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Disco Elysium (PC) Review
~By Manhalt (August 2022)
Trailer: Disco Elysium – The Final Cut
Disco Elysium is a straight up roleplaying game with minimal combat. Combat is pretty optional anyway as my character wasn’t built for combat so I intentionally avoided any physical confrontation throughout my playthrough. I really enjoyed this game and the world it takes place in. It feels really fleshed out with its own history and different political struggles, characters have their own history that really feel like people with a daily struggle. Any roleplaying fan would enjoy this game that centers itself around murder mystery.
I’ve played walking simulators before and I’ve enjoyed them, specifically Firewatch is one I really thought was great with its narrative. However, the narrative in Firewatch was passive, you would listen to someone on the radio and you could talk back, but the options had little effect on what happens next or how it would change the gameplay going forward. That is not true for Disco. There is a lot of dialogue, so if that doesn’t sound appealing to you then maybe skip this one. If you enjoy world building, character building, and all around role-playing mechanics that feel like there is an effect in the world, then this gameplay is for you.
Gameplay in Disco Elysium is an interaction with an object or a person where multiple options are available depending on your skills and the likelihood of your character accomplishing those options. It does have that frustrating feeling like XCOM when you are told it is 98% likely to succeed and it still gets fucked up, BUT Disco gives you a way to come back from that failure so it never feels like something was lost. Leveling up that specific skill will open that skill check again for most previously failed skill checks. There are some that can’t be undone and I believe all of those move the story along so it wouldn’t make narrative sense to give that as an option again. The game also makes it obvious if it can be retried.
There are also passive skill checks when interacting with objects or people, and it acts as your internal monologue with recalling knowledge and specific situations that pertain to this scenario, or sometimes it brings up nonsense, but it gives you that feeling like a mind is actually at work when these interactions happen. The game uses this as a way to give more information to the player about the world or the quest and even gives dissenting opinions on how to proceed based on your character’s internal personality.
I loved all of these mechanics and even when failing skill checks, I was just excited about what other ways could I find to succeed in the specific quest that I didn’t think about before failing.
Gameplay Grade: A
The visuals remind me of a watercolor painting that used nothing but bland colors. Now that sentence doesn’t sound endorsement to the visuals, but it is because it fits the environment and word they built. It feels distinct to this world and the people in it. The character is a drunk who can’t remember what he is doing in this terrible town which is run by the Union who has shut down commerce to fight with the Company to get what is theirs, while the locals who aren’t a part of either group are stuck in the middle of it all.
Visual Grade: A
The music in the game is ambient to the location and fits in without being distracting. I can’t recall ever stopping myself to listen to the music in an area or pulling me out of the game because it didn’t fit.
Music Grade: B
You awake from a several day drunken bender and you don’t remember who you are or why you are in a trashed hotel. You quickly find out that you are a detective and are trying to solve a murder. The victim is hung up outback on a tree and you haven’t even removed the body. A detective from another district is there and lays this all at your feet and says let’s get to work.
What a start to a game, it doesn’t introduce you to the world or the battles the town is facing. It just says figure it all out yourself, you are a detective, aren’t you? And that question never stops being asked the entire game. This set up really allows the player to discover the world, npcs, and who you are as a part of the game. Even as you start discovering new information, some of it could be lies, because you are usually going off what others tell you and they have their own goals in mind when revealing information. Part of me wants to write out the whole plot, but I’m stopping myself because if you have even a tiny amount of interest in this game, you should go play and discover it for yourself. What I wrote is really the first hour introduction to the game so I only spoiled the opening. I went into this game blind because I heard nothing but good things and avoided any spoilers and it was worth it.