Undertale Just Called Me Out on My Save Scumming

Written by: Carlos Zotomayor

Features | Aug 3, 2016

Flowey Papyrus Sans Toby Fox Toriel Undertale

I admit it, I have an unhealthy habit of saving too much whenever I play video games.

What was meant to be a method to save my progress at a specific point in time has become a "get-away-with-anything" card: a way for me to test just how far I can take a game's mechanics and just push and pull without fear of consequence.

It isn't even limited to save points. As long as I know that I have reached a checkpoint, I automatically get this sly grin and proceed to do something akin to suicide or killing all the NPCs for a laugh.

But all of this didn't happen! For with the magical power of reloading, my forty jumps to unreachable buildings and attempts to reduce the population of Skyrim to a lone chicken and a cabbage have all been erased- forgiven by some digital Jesus watching over his most psychopathic disciple.

But alas, I seem to have used up one too many miracles from digital Jesus, and sooner or later a game was bound to come along to call me out on my slaughter-filled shenanigans. That game is Undertale.

Making my way through the early portions of the game, I knew full well that there were options to either kill specific characters or to spare them. And so, being the saintly altar boy that I am... I decided to do my first playthrough by murdering every character that crossed my path.

But something happened once I was given the choice to kill one of the most important characters in the game: I just couldn't bring myself to go through with it.

Okay, well maybe I did. Sort of.


Upon starting the game and being backstabbed by the rudest flower I ever met, I soon came across Toriel, a goat-cow lady who would look at home on a carton of milk and may as well be my character's adoptive mother. 

She then saved me from Flowey, the aforementioned rude garden plant, taught me the ropes of combat, and told me that in this Underground there is more than one way to resolve issues than just killing monsters.

"Pff, I already knew that!" I said.

Little did I know that after finishing the initial section of the game, that last bit of information would be put to the test when I came across her again, this time as an adversary. 

I tried talking to her like I did before. I tried sparing her, checking to see if I had to give her a specific item, but nothing worked; she still came at me like an overprotective mother whose daughter was already well into her late 30s.

So what else could I do? I killed that moo-moo.

"Holy crap. What have I done? This can't be right."

Debating on whether what I did was wrong or not, I did the only thing any respectable murderer in a video game would do apart from hiding the body: I reloaded the game and checked the wiki to see if there was any way to save her.

Turns out there was. After sparing her enough times, Toriel gave up out of pity based on the fact that I had as much combat experience as a Call of Duty player signing up for the U.S. Navy SEALs. And after a hug, kiss, and some Butterscotch pie, I was free to go my merry way, Toriel being none the wiser that the child she cared for just assassinated her in a previous life.

But Flowey remembers. He remembers everything.

"I know what you did. You murdered her. And then you went back, because you regretted it. Ha ha ha ha... You naive idiot."

There were other choice words that that little flower called me, but for the most part I was caught completely off-guard. This was the first time a game ever called me out on something that I was completely sure that it would have no recollection of... I made sure of it! I even checked if I reloaded my save prior to killing Toriel.


Yet there it was on the screen: Undertale just belittled me for save scumming.  

For the uninitiated, "save scumming" is the act of loading a previous save, usually because you did not like the outcome of your actions in a game, in order to try again and get the results that you do want.

Done sparingly, it's all well and good- that is what the save option is for, after all. But save too often or just for the purpose of messing with a game - now that's another subject entirely.

Now I may have done this just once while playing Undertale (so far), but that white text really hit home the fact that I cheated not just the game but myself as well.

Toriel may not remember it, those characters in all the video games I have ever played may not either, but that person who saved them all was in fact an even more homicidal maniac than the villain they were being oppressed by.

Did this experience make me change my murderous motives? No. Did it make me ponder on my assassin aspirations? No. Did it make me think of words synonymous to "homicide"? I'm not quite sure.

What it did though, was surprise me in ways I did not think possible. It made me question if video games will ever get to that point where they will recognize every single thing you do, both in-game and out.

As I continue my adventure in the Underworld and in other video game worlds, I will no doubt still retain my murderous tendencies and unfathomable desire to just troll with the games I play; that's just the nature of the beast.

But as I chop off the head of yet another innocent NPC and reload my save to resurrect them all from the dead, I will always take a moment afterwards to check if that flower is looking over my shoulder, pleased at what I have become.

Flowey remembers everything. 

About the author: Carlos Zotomayor

Zoto can see your underpants. Mmm... tasteful.

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