May 20th, 2022
Platform Played On: Playstation 5
Disclaimer: Some photographs may hint at game progression, but should be vague enough. If not please comment and I will remove them to avoid spoiling the game for anyone else.
Table of Contents
You open your eyes to gaze upon the words written for those curious about a game with one of the most intriguing opening scenes you’ll ever encounter. A game in which its writing captivates you and you forget for an extended moment that you haven’t craved an explosion or the need to grind for gear. Although it may seem like it is geared more towards a visual novel based on the amount of reading there is; its depth is far more and the only way to understand what I mean is by playing it. I will attempt to sway you with my own experience and hopefully without any spoilers as I would not want to ruin the emotional impact it may have on you if you free up a large amount of hours away from the more active games you may play.
My initial idea for the next review I was going to write was to be about multiple choice driven games that I have purchased and played. I bought Disco Elysium back in July when my grandmother passed. I was wanting something to help me to escape the overwhelming emotions I was feeling, but instead I decided to feel them and because of that I wasn’t giving the game the attention it required. Recently I installed it again, along with the other choice driven games I own, and started to play it again while in a better headspace to add it into the article. Needless to say, I will be postponing that article for another time, because this game pulled me in and didn’t let me go. If you’re following along with my journey, you will know that I have limited my gaming sessions from what I used to play, which was about a full time job’s worth of hours. I said to myself that if I was to play a video game I would only do so while I ate, exercised, or occasionally on my “weekends” but only to have it go towards writing a review including it or for the occasional virtual social gatherings. And that’s what I did. I started Disco Elysium right after my Cyberpunk Review was posted on April 21st and any time I was eating, cycling on my stationary bike, or chilling with Ashtonn I would be playing this game. You should be able to enjoy a meal (as long as you can eat it with one hand) and navigate through the world or ride on your stationary bike and enjoy the story, as it isn’t an intense game when it comes to hand/eye coordination or reaction speed. You are able to pause the game at any point from what I noticed so if life calls, you can easily put this game down to see what life wants.
The game starts off as if you are creating a character in D&D by choosing an archetype. You can choose one of the predetermined settings be it “Thinker”, “Sensitive”, “Physical”, or what I used, which was the “Create Your Own” option. You get a base amount of points and those go into traits you want your character to have. Once you have completed that you will move over to adjusting your abilities in the four sections available to you (Intellect, Psyche, Physique, and Motors). Then comes a menu in which you can select your Signature Skill, which gives you an additional bonus point. A lot of games will give you options like this where they don’t seem to make a difference, but they do here. The good thing is that through the game you will be able adjust the traits you didn’t choose at the beginning. Certain items and experience will allow you to mix and match for certain circumstances that come up. You start picking up more clothes, internalizing thoughts, finding or buying drugs & alcohol, and of course gaining experience that is rewarded with points to use at your disposal. At certain moments it may be a bit too late for some of the choices you had failed rolls for, but that doesn’t mean they will be useless. This game is filled with opportunities, and even while going through the dialogues and challenges you will start unlocking “Thought Processes” that will range from unlocking failed rolls to making money from certain dialogue options with the occasional negative attributes too. Again, don’t worry as these thoughts can be forgotten, but not without consequence. Once you forget one you are unable to use it again so choose wisely or wing it! I also went into this game attempting to immerse myself more by choosing my own version of the character I was playing. An empathetic, logical, artistic cop seeing the world in a way that others didn’t see it. I followed this path to the best of my rolling abilities.
This game works like it is a point and click game but with the movement of a top down game mixed with visual novel aspects and the fun yet unpredictable D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) roll checks and role playing. Your choices matter and will affect dialogue responses, attributes, and of course the ending but also how much your character is the way you are wanting him to be. This game is one of the most detailed choice driven games I have ever played. The amount of paths that can be taken be it side quests, dialogue options, or even the main story is expansive. I implore you to allow yourself to enjoy as many parts of the game as you can even if it can be tiresome to listen to the Encyclopedia (you’ll know what I mean if you decide to play). I did find myself rushing through those dialogues after a long play session, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who would enjoy listening to as much information as they added to the game.
