Game Review | Disco Elysium
You really should listen to all those little voices in your head...
Game summary: Interrogate unforgettable characters, crack murders or take bribes. Become a hero or an absolute disaster of a human being. (Steam)
Disco Elysium was my game of 2019 after playing through it once, but cemented itself as one of the most satisfying games I'd ever played after going through it a second time. And now there's going to be an update to fully voice the game rather than the colossal amount of text? Looks like 2021 will see my third time through and I can't wait.
The biggest reason why is how much impact the player and how you choose to play can have on events. My two experiences couldn't have been more different - and not just because I knew (roughly) what I was doing either. While you have a partner to help you investigate the murder of a hanged man, most of the 'traditional' RPG conversations come from the voices in your own head and which ones you pay attention to can totally redefine how events unfold and how people react to you.
The first time through, I tried to distribute my skills as evenly as possible and be a 'good' cop, trying to solve the case as best I could. The second time through was as a Sherlock-type details-focused super-analyst who shocked people with how much he could infer from fragments that seemed to otherwise have no connection to each other. My next time through? Super-kooky brute, I think.
The fact that this such variety is even possible is testament to how incredible the writing is in Disco Elysium and just how much dialogue each of the voices in your head has to offer - even after a third play-through, there'll still be a large number of skills yet to have their day in the sun and offering up whatever advice - helpful or not - they deem necessary.
Then there's the score, which I love more than most games I've ever played. The variations of the music in the Whirling-in-Rags, where you wake up at the start of the game have become some of my favourite pieces of music ever, not just in gaming. And this is before you get to holding a boombox on your shoulder, standing at the prow of a boat as you head out to investigate an island...
Disco Elysium looks pretty great too, with a watercolour-style sheen to not just the interface or the backgrounds, but to every texture in the game. It might not be as explosively spectacular or 'in your face' as other games, but it's still beautiful to look at despite the grisly nature of proceedings. It should be pointed out that every single one of the dozens and dozens of people you meet have their own distinctive look - no copy-pasting and swapping names and/or faces here.
And to top it all off, the game is super simple to play too, as this really is the detective RPG it claims to be and most of your time will be spent investigating locations, items and speaking to people to try and piece together what happened and what your next step is. As long as you can use a mouse, you can play this game and have fun, because even choosing weird skills to improve in will result in an experience unique to you.
My one caveat for Disco Elysium - the sheer volume of text to read through - has also now been eliminated too. Before the developers announced an update to add full voice-over work (which must've taken forever to record!), the only thing that I think would've put people off is how much you had to read. I enjoyed it, as the writing was so good that it was impossible for me not to, but it's not an issue now regardless.
I can't recommend Disco Elysium highly enough, especially as it's a very narrative-driven game that has frankly incredible replay value due to how much improving certain skills can change how you approach events. My second time through, I was able to do some things days earlier, skipped doing a couple of things from the first time through and found a couple of moments I'd never encountered before - all while enjoying the vastly different dialogue and interactions that resulted. A modern great in every sense.
Disco Elysium is one of the best-written games ever, with unendingly incredible dialogue, amazing characters and a non-linear story (for the most part) that means each time you play it can potentially have more of fewer scenes than the previous time. Add in a distinctive visual style, one of the most incredible soundtracks to a game ever, brilliant humour and insane replay value, and this is on of the best games I've ever had the fortune to play.