Content of the article: "Just finished Disco Elysium (no spoilers)"
What a game – absolutely incredible.
Just finished my first blind play of Disco Elysium. I had picked it up on one of the recent Steam sales because it sounded very much my sort of thing and had heard a recent patch made it playable on even very modest systems . For reference, I only have a Mac Air from 2014, usually I play PS4/Switch and only the occasional retro or indie title on my Mac. Poor little computer had to have it's fan on high most of the time, but really only had to deal with some texture pop-in and hiccups when moving around too fast. Definitely helped that it's not the sort of game where that matters much.
As a longtime fan of rpgs, I've been finding in recent years the stories and mechanics fail to speak to me anymore. I loved the old BioWare games – KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect were / still are some of my all time greats. I used to have the patience for JRPGS, but the tropes have worn thin and the grindy, too easy combat has made drop them more often than not (Persona 5 was a semi-recent exception to this, though it did outstay its welcome towards the end). In many ways, this game ends up feeling less like most RPGs, and more like a Visual Novel like 999/Zero Escape or something like Return of the Obra Dinn (some of my other all time favorites). It's as if those games had character sheets, and way more text.
Anyway – wow. Disco Elysium is the first game in a long time to wholly engross me for the entire playthrough. The writing is absolutely stellar – both in the broad story arc sense, and at the micro level. The central mystery unravels for you at a good clip, and you're always finding something unexpected. The conversations the protagonist has in his mind with the different aspects of his personality are anywhere from hilarious to heartbreaking. None of the story or writing feels predictable, pandering, or like filler, you always get some enjoyable nugget from each interaction, and many of my early bizarre discoveries ended up coming up again later in the game, which was immensely satisfying. The cast is diverse and interesting, and the way the game uses a fictional world to explore real-world conflicts and problems from angles that actual history doesn't allow for is intriguing.
The isometric, painted art style is great, especially the various portraits of your personality aspects and the characters in game. It all just oozes timeless style and personality. It's a game that, much like Wind Waker today, will look great 20 years from now. A nice touch is the various levels of abstraction to the portraits depending on who you're talking to. Crazy characters or aspects of personality will often have equally crazy art.
The lack of any of the usual omnipresent "RPG" combat is, to me, a huge boon. Almost every problem can be resolved multiple ways – depending on your stats, and often failure leads to just as interesting an outcome as success. There is never once a "go here, kill this thing, craft this item, kill the boss, none of it will be hard" quest, that I just find so, so tiring these days.
I can wholeheartedly recommend this game to anyone who is at least a little intrigued by it. The only caveat being, be prepared for an immense amount of reading. Like, a lot of reading. I read Dune for the first time this year, and I feel like this was more to take in. There are many parts of Disco Elysium that just really resonated with me on a deep personal level, and odds are there's something in there that will with you as well.
Can't wait to start playthrough number two as a big body buff cop! Although I'd love some recommendations to fill the Disco shaped hole in my heart – games or other media with a similar vibe, until then.
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