This is going to sound a bit sappy, forgive me but it's a big deal for me. Years ago I played a game so engrossing and unique that it left me in a state of awe that none other have achieved. It was a narrative miracle, a deep and introspective story that let me role-play a character confronting his own past, his demons and the depths of his own existence, a story that asked me to make decisions at every turn and that, unbeknownst to me, was taking me on a journey to question my own demons in real life. That game was Planescape: Torment.
I did not play it back in the day, but I knew about it for a long time and I finally decided to give it a shot in 2013. I was expecting a great story with great characters, but I was not expecting for my mind to be blown away: finally, a role-playing game that actually let me “role-play”, with a breadth of choices and consequences like none other I’ve seen before. Sure, the combat was mediocre at best, but that was not the point of the game, was it? Every choice was accounted for, every trait about my character had a meaningful impact on the journey the game was taking me on. And that story, with its underlying themes of introspection and self acceptance, reached out from beyond the screen and actually made me actually think about my own existence in a way that previously only films and books had done.
It was such a unique experience that for years afterwards I resisted the urge to replay it, afraid that it would never hold up a second time. I broke that promise last year, when I decided it was time to revisit it, and lo and behold, not only did it hold up, but all of those feelings and memories came flooding back in again. A game that can pull off such an amazing trick a second time almost as successfully as the first deserved its place as my favourite RPG of all time.
So if I tell you that Disco Elysium just knocked PST off of that throne, and with unfathomable ease at that, I hope that gives you an idea of how big of a deal this is to me.
I am not going to go into details much, because if there’s one game that ever deserved to be played blind, it’s this one. All you need to know is that it is a 100% narrative driven RPG and there’s a ton of narration and dialogue, but thanks to the latest update the game is now fully voiced, a major improvement if you generally don’t like reading in a game. It may not be very long, but it is dense and deep, the core gameplay is made up of the choices you make along the way, and those are themselves dependent on your own skills and stats, making it extremely re-playable as a result.
My favourite aspect is that failure isn’t a brick wall you slam into, halting your progress and requiring you to try again; instead failing a dice roll can be as interesting or even more so than succeeding, often in a funnier (or sadder) way. Choices matter more than ever, it’s old school role-playing and embracing one’s failures is part of the experience. Cherry on the cake are the watercolour art style and evocative soundtrack, which perfectly complement the narrative's undertones.
I never thought I’d say this, but here it is…Disco Elysium outdid Planescape: Torment in every single way, it is everything PST was about, only better, deeper and so much more rewarding. My new favourite role-playing game.
- Getting off my chest – Torment & Pillars style of writing
- I absolutely need an RPG where you can actually role play
- A Morrowind fan recommendation: Kingdom Come Deliverance
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