Another neat addition is the problem solving aspect of the game. You are a cop trying to solve a murder but you’re also trying to solve more than that. Making various choices to improve certain attributes; finding out what works best with the person you are talking to; or situations needing certain clothing options is like a puzzle in itself. Do you take the drugs to increase your chance of passing a roll messing up your sobriety or do you try to test your luck and do it sober potentially hurting yourself if you fail? Do you put on that scarf to help you find more clues or keep the tie on because of its hilarious antics? What worked for me was adding points into the internalizing thought processes while waiting to fail a white roll check before placing a point into the dedicated traits as it allowed me to re-roll again after doing so. Even minuscule choices such as holding a flashlight can change an interaction. Remember that, this game isn’t only about getting to the end, but enjoying the journey and exploring what the developers have created in this world. There may be something you wanted to say or do, but the probability of it working out for you was set to a difficulty level dependent on your current attributes; what you have already done before the encounter; and also the difficulty of the situation. So although you may want to role play a certain way, your efforts might be thwarted because you weren’t strong enough or empathetic enough.
As a side note, although there are auto-saves I would urge you to manually save using the quick save button as you would saving an Excel or Word document. Auto-saves don’t occur as often as you may want them to and if you’re needing to exit the game to play something else or go to work then you may lose a large amount of progress. Trying to remember the same options isn’t as easy for some of us. You are able to talk to the people again for the most part and even choose options you didn’t before for additional experience, but if you’re wanting to stick with what you chose from the beginning then there is that option too. The thing is, at times you will need to spark up a conversation with the same person again and the greyed out dialogue may have something new based on what you’ve done in the game since the last time you spoke, so make sure you do not miss out on those dialogues!
Story, Music & Characters
Going into the story we must talk about the voice acting, the music, and the world as a whole. Calming music and voices to a fault at times. The game would feed into my sleepiness. Sadly at times I would skip certain portions of long conversations or information being said in bulk as I wasn’t particularly interested in it. Not saying others would have the same issue, some might be engaged with the history provided in this game (not sure how accurate it is). Once I noticed myself skipping through dialogue I would shut the game off and play when I was more alert and ready for story. One thing I feel whole heartedly about is the voice acting — it is amazing. The amount of voices each individual voice actor did was impressive and I rarely thought to myself that this was the same person talking. You are able to mute the game and read it during those times when you are wanting to read faster than the actor speaks, but part of the glory that is this game is the voice acting in my opinion. The voices are unique, even eerie at times and those combined with the ambient sounds, and music give this game more of a movie-like feel. The chill music and sound effects match perfectly with the decrepit world that you are temporarily existing in.
I did have a few run ins with the occasional bug and one time my game completely shut down, but based on the other games I have played it was barely anything. The most annoying portion was walking down the stairs where the workers were, as I would get stuck and the game would push me back up the stairs. Once I figured out I had to hug the wall it no longer was a problem. Although this game is text heavy and would drown me out at times, it didn’t disappoint me when it came to how grand the story actually is. If you’re wanting a game that pushes through the barriers of most linear choice-driven games this is the one for you. The amount you can get from this game is dependent on how you decide to play it. The times that I laughed out loud from the unexpected dark humor this game possesses and the moments in which I would gasp from something unexpected were plentiful. The game mechanics and intriguing way they implemented the table top rules made this whole experience unique for a video game. If your attention span is short then I understand not wanting to attempt this game, or if you’re exhausted from a long day of work, school, or stresses this may also not be something you would be able to follow along with to where I feel it deserves. With that being said, I do believe you can play this game at any pace and, again, if you’re enjoying a tv show while you eat or cycle then you could put this on instead. I hope you enjoyed this review and if you do try it out, let me know what you thought about it!