Imagine a role-playing game where your main party members were the emotions inside your head. Instead of a full party of adventuring heroes, you’ve got a full party in your brain. And boy is it a rager. In Disco Elysium, you’re a detective who partied so hard he gave himself complete amnesia in the middle of solving a case. The decisions you make in this RPG influence what this cop becomes – you can be a hobo cop or a communist or a complete asshole, it’s all up to how you respond to conversations.
The game plays out a lot like a tabletop RPG where there is constant background dice rolls based on the stats/emotions you’ve invested in. If you pass a check, you’ll hear a voice or get some sort of success. If you fail a check, 80% of the time the game won’t even tell you there was a check to pass. There’s also barely any combat in the game, and combat scenarios don’t play out as actual action mechanics – they go by the same rolls as everything else. It’s very much a reading and thinking game that has amazing story and lore that grips you from the beginning.
Why It’s Important To Me:
I wrote an entire review on why I enjoyed Disco Elysium so much, and I still think it’s one of my best pieces of game writing so you should probably just read that instead of me trying to repeat myself. It’s very good, I love it very much.
My Strongest Memory:
I talk about my favorite memory in my review – a very non-descript side case where you talk a spouse through their partner’s accidental death. It was poignant and emotional in all the right ways.
But the other highlight for me was towards the conclusion of the main case. There is a climax at the end of one of the days where you end up in a standoff between several people that are all armed. And it’s a climax in the true sense of the word – everything you’ve accomplished since the beginning of the game weighs in on how the interaction goes. It can go well or it can go poorly. And because it’s a culmination of decisions and actions (or inaction) you’ve taken throughout the game, it’s not a “save scum and restart” kind of moment if things go sideways. Yes you might be able to redo and get a lucky roll, but some of the rolls will fail no matter what if your stats/emotions haven’t been lifted high enough. It adds tension and meaning to a climactic confrontation that is a lot of times missing in other video games and plays out so well.
Why It’s #28:
Another game that I worried had recency bias, and yet I still think about it nearly two years later. I’m excited to play it again and feel confident I will actually complete it a second time (something that doesn’t happen as often with more recent games due to them getting longer and longer) because it’s just that good and unique. If you’re a fan of RPGs in any way and like reading novels, Disco Elysium is a game for you.
When I was a kid I talked to myself. I was an only child, but also an introvert with an active imagination. I never created an imaginary friend that I named, but I did talk to myself a lot. A second version of myself displaced; someone I could argue with to solidify my point of view or show off something cool I did. I’m not going to lie – I still do it occasionally as an adult. Not nearly as often, but sometimes yourself is the best company.
Disco Elysium is a game about talking to yourself. You play as a guy who wakes up in a hotel room with complete amnesia. You don’t know your name, who you are, what you’re doing there, or why your tie is hanging from the ceiling fan. But you do have 24 differing voices in your head that talk to you and you can talk back to them. Sometimes you should listen to them – and sometimes they give you very bad advice.
Disco Elysium is also a game about talking to other people. And while the greater story is an interesting and captivating mystery that you have to deduce the answer to through careful interrogations (or brash, depending on your choice), a lot of the charm and fun of the game are the conversations with yourself. And a lot of the uniqueness comes from your actions determining what kind of person these emotions are piloting. Is he a communist? A feminist? A fascist? A hobocop? How you act towards other people shapes your inner thoughts, and then your inner thoughts get more and more of a say in your outer conversations.
Disco Elysium is a game that spoke to me (ha!) on many levels and that I enjoyed my time with immensely. I’ll spoil the ending of this review right now: if you like dialogue-heavy branching RPGs, just go ahead and play this now, you don’t need my review. But if you want to hear more about this game works and more plot details – read on.