a living, breathing virtual world, and it's up to you, the player, to decide whether it immerses you enough to give a damn. In essence, your criticisms would be hella fair if it weren't Undertale, ironically. I place it heads and shoulders above certain other games of its type, which instead opt to demonize the player for doing stuff they literally had no choice in.

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As for your question at the bottom, in the interest of fairness I do have a few gripes with it, despite it being one of my all time favorite games at this point.

For one, its environments are sorta inconsistent. The whole story takes place in an underground cavern, and there's no weather... so why are there snowy and rainy areas? One could argue magic, but right there in the game's lore, it's said that certain monsters decided to settle in Snowden because the snow was already there. ???????????
I'm also not much of a fan of some of the dialogue in the True Pacifist ending. Maybe this was the point, but some of the stuff that came out of the characters' mouths reeked of the type of stuff you'd see in fanfiction. I fucking hate the word "cringy", but if I were to ever utter it through gritted teeth, it'd probably be directed toward that.
Lastly, Frisk's sprite is just plain bad. There were times I actually got taken out of the story because of the MC's limited, slapdash, uninteresting sprite. Which is a shame, because Frisk's design and the philosophy behind it is actually damn good.
 

SmallHatLogan

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I generally disagree with your points.

In regards to the difficulty, well it's subjective isn't it? I beat Undyne in about five tries but I found Sans to be stupidly difficult to the point of not being enjoyable whatsoever. I used cheat engine to bypass him and while some of the more passionate (read: idiotic) fans get worked up about such behaviour I'm totally fine with it. I found it a little bit annoying that they cranked the difficulty up so high but it seemed fitting so I'm okay with it.

I didn't think Undyne was unfair either. Sure they changed the rules a bit but it's easy to learn and like the rest of the game is based on reflexes and pattern memorisation (note: Undyne's DDR bits aren't random so you can learn them rather than focusing on reacting to them). And as much as I'd like to call Sans unfair, he's really not. Just really fucking hard.

As for your point about not liking that the game makes you feel genuinely bad, I don't really have a counterpoint. You see it as a bad thing, I see it as a good thing. But to respond to a particular comment:
but in the future critics might want to call games out for treating you like an asshole for trying to play and learn ALL of the game's content.
That's the whole point. Players will act like total arseholes in game just to see all of the content and the game is calling you out on it. Saying "There, there. It's only a game" would've undermined the whole concept of genocide mode.

This ties in to the discussion from a while back about difficulty modes in games and how the new Starfox had invincibility mode. I don't have a problem with a game using its difficulty as a barrier to some of the content. And that can be either mechanical difficulty or the difficulty of emotionally dealing with the consequences of your actions. I've never fully completed Super Meat Boy because it's too hard. I've never done a full renegade run of the Mass Effect trilogy because I can't deal with committing 100+ hours to being Commander Dickhead. Two great games that I haven't seen all the content of because of difficulty. But I don't think that reflects poor design.
 

BX3

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Nazulu said:
Why the Fuck does Sans wait for his brother and everyone else to be killed before making a move, even when he knows you killed so many before with the town becoming empty? I know he kept a promise, but c'mon! That's pretty fucking stupid. If he had attacked earlier in the game, I'm sure you know where I'm going with this.
The short answer is because he's lazy as hell.

The unshort answer is because
at some point he became pretty aware that the game was one big loop. It's theorized that because of this, he treated the whole game and his situation with complete apathy, being really pissed off that his brother died, but probably feeling like it wouldn't last all that long anyway and he'd have no memory of it. Heck, it's also theorized that he wasn't even that mad, he was just trying to guilt trip you super hard so that you'd "play the game right" and unmurder his brother (and anyone else you might've killed). The only reason he intervened at the end of Genocide is because at that point, the timeline was in very real danger of getting fucked permenantly due to Chara.

He didn't really feel like he had to until he had to, and by then it was too late.

The other questions are head scratchers though. I'm gonna go ahead and assume that the Flowey bit was due to him always being afraid of Chara ever since he was you-know-who, so he could never even dream of defying her. He probably figured taking the souls wouldn't amount to much either since, well y'know, save states.
 

FirstNameLastName

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erttheking said:
"The balls to criticize genocide?" That's operating under the assumption that people all secretly hated it but just didn't admit it. Which is a bit of a leap.

