Disco Elysium takes the age-old mechanics of traditional pen-and-paper RPGs and then twists them around a noir-detective story. Players start the game with hangover-induced amnesia and a battle against a part of their brain that they talk to.
This system is used to great effect in a game with little violence but instead relies on your silver tongue. Allegiances, ideologies, and upbringings create verbal minefields that need to be traversed.
It’s a unique amalgamation of genres
It’s not unusual for video game developers to bend and blend genres but Disco Elysium takes this to an extreme. The game begins with a detective who wakes up in a filthy rented room with no memory of his life and a case to solve. He’s been sent to Martinaise, a decaying district in the fictional city of Revachol, to investigate the murder of a man hanging from a tree near his hotel.
The case requires detective work and a lot of walking around and talking to people. The game avoids combat completely and much of the progress happens through dialogue and story sequences.
There’s a system of internalizing thoughts unlocked along the way that gives XP, stat boosts, and unique skills. For example, if you think about your mortality or ruminate on how you’re just a “rockstar cop” over and over again, you may get a bonus to your next dice roll. It’s a cool twist that makes the game feel fresh and innovative.
It’s a cynical game for extremely cynical times
In Disco Elysium, your character is built from the ground up. You start by deciding how many points to put into four key stats: Intellect, Psyche, Physique, and Motorics. These in turn influence lesser traits, like Logic and Suggestion. These stats allow you to create a detective that feels uniquely your own. You can have the superhuman insight of Sherlock or be a self-destructive mess like The Wire’s Jimmy McNulty.
The game’s world is also expertly crafted. Revachol was once a center of industry and progress, but now it’s a bled-out hellhole full of decaying principles. It’s a place where everyone is fighting for survival, even those who don’t support the revolution.
The game’s painted art aesthetic and music make it a true experience that will live long in the mind. The characters all feel fully formed and their stories intertwine with yours in a meaningful way. This makes the experience of completing quests and solving crimes an emotional and cynical one.
It’s a great detective story
There’s a lot to love about Disco Elysium, but it won’t be for everyone. It’s not a combat-heavy game, and most of the exciting sequences are verbal rather than physical. This is a great change of pace for an RPG, and it allows the player to take control in a truly unique way.
Disco Elysium’s characters are brought to life through a revolutionary dialogue system and full voice acting. You’ll interrogate unforgettable characters, take bribes, and decide what kind of person you want to be in a world that’s on the edge of hell.
You start the game as an incredibly hungover detective, unsure of what happened the night before and who you are now. From there, the game opens up in front of you like a blank canvas that you can shape to your liking. The freedom doesn’t stop at character creation though – the story is open-ended and you can pursue it as doggedly or as casually as you choose.
It’s a great game
Unlike most games, Disco Elysium is heavily character-driven. Players have four main stats to invest points in, which impact the starting level and maximum level of six related in-game skills. These stats are psyche, physique, motorics, and intellect.
The gameplay is not combat-centric but revolves around dialogue and investigation. The game’s dilapidated city is full of intriguing characters that you can interact with and learn more about. Some of these interactions lead to the revelation of a murder mystery, while others help you reassemble your identity.
One of the reasons Disco Elysium is so engrossing is its great writing. How your character establishes himself as a washed-up detective is delightfully cynical. It also adds a touch of comedy, such as a character that remarks on your necktie choices. Disco Elysium also has a unique skill system that rewards conversational choices. Thoughts unlocked through conversations are added to your mental inventory, where you can ruminate on them for several rewards, from stat boosts to XP.