Game Review: Disco Elysium

Game Review: Disco Elysium
7 min read
24 October 2023

 

Introduction

Disco Elysium is a critically acclaimed, narrative-driven role-playing game (RPG) developed by ZA/UM and released in 2019. The game takes place in the fictional city of Revachol, where you play as a troubled detective with a unique set of skills. Disco Elysium is known for its deep storytelling, memorable characters, and a distinct, hand-painted art style. In this review, we will explore the pros and cons of the game in detail, explain how to play it effectively, and provide a list of the top 5 alternatives for those who are interested in similar experiences.

Pros of Disco Elysium

1. Immersive Storytelling

One of the standout features of Disco Elysium is its rich and immersive storytelling. The game is filled with a complex, multi-layered narrative that unfolds as you interact with various characters and explore the city. The writing is top-notch, filled with dark humor, political intrigue, and existential themes. The game's narrative is often compared to a novel, and it's a testament to the power of video games as a storytelling medium.

2. Deep Character Development

In Disco Elysium, you play as a detective who wakes up with amnesia, trying to solve a murder case. As you progress, you have the opportunity to shape your character's personality and beliefs through dialogue choices and actions. You can choose to be a charming diplomat, a ruthless hard-nosed cop, or a sensitive intellectual. This level of character development not only affects the story but also the game mechanics, making each playthrough a unique experience.

3. Beautiful Art Style

The game's hand-painted art style is striking and adds to the overall atmosphere of the game. The city of Revachol is brought to life with intricate details, and the character portraits are visually captivating. The art style complements the narrative, creating a unique and unforgettable visual experience.

4. Unique Gameplay Mechanics

Disco Elysium takes a different approach to traditional RPG mechanics. Instead of relying on combat and action, the game focuses on dialogue, skill checks, and decision-making. Your character's abilities and skills influence the outcomes of your actions, creating a deep and strategic gameplay experience. This departure from the norm in RPGs offers a refreshing take on the genre.

5. Exceptional Voice Acting

The game features excellent voice acting, which adds depth and personality to the characters you encounter. Each character's voice is carefully matched to their personality and background, enhancing the immersion and making the game's world feel more alive.

Cons of Disco Elysium

1. Slow Pacing

The game's slow pacing might not be suitable for players looking for fast action or quick gratification. Disco Elysium is a deliberate, methodical experience, which might not appeal to those seeking high-energy gameplay.

2. Lack of Combat

If you enjoy RPGs with intense combat sequences, