Disco Elysium - Post-Launch Game Review
To Err Is Only Human
T'was my friend, Kabir who suggested me to check this game and now am chirky about it. There aren't many games out there that takes the risk of being a highly multi-faceted RPG/Exploration game and presents itself to be really unique in comparison of others. Disco Elysium adds so much to its compendium of stories that it never wants to let you go, all while the horrors of existential crisis feast upon your main character's ethos.
There are games where I would kick back and play around hours till the moment passes, DE put me in a precarious situation with myself. Having me ponder about life, choices and oddly enough, its washed color palette with certain influences of impressionism art. Pretty eclectic in nature.
Now I don't know what's gotten over me with my vocabulary and such, but maybe explaining it further as I assess certain factors of it may help explain why I've gotten into playing DE and felt like it was captive in spirit such as games like Planescape: Torments.
Set in an alternative universe of I guess the 50's, you play as a super detective deployed by your district to solve a murder case in the town of Revachol. Easy right, right? .....Eh, not quite.
Straight at the beginning, you're at peril with your own self as your inner demons revel in your misery while you contemplate for oblivion. Setting yourself back to reality, you partner up with an officer from another district, Kim Kitsuragi, with his dry humor and astute sense of awareness, strictly on the task to solve the crime while you search for your missing belongings and recover from a real bad case of amnesia.
And thus the craziness ensues. Disco Elysium is more than your by the numbers detective game, almost every character is unique and memorable, some holds the candle in comparison to a few of the most highly revered characters of gaming history. As you engage with them, you find out their backstories, dilemmas, dubious claims, solve their cases, etc. There's so much depth, I cannot even begin to describe it on a surface level. Even your inner psychology will chime in, based on your skill trees, will be your guide to making the right interactions leading forward to greater scenarios with each individual. A great mix of storytelling, dialogue, and gameplay.
The dialogues in this game are varied and at times, nuanced as well. Sometimes even difficult to comprehend being too heavy on the exposition of theories about fictional races, mythologies and so on. It's hard to understand them without at least simmering down on the super intellectual banter. Then again, that's probably by design and maybe emboldens the game's convictions for being highly close to spirit to other RPGs in the '90s as well as making itself known to be noteworthy of its own unique storytelling.
When you start the game, you choose between 3 archetypes of the character's abilities or you can customize it yourself. Be wary as they will act as base points and will not change once you've started the game.
Even though this is classified as an RPG, it wears the skin of an adventure game with a bevy of investigative mechanics. But there are enough RPG elements that really serve to get you highly invested in a lot of what it has to offer.
Here's the most interesting facet of the game, it's the character sheets. These parts of your psychology and apt detective instincts help you throughout most the dialogue encounters, giving you tips about the situation and opening new interesting dialogue options. There's not a system where you make the wrong choice and part of it becomes locked away because you pissed off the character, you can pretty much tell them almost anything you want as long you have the points for some of your skills(Mediums). Play your cards right, it'll even lead you to funny conversations such as this.
When it comes to it in conversations, at times you have to roll the dice for one of your skills in order to advance to the next topic, failed rolls will lock it away instead. How successful they are, depends on the skill points you have, but you can increase your chances if you illicit certain dialogues that influence them or something on the opposite spectrum that lowers it. Choose your options carefully.
There are loads of items to pick and clothes to wear, attires provides or cuts skill points or both. Tools are what you use when the situation requires it like a flashlight or bolt cutter. You can collect items for use or pawn them off for extra cash, you'll need to keep some so that you pay off your room rental fee.
Even more so, you have thought cabinets. The kind which leaves your character having multiple introspections and thought-analysis. Once each of these is resolved, you get bonuses for your inventory like extra slots, maximizing your skill points for each skill set and more. Solving them depends on what you do or whom you engage with. Max of 12 slots, with 9 of them being unlocked after leveling up each time will reward you with additional skill points or the slots.
The environments of the game are well designed, enough to keep the experience fresh while you explore the areas finding inventory and money. Some big mysteries require you to be observant and have the aptitude to find hidden locations. They will even lead you to places where you progress through your tasks/quests.
Disco Elysium is a long game and it's very thorough about what it does when it comes to deep intrinsic narrative, great characters, it's worldbuilding, thought-provoking delve into the human psyche and of course, falling into silly shenanigans providing levity. The humor in this game won't also let up.
Though if you're not a fan of things having too much depth or in your case, being this dense, you'll probably snooze up pretty soon. If not, then this game is ripe for play.
The art style of the game is very alluring and suiting of the themes and narrative. Brushed watercolor with some psychedelic abstract art thrown into each character's portrait, you see nothing less than of how noir is told through purely drawn art itself that reflects human's creative imagination and point of view of the world.
Again, this is an indie game made with Unity. No problems with performances whatsoever.
As for sound, it has audible similarities to other RPG games like Pillars of Eternity, Planescape and Divinity: Original Sin 2.
It's the same that can be said for music. It doesn't mean that the quality themselves are less than diminishing, there's just not much there that truly stands out like the rest of the game did.
I love Disco Elysium, finally, a game that comes with more maturity to tackle issues of social unrest, culture wars, racism, welfare problems and so on.
Definitely worth the buy if you're super into RPG games that have little to no flaws and provide a superb experience.
End note: Game will release on console as well, they're currently working on it. It will be released soon on Xbox One, PS4 and Switch.