Disco Elysium has forever shifted the paradigm of what can be considered a good RPG. From the creative mind at ZA/UM studio, Disco Elysium thrusts the player into the body of an alcoholic and drug-abusing detective in the midst of a murder investigation in a psychedelic world. It manages to offer a gripping narrative set out over a 40-60 hour experience, and enough soul and panache to make any disco-lover boogie all night long. It has won the hearts of the Shacknews staff, and as such has been crowned our Best PC Game of 2019.
The world of Disco Elysium is sold to the player within the first few minutes. It’s in these precious moments that the writers at ZA/UM shine bright. There are no fancy visuals to capture your eye, just a voice talking to you in the darkness, explaining to you the deep abyss, and beckoning you down.
It’s from this abyss, this drunken stupor that you awaken. You’re naked but for your underpants, and you’ve got a hangover that would crack the foundations of the world. It’s not a good look for a police officer, but it’s a moment that perfectly sets the tone for what’s about to happen.
From here on out, it’s your journey. You’ll meet your partner, Kim Kitsuragi, and set out to work the case. As far as detectives go, you’re one of the best, despite your reliance on illicit substances, and it’s up to you what type of detective you are. Are you a big brain type, able to reconstruct crime scenes in your mind or are you more aggressive, preferring to intimidate and threaten to get the answers you want. All of this is built upon a rich RPG system.
Booze, music, and dice
Disco Elysium might be a narrative experience, but it’s built upon a core RPG foundation. Before you begin the game, you’re given the chance to create your ideal detective. This is where the aforementioned detective style comes into play.
There are three main archetypes on offer or players can create their own by assigning skill in four main areas: Intellect, Psyche, Physique, and Motorics. These areas are each responsible for six abilities. Intellect dictates things like Rhetoric for intense discourse and Visual Calculus for mentally recreating a scene. Psyche deals with your Inland Empire for gut feelings and sense of self as well as Empathy, being able to align yourself with another person’s position. Physique controls Electro-Chemistry, your ability to love drugs and alcohol and Half Life, your inner demon and rage. Meanwhile, Motorics is all about Reaction Speed, catching a word used in a certain way by a person of interest and Composure, not cracking under pressure.
Each of these skills has its own voice, and they all vie for attention in your brain. They talk to you, and with one another, as they argue and try to sway your decisions.
Their use also extends to dice rolls, an integral part of the RPG experience. There exists in Disco Elysium dozens of skill checks. A skill check might offer you the opportunity to try a new line of questioning, pull off a sweet dance move, or try not to throw up. Each one of these takes into account a skill, and depending on the skill’s level (and other factors), you can either pass or fail.
Passing in other games is always the best option, but in Disco Elysium a failed roll can be just as appealing. Because of the way quests are handled, a failed skill check can lead you down an entirely new path you would not have discovered had you passed the check.
Disco Elysium’s quests and mission are some of the most unique and diverse adventures in any RPG. There are no fetch quests, and even simple side quests are treated with the same gravitas as the main narrative. Sure, it would be good to cut down the dead body hanging in the tree, but the detective really wants to find a pack of cigarettes and smoke them.
Actually acquiring these quests is interesting. You won’t always speak to someone to receive a new mission, you might stumble across a blank wall and think it needs a mural painted on it and now you’re in search of paint.
All throughout these quests, you’ll be greeted with the same unwavering attention to detail in the writing. Not only will you want to complete these quests for the XP, you’ll be sucked in by the story and want to take every chance you get to explore the world with Kim Kitsuragi, one of the best video game companions.
Party ‘til sunrise
Disco Elysium’s writing sells the entire experience within the first few minutes. But even after 30 hours of talking and reading, it never lets up and continues to amaze and fascinate. It’s a testament to the talent at work at ZA/UM studio. Not only has the team managed to create a gripping RPG experience, but they’ve brought it to life with a unique visual style, voice actors that will bring you to tears, and writing that will leave you wanting more. Check out the Shacknews Disco Elysium review for even more glowing talk about the Best PC Game of 2019.
Sam Chandler posted a new article, Shacknews Best PC Game of 2019 - Disco Elysium
FEEK. YES. So is that why it didn't win best RPG of 2019?
Nope, we voted on individual awards. The game with the most votes won the award.
I'm okay with this :)
That makes sense
Haha, that is awesome. It really deserves it - games like DE don't come around every year.