Disco Elysium Review - This is a one strange game that has its moments. Let me tell you why...
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it feels like to live like a less functional, dumber, and more schizophrenic version of Sherlock Holmes whose biggest enemy is himself in a world much, much harsher than London, Disco Elysium gives you a pretty good idea.
A narrative-heavy RPG that takes heavy inspiration from tabletop role-playing games, Disco Elysium puts you in the shoes of a detective sent to investigate the murder of a man found hanging from a tree. But, instead of doing your job, you got busy doing other things instead.
In a funny and dark twist, you’ve spent the past couple of days in town doing god knows what. You wake up not even knowing who you are, where you are, and why you’re there. You haven’t even put down the body yet!
From then on, you spend most of the journey trying to piece yourself back together as much as trying to find out who the culprit is.
Why Is the Opinion on Disco Elysium So Divided?
There are two problems with Disco Elysium
One is you could be of the opinion that the game is just one wall of text after another disguised as a game. Technically, it pretty much is. It’s a point-and-click text-based adventure masked as a modern, open-world role-playing game to make it look pretty. Or, at the very least, prettier than games in the past. The other problem is that you could think that Disco Elysium is the best thing since sliced bread.
Of course, the argument does indeed exist that Disco Elysium is one of the best games of its generation. Depending on how you see it, it’s either too text-heavy or a fresh, nuanced take on how to tell a story in video game form.
Disco Elysium plays you just as much as you play it. Its world is small, but nothing seems out of place. It’s like it’s designed to mess with you and with itself. You could compare it to living a dream where you think you have complete autonomy over everything, but most of the time, you don’t. You really have no idea what’s going to happen next despite telling yourself, or in Disco Elysium’s case, your character, what to do next.
Because Disco Elysium borrows heavily the RNG elements commonly associated with tabletop RPGs, the result is a unique RPG that’s quite unlike any other.
This is perhaps the biggest cause of the divide among the gaming community.
You either love Disco Elysium, or you hate how much of a waste of time it is.
What’s the Gameplay of Disco Elysium Like?
If you’ve ever played a game of Dungeons and Dragons with your friends, then that’s pretty much like how Disco Elysium plays like.
Moving along the story is simply a matter of willing your detective to do so and hoping that lady luck shines upon you. There’s no sure thing in Disco Elysium. You can pad up your stats all you like, and make your detective more likely to succeed in beating someone up or getting away with words alone, but there’s no guarantee that what you want to happen will happen.
And that is where the magic of Disco Elysium lies
The sheer excitement born out of the uncertainty of what’s going to happen next and the anticipation of building your detective’s character sheet up enough to progress as exactly how you want to, all without some arbitrary god forcing you to accomplish something via only one particular way, is arguably more stimulating than hacking and slashing your way through yet another horde of monsters.
In a narrative-driven world full of text, your choice of dialogue is your best and worst weapon.
Mind you, when we say dialogue, we’re not just talking about speaking with other NPCs in the game. We’re also talking about the inner conversations that you’re going to have throughout the game with the many voices that live rent-free inside the detective’s mind.
Trial and error. Learning from your mistakes. Finding beauty in your shortcomings. Succeeding despite a setback. These are all things that you’ll come to see in action in Disco Elysium.
This makes for a truly unique experience for every one of your playthroughs.
Is Disco Elysium a Graphical Masterpiece?
No, it definitely is not.
Given that Disco Elysium was meant to run well on at least an Intel HD620, which is not a very good graphics card, to say the least, Disco Elysium was not meant to wow you with its eye candy and visual effects. Yet, Disco Elysium isn’t ugly either.
For what it’s trying to accomplish as a game, Disco Elysium is actually quite beautiful.
It may not be a graphical masterpiece in the conventional sense, but the background, graphics, and artwork all are finely detailed enough. All these elements combine to create something that feels very much like a close approximation of a crooked and wicked world seen from the perspective of a barely functioning junkie.
From the atmospheric lighting, ambient sound design, and lighting, Disco Elysium gives you an unlikely but immersive open-world as your playground. There are some optimizing issues with some later regions of the game which will undoubtedly be fixed soon.
What is the Biggest Strength of Disco Elysium?
There’s no doubt about it, Disco Elysium lives and dies by its writing.
The clever mechanics, unique gameplay, and surreal world are all nothing if it wasn’t for the game’s masterful and brave writing. It’s what serves as the foundation of everything that Disco Elysium is, was, and ever will be.
Disco Elysium is unafraid of tackling anything from communist undertones, racism, murder, and substance abuse, among others. But it infuses just enough humor, dark as it may be, that even those who don’t have dark humor will have no choice but to laugh at the irony of things, or sometimes, the complete lack thereof.
You’ll find yourself in deep thought and laughing and crying and confused all in equal measure in Disco Elysium.
That Disco Elysium plunges players headfirst into a deep, confusing world only to make them think and then eventually, understand why no such hand-holding was necessary, is an achievement in and on itself.
Even though the way that Disco Elysium is written and designed may not appeal to everybody, to those who it appeals to, it’s a game with the potential to set the bar for any RPG that comes after it.
Is Disco Elysium Worth Buying?
With enough story material estimated to last at least thirty hours per play-through and the possibility of unlimited replays, Disco Elysium is well worth buying based on those two notions alone.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a game that does as much with as little content as Disco Elysium has.
Every play-through of Disco Elysium is unique and different. One moment you could be playing as a babbling baboon who’s tempted to kill himself every chance he gets. The next one you could be an eloquent speaker who can talk his way out of anything and anyone, including his many inner demons.
You don’t just create a character in Disco Elysium. You build it. The detective is a reflection of your every choice in the game, including your failures and successes. Your dominant stats and inner thoughts are very much the results of how you’re playing the game.
Unless you don’t want to be spoiled by how much dialogue options and character optimization should be in an RPG title, feel free to skip Disco Elysium. Otherwise, dive right in.