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'Disco Elysium': a rich video game with isometric role-playing

This award-winner is that engrossing and thought-provoking game you did not know you needed

The last few months of 2019 flew by, thanks to a maelstrom of excellent games. In between Death Stranding and The Outer Worlds, a dark horse of a game quietly launched in October, and it turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the year. Disco Elysium, I will admit, flew under our radar, but when it started raking in the awards, we did sit up and take notice. This indie game is a unique and fascinating take on the role-playing genre.

ZA/UM is primarily nested in Estonia but also has a London office. It was founded in 2016 by Karelian-Estonian novelist and musician Robert Kurvitz, who is Disco Elysium’s lead writer and designer. In fact, Disco Elysium’s original title was ‘No Truce With The Furies’

Disco Elysium
  • Developer & Publisher: ZA/UM
  • Price: ₹899 for PC (Steam). Also available on Epic and GOG, but prices may vary.

Disco Elysium is a combination of an isometric role-playing game in the vein of Divinity: Original Sin or the first Fallout. You play a detective who has lost his memory after a serious bender... with a corpse in the backyard. You, along with your extremely patient partner Kim Kitsuragi, set out to find some answers.

Responsive character builds

Disco Elysium is psychological in nature and it reflects in the way you imprint your character on this blank slate of a detective. Rather than the usual adventurer, you select from a range of stats around your psyche, intelligence as well as physical attributes, like motor skills and strength, which is not your traditional bash and smash, but more on intimidation. These skills play a big part in the ‘dice rolls’ in this game.

'Disco Elysium': a rich video game with isometric role-playing

It is not only about those external conversations with people, but the wonderful depiction of our own little internal conversations. For example, if you chose an empathy-based build, you are outwardly charming and can feel out hunches, but internally you are also unstable with cross thoughts. Yet, these are valuable tools for a detective if used right. The very basis of intuition.

Players are spoilt for choice with umpteen available personalities from which to choose: the mind-palace touting Sherlock-esque detective, a pitiful pushover, a delusional superstar, or a smart-talking conman. You can choose to be the swaying champion with a penchant for licking dried rum off counters. You can be that flakey guy who refuses to pay his bills and cons old ladies off their money, or you could sit back and dabble in poetry and dance.

'Disco Elysium': a rich video game with isometric role-playing

This is role-playing at its finest and — interestingly — the city and its denizens react to you and your shenanigans.

‘Staggering level of detail’

Experience-wise, it does throw a lot of text at you, but so well-written, that it pulls you in.

The conversation trees are complex, with dice rolls that trigger certain insights or thoughts to pop up. You can verbally bludgeon, annoy or charm information out of people. The staggering level of detail in the writing sees that you either find yourself, or you enjoy your new-found freedom that amnesia comes with and roll with it.

Disco Elysium’s graphics have a unique make-up of polygonal graphics, with a watercolour aesthetic, breathing life into every character, while offering a slice of Revachol, the mind-bending former capital of the world, which is a cold, moody place.

'Disco Elysium': a rich video game with isometric role-playing

If ever you find yourself in an argument about video-gaming not being an art form or a literary piece, keep a copy of Disco Elysium to throw in their smug faces. If you do not mind a lot of reading, you will not be disappointed.

This is one of the most sophisticated dialogue systems packed into a game that will resonate with you on different levels.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 3:58:42 PM |

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