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  • Jonny Travis

Disco Elysium

System: PC, macOS Xbox One, PS4, Switch | Publisher: ZA/UM

Developer: ZA/UM | Reviewed On: PC

Disco Elysium is an RPG that follows a run-down detective on the case of a murder in a large city, still recovering from a war decades prior, whilst suffering from a severe case of acute amnesia.

Although categorized as an RPG, there is no actual combat and the mechanics are more synonymous with the Point & Click genre. This review will take you through my personal opinions of the game which contains spoilers.

So let's get to it - tighten your seatbelt (turn of phrase, don't read and drive!)

First thoughts.

My initial impression of the game was positive as you wake up unable to remember a god damned thing and are thrown into the game's mechanics at the deep end, having to figure out what to do. This is something I actually enjoy on games - not having to endure a lengthy tutorial - but you are given little hints and tips on area transition screens.

It quickly becomes apparent that your inner personality traits are fighting against each other and that you have the ability to communicate subconsciously with inanimate objects. This is an intriguing concept that writer and designer Robert Kurvitz has brought to the table; not only are you able to question suspects and witnesses, but also inanimate objects, in order to reveal any secrets they may hold.

What was the most striking was the distinctive watercolor art style graphics created by Aleksander Rostov, which is visually refreshing and masks any scrutiny of graphical detail from the player as the style is unique and is meant to be the way it is.

Right off the bat, you are given an inclination as to how much control you are going to have over the player's attributes when the game gives you the option to decide which archetypal detective or cop you want to be and includes the option to customize your own combination of attributes as opposed to choosing one of the presets - as you go through the game you'll find that none of the initial presets actually matter as you add skill points to wherever you please.

One thing that becomes abundantly clear is that where you place your skill points has a fundamental impact on your ability to navigate through the investigation and the dialogue.

Whilst we're on the topic - dialogue.

Christ on a bike is there A LOT of it and I suppose this is only to be expected as the game was written by Karelian-Estonian novelist Robert Kurvitz. For some, the dialogue may be welcomed, but if you're anything like me who thrives from continual progress, then the quantity and content of dialogue may be daunting, and a little off-putting. I found that, at times, I wanted to skip large sections of the dialogue tree and tried to assess which conversations were actually contributory to the investigation or not. Having said that, the content is extremely in-depth and very well written, as it should be from a novelist. Whether the depth of it has a place in-game is another question, but this is down to personal preference.

Part of the reason for the amount of dialogue owes ode to the way the game and story is written. You are an amnesiac and a detective, trying to solve a case whilst simultaneously figuring out who you are, whilst listening, and communicating with various aspects of your personality, which coincidently are fighting for center stage within your head. Although the concept is attractive and well-received, I feel that the quantity is too much.

As mentioned above, you are able to add skill points to characteristics throughout the game, and at predefined points in dialogue trees, these dictate if you are successful in progressing the conversation to an outcome.

You can also control your thought process, however, it is unclear what effect this has on the game (maybe I shouldn't have skipped some dialogue, whoops!).

What became clear on a few occasions was that my character had sub-par physical attributes which prevented me from doing certain things and also caused my death in one instance - yes, you can die in this game.

So, the game is set in one city block, progressing onto a couple of new areas as you make your way through the story, but the block is both small and big. Small in the sense that everything is almost next to each other but big in the sense that it becomes an annoyance having to walk/run around buildings to get to the area you need - even worse if you have forgotten to do something somewhere. A fast travel option would have been ideal for this, and it's this negative which contributes to the length of the game.

Standing at a perceived 60+ hours long, managed to complete it in 61 hours and I have to say that I wasn't completely engaged throughout the entire thing. The game and story, albeit brilliantly written and beautifully portrayed with just the right amount of comedic influence, was far too in-depth for my continued engagement, with not enough major breakthroughs for the murder investigation in the first 2/3 of the game. Again, that may just be the way I played the game with the choices I made throughout.

Having said that, the game is still a work of art and I doth my hat to the creators on their outstanding achievement. The game has won numerous awards, including Best Narrative, Best Debut, and Game of The Year, and it's not difficult to see why. Being a lover of Noir Crime Fiction & Thrillers I would love to see this as a novel adaptation where more of my precious time could be spent delving into the abyss of the storyline.

This game is definitely worth a play just for the refreshing and awe-inspiring experience. I will be keeping an eye on the rumored expansion and sequel to this game, so keep following my content.


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