...
Agreed. I find the title is one of the most pretentious titles to any thread I can remember. Right from the beginning it frames the OP as some lone hero, the one person with enough courage to say what everyone else is supposedly thinking. Perhaps the reason why no one really brings up these criticisms is because few people actually agree that they're detriments, despite being presented as some self-evident flaws. The idea that people on the internet are too afraid to criticize a piece of media is absolutely laughable; the internet is one giant cesspool of "this game/movie/song/book sucks, and you're an idiot for liking it."
 

Nazulu

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Jun 5, 2008
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BX3 said:
Nazulu said:
Why the Fuck does Sans wait for his brother and everyone else to be killed before making a move, even when he knows you killed so many before with the town becoming empty? I know he kept a promise, but c'mon! That's pretty fucking stupid. If he had attacked earlier in the game, I'm sure you know where I'm going with this.
The short answer is because he's lazy as hell.

The unshort answer is because
at some point he became pretty aware that the game was one big loop. It's theorized that because of this, he treated the whole game and his situation with complete apathy, being really pissed off that his brother died, but probably feeling like it wouldn't last all that long anyway and he'd have no memory of it. Heck, it's also theorized that he wasn't even that mad, he was just trying to guilt trip you super hard so that you'd "play the game right" and unmurder his brother (and anyone else you might've killed). The only reason he intervened at the end of Genocide is because at that point, the timeline was in very real danger of getting fucked permenantly due to Chara.

He didn't really feel like he had to until he had to, and by then it was too late.

The other questions are head scratchers though. I'm gonna go ahead and assume that the Flowey bit was due to him always being afraid of Chara ever since he was you-know-who, so he could never even dream of defying her. He probably figured taking the souls wouldn't amount to much either since, well y'know, save states.
For your short and unshort answer, that's what I understood as well, but when you think about it, how do you become that apathetic to the point that you just sit back and do nothing? He loves his brother and but he won't protect him? He enjoy's hanging out at Grillby's but he won't help the people there? What does he do till the very end?
Sans also felt that even if they made it out, that time would just be reset anyway, so why doesn't he release hell earlier before losing everything?

Don't get me wrong though. I like Sans, but it doesn't completely add up to me.

As for your point with Flowey, I don't think he was afraid of Chara because after you kill Torial on the genocide run, he says "You're ***** aren't you?", and then he helps you all joyful like. He becomes scared later for some reason I never got, since on the video tapes Chara just sounded like weirdo (unless I confused that part).

You make a good point about the souls and save states though, but I wonder, because anyone with an evil brain would want all the power they could get their hands on anyway. Also, he magically took every monsters soul like vacuum in the pacifist ending. I think everyone would go with that option.
 

shrekfan246

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May 26, 2011
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A few other people have touched upon this already, but, well, the point of the Genocide run, quite frankly, is to lampoon the "completionist" mindset that some people have.

It repeatedly asks you why you're doing it, when you have other options. It literally says that you're doing it because you can, and therefore you feel you have to. Sans asks you early on to redeem yourself by sparing his brother. You have to actively choose to do this, and the game is going to respond in kind. It can come across as a bit judgy, sure, but you're extincting the entire population of this underground world. At that point I think it's kind of a fair point to make. The game doesn't need to coddle the feelings of completionists.

Plus, honestly, the changes made to the true pacifist ending aren't really that radical. If anything it can just be interpreted as the game still continuing in a never-ending cycle where occasionally the world will be left a barren wasteland. You chose to make that decision, you should be able to handle the consequences. If you can't, then, well, the point is that you could've stopped at any time. Really, your argument would make much more sense if it was about how counterintuitive it is for a video game to constantly tell the player to stop playing the route they're on and start over to play a different one, but even then, that's exactly what the game is going for. If you need to see all of the content, then there are consequences. Personally, I highly appreciate that.

Frankly, my biggest issue is that it's apparently impossible to get the True Pacifist ending without going on the date with Papyrus, and if you skip the date it doesn't seem like you can go back to it without resetting after you beat the game (unless that's been changed since I played). Of course, that's because I was playing Undertale to record and I wanted to not do what literally every other person recording the game for Youtube would obviously be doing.