Disco Elysium Review – The final cut

Disco Elysium is an isometric RPG with a focus on fairness. It’s designed to be progressive and inclusive – fun for newbies and experts alike, casual and hard-core, RPG fans, and people who generally dislike RPGs.

The combat system is similar to a classic JRPG; it’s fast-paced and flashy, while still remaining fair. Even though the combat system is not grid-based and lacks crits, Disco Elysium doesn’t feel like a hack n’ slash. Instead of a party full of faceless dudes to control, your character focuses on being an individual with their own style.

Each character’s fighting style will look different from another character’s style. Moves are also inspired by real-world martial arts such as Choy Lee Fut, Hung Gar, Ip Man (Wing Chun) etc.

Disco Elysium Review
Disco Elysium Review

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In Disco Elysium review, players take the role of a criminal who’s trying to find his way among various groups in a futuristic city. This city is filled with unique locations such as bars, brothels and nightclubs. There are also plenty of side activities such as shabby cam shows, fights or gambling. All quests are resolved inside these locations which makes each visit different, resulting in more variety and better replayability.

Disco Elysium is a game that delivers on the indie promise of being massive and ambitious in scope, taking cues from titles like Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin. It also introduces some really refreshing mechanics that set it apart from other games in the RPG genre.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this game, but my initial positivity took a bit of a hit when exploring the actual areas you explore, as well as the sidequests which felt pretty typical and unremarkable. But overall, Disco Elysium succeeds in crafting an experience that I feel players seeking to tick off their Grognard bucket list will enjoy immensely.

I’m not sure where to even begin talking about Disco Elysium’s astounding dialogue. It’s funny, crass, and weird in all these best ways possible. Not only is each NPC believable with their own distinct personality, but their dialogue paints a picture of a world that feels both lived-in and new in equal measure. But it’s not just the excellent writing that makes me love this game’s story.

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The way it constantly makes you question your actions – and what you’d even be doing as a detective – is wonderful. The Final Cut of Disco Elysium gives players a lot more options when going into certain situations, but also opens up even more possibilities for players to make mistakes if they’re not careful.

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I’ve reviewed Disco Elysium before, so here’s just a quick recap: Murder mystery games have always been one of my favorite sub-genres of video games. They’re just inherently so intriguing, allowing players to be detectives and work through cases using clues and information like real investigators do.

Gameplay

I went into Disco Elysium not knowing quite what to expect. It boasts a psychological horror theme, a moody and evocative aesthetic, and will last you over thirty hours of gameplay (and potentially more if you really want to sink your teeth in).

First, the positives: The world is brilliantly rendered; the writing is sharp, funny and often insightful (although sometimes overblown); and it’s the kind of game where exploring leads to new problems (and solutions) rather than dead ends.

It’s also incredibly inventive in its use of psychic powers (which can be unlocked as you progress). Telekinesis is particularly impressive and I loved setting up a loop where I could fire the same book at a gaggle of ghouls from multiple directions until they finally caught on.

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I can only describe this game as a masterpiece. It excels in virtually every category, and will likely be one of the most talked about indie games. It features the completely unique premise where the main character suffers from amnesia, and the entire game unfolds in flashback whilst being investigated by him to find out what happened. Even the first few hours of play feels fresh and novel.

There is an interesting pixel art style that immediately grabs your attention – some might even say a ‘quirky’ style at times with its black borders, bright colour palette and well-programmed parallax background effects.

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You wake up in an alley and are given choices to determine who your character will be, all while finding clues on how to get home or what situation you might have been in that led to your current situation. The game is a beautiful blend of text-based adventure and RPG elements. It uses long strings of description and short choices to allow players to piece together the details of a world that is slowly being revealed, but also explore the options for future investigations.

In Disco Elysium, developers have crafted a game with an incredible amount of depth. You need to explore the world as you play, building conversations with its inhabitants before you can glean clues from them, and even then you may get riddles or red herrings if the player made an assumption about where he was, or based his questions on information learned after his arrival.

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All of this is done in first person from any location you can walk, run, or interact with. It’s engaging at every turn and moves along briskly, leaving you always wanting more, no matter how deep into the game you are.

The meta-game aspect of Disco Elysium stems from this long ancestry of ‘puzzle-dungeons’ in which guiding your character through a maze makes up for about 60% of the experience. The other 40% is wrapped in dialogue choices, exploration, and character building.

I have to admit I had never heard of prior to playing it. While there are elements of Disco Elysium that connect it to classics like Planescape Torment, there are also several gameplay mechanics in here that are completely unique. It is a hard game to pin down and describe easily, but I think the best approach is first to look at its character creation system and how it opens up the game for exploration.

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Available on Steam, GOG, and Good Old Games, Disco Elysium is like a weird mishmash between a Choose Your Own Adventure book and a bunch of pen-and-paper RPGs.

There’s elements to collect that can help you keep your adventure going (grenades will disable machines, while gloves can let you get past electric barriers), there are NPCs that you can talk over and over again (with the option of choosing different conversations every time), and each interactive set piece can lead to victory or instant death.

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Even if you’re just messing around with the game’s mechanics, it’s fun seeing how these bizarre puzzles play out in a goofy way.

There’s no denying that Disco Elysium is ambitious. Its oppressive atmosphere and surreal theatrics put it into similar territory to games like Deadly Premonition, with which it shares considerably more than just a few surface similarities.

It comes to life under the instruction of some truly brilliant art direction, however – a blend of the beautiful and the downright grotesque, the familiar and the horrific – and the momentum this creates propels you ever further into its grim world.

Disco Elysium is a wonderful game. While its mandatory detective work will be too involved for some players, for others who want to spend more time working with other characters or even delve into the game’s RPG customization scheme, Disco Elysium feels like a game that will grow with you.

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Now, I’m not saying that it’s perfect; from the difficulty of its puzzles to the occasional difficulty in figuring out how to advance the plot in general, there are plenty of rough edges that need smoothing out. But, if I’m up for playing a character-filled game and helping populate an underused corner of moonlit Los Angeles circa 1987, then perhaps you should be as well.

Wrapping Up

It’s hard not to fall in love with Disco Elysium. Everything from its surprisingly deep turn-based combat and nuanced story hooks you in and never lets go. The game expertly wades into uncomfortable subject matter – such as fascism, torture, and other sensitive topics – while never feeling like it’s trying to force a social message down your throat. And the way it all ties together is nothing short of brilliant.

Whether you’re playing for the first time or replaying it again after the big update, you owe it to yourself to dive into this twisted world.

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Disco Elysium is, in many ways, the best game I played this year. It’s a mature, thought-provoking story driven RPG with a unique premise and, despite some missteps along the way, it tells that story brilliantly.

A great detective story is like a magic trick. It’s an elaborate illusion your brain goes along with willingly, because on some level you want to believe that somebody out there knows how it’s done.

If there’s one thing to take away from my time with Disco Elysium, it’s this: this is not a detective simulator. In fact, its genre-bending narrative structure makes it difficult to pin down any single genre at all. Despite the game’s vague description and late trailer reveal, I was never sure whether to expect a visual novel or point-and-click adventure horror game in my playthroughs.

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You want to believe that you could see the wires and the tricks, but never quite can. There’s always something off just beyond your ability to notice it, and as a result, you’re hooked, willing to go along for the ride. This is what makes a great adventure game such a fantastic genre, too – you want answers to mysteries, and if you’re paying attention at all, then the best way to get them is through videogames. Disco Elysium is one such game.

Disco Elysium Review - The final cut
  • Gameplay
  • Graphics
  • Storyline
  • Characters
5

Summary

Disco Elysium effortlessly blends puzzle-solving with point-and-click adventuring, telling a weirdly compelling story where nothing is just as it seems. From the first moments of its opening cinematic, I was hooked by the oddness going on around you. Disco Elysium is able to create atmosphere like few other games I’ve played in the past couple of years (an incredibly impressive feat given it’s full price). As you step out of an elevator made almost entirely of mirrors, you’ll see distorted figures in your surroundings that seem to both be next to and far away from you all at once. Speaking to these figures will inevitably lead to the most bizarre puzzles that gradually build up a picture of what this nightclub truly is.

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