Writing about this game is going to be pretty tough since it’s not so much a videogame experience as compared to a point and click adventure game with a lot of fun dialogue. If I was to describe Disco Elysium in a single world it would be “cerebral” because one of the most charming points was how the player character’s different brain functions would converse with each other as if they were your party members. Playing off on that, the entire world of Disco Elysium is a detailed alternate universe history where historical parallels have made an entirely different world and it is presented to you in a pleasantly weird and unique way.
I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures. For one, they delayed this post for at least a couple months and also because I don’t have much variety here aside from some quick thoughts.
Disco Elysium, on the surface, is a story of a murder case and you are a detective sent to find out who was responsible. That’s the short and sweet of it but things are made a lot more difficult when your player character partied a little “too” hard the night before and completely lost his memory. Thankfully his newly assigned partner from the nearby police precinct, Kim Kitsuragi, is infinitely competent and up until a really specific point, tolerant towards your slowly recovering and bumbling methods of police work. Your player character is so far gone with his amnesia that he has forgotten his name, lost his gun and badge, and also any other authentic means of proving that he is a police officer so regaining your footing to solve the case is part of the deal. Throughout your shakedown of the former capital city of Revachol, you will meet and converse with a number of different people across a number of days where you’ll uncover the truth of the incident as well as re-discover the nature of the world of Elysium, particularly the backdrop of a labor union strike and the organization that employs them. Going deeper, you can choose to explore the player character’s tortured past and explanation as to why he tries to make himself suffer.
While it is advertised as an RPG, there is no traditional combat as every interaction is done through dialogue and skill checks. You are given the freedom to assign points to a variety of attributes constituting what I think is the most accurate depiction of a person’s psyche I’ve seen in a video game. Between your greater categories of Intelligence, Psyche, Physique, and Motorics are 6 facets of each of the 4 main attributes that make up your character’s mental state and personality. It has been said that these 24 attributes themselves are your traditional RPG Party as they are the ones who talk with you and even converse with each other throughout the game, leading to quite the unique feeling of having your libido argue against your better intuition. These stats also have smaller checks that go on in the background to notice more subtle hints and observations your character makes. Of course, you still have Kim around with you, making that 25 party member dialogues as well some optional ones like your tie. The game’s progression is tied to conversing with the right people and learning the correct information you need to pursue leads and gain more information. The usual means to finding out the most pertinent information are through skill checks, white ones that can be re-attempted if you invest a skill point into the necessary skill while red ones are permanently locked out if you fail and tend to cause a unique reaction from the game world. It should be noted that some red checks are meant to be failed and an alternative solution can always be found, even if it means altering skill points to be different than your intended playstyle. Yes there are two health bars but you mostly lose life from either physical damage you incur from accidents or some confrontation or mental damage from being so goddamn pathetic.
Another aspect of the RPG is the Thought Cabinet, which more or less are the perks of the game. Making specific dialogue choices, proposing certain ways of thought, interacting with objects, and basically just going around and engaging with the world gives you Thoughts to ponder on. These thoughts can be equipped into your brain’s slots and they each have a unique timer for them to be internalized whereupon they can give special effects be it unique interactions, stat boosts, or even ways to kill yourself each night. Some stat benefits and penalties can also be incurred during the internalization process or even after the thought is equipped so it’s always fun to see what you might end up with, as de-equipping a thought costs a skill point from leveling up. Equipment also exists to help balance out your stats and there are numerous ones to grab throughout the game.
Talking about Disco Elysium is tough because there’s just so many goddamn things to do in the game, so much dialogue, so many interactions, and so many ways to navigate your way through the progression that it’s genuinely amazing how much you can experience. It’s one of those games where you learn something new everytime you play a new playthrough or talk to someone else who played the game. One thing however is that a specific playthrough with different stats doesn’t yield too much so I hear many people playing fully statted up hacked playthroughs to see as much as possible the first or second time around. As of the time of this writing, it’s been around six months since I beat the Director’s Cut in September, and apparently there has been another update adding some more dialogue and content in the game which I think is really cool. It’s one of those games that’s better off not being spoiled because it’s definitely something whose charm needs to be experienced first-hand than whatever I can meagerly describe to others.
I will say though that anyone interested in the game should grab the PC version as the PS4 version that I got on sale had incredibly long load times that greatly diminished my desire for another playthrough.