Disco Elysium is unlike anything you have ever played before
There’s a war inside your head
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The name Disco
Elysium – particularly when combined with its vivid watercolour artwork – may summon the image of some eighties-inspired throwback game. That, we are happy to report, couldn’t be further from the truth. Disco Elysium is the new name for No Truce With The Furies; it’s as gritty, incredible and surprising it always was.
A NEW KIND OF CRPG
In many respects, Disco Elysium is being built in the spirit of classic RPGS. But here’s the thing, Disco Elysium doesn’t feel like a throwback. It’s actually a hyper-smart and incredibly deep isometric RPG that gives us some idea of how the genre could (and probably should) have evolved were it not for the arrival of full 3D frameworks.
IT’S A CRIME DRAMA AT HEART
Disco Elysium is simultaneously an urban fantasy, a sci-fi story, and a hardboiled cop drama. It works its influences beautifully, helping to transform the city of Ravachol into a unique playground. The game begins with you awakening to little memory and voices (quite literally) screaming in your head, from there it’s up to you how you tackle a massive, sprawling, open-ended murder investigation.
THE VOICES ARE REAL
We've mentioned the voices, and that’s important. Disco Elysium doesn’t bother with lengthy exposition, instead it drops you in blind to every situation and scenario, with the majority of the information and the detail delivered through conversation and dialogue. Much of this conversation actually takes place within your own head – with the dominant and latent areas of the brain wrestling for control.
THEY ARE TIED TO SKILLS
Your various demons wrestling for control isn’t just a neat trick, it’s also an excellent approach to levelling up and character attributes. Instead of the standard intelligence, dexterity and strength stats you may expect to find in a traditional RPG, Disco Elysium instead has you grappling, evolving and pushing back all your mental faculties.
HOW DOES THAT WORK?
It’s an original skill system and it can take time to adjust. Think of it this way, every action in the game – be it engaging in dialogue, attempting to pick something up off of a table, or doing something as innocuous as sipping a drink – will have a reaction from your brain, the skill rolls in the game are for deciding whether your rational faculties, intellect and wit, or basest instincts – greed and fear – win.
OPEN QUEST DESIGN
As you wrestle with your instincts, with those voices, the game itself will begin to shift around you. If a line of questioning against an NPC is too tough, for example, the authoritarian side of your brain will begin to become more dominant and eventually take over. Should an NPC require a lighter touch later in the game your capacity for calm and quiet dialogue will become surpassed, altering the objective.
IT’S BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN
This probably won’t surprise you, but Disco Elysium is incredibly well written. It’s smart and it’s funny, never failing to hold the attention and keep us engaged – even through reams of written dialogue, text and the occasional splattering of VO. Honestly, ZA/UM has done truly excellent work in this respect and it’s going to make waves throughout the industry, of that we’re certain.
NO PLAYTHROUGH WILL BE THE SAME
Given how open-ended and truly shapable the game, quest, and character progression are, you should expect Disco Elysium to offer an experience that will truly change every time that you play it. Making even the slightest tweaks to your personality will open new lines of investigation, new dialogue options and fresh new ways to experience the game.
IT’S OUT THIS YEAR
10 Disco Elysium is excellent. If ZA/UM can keep this level of quality up throughout the entire experience then this will likely be a game that we are talking about for years to come. Looks can be deceiving, and with Disco Elysium you’re going to need to throw out any assumptions you have of classic RPGS and be ready to have the rule book re-written in front of your eyes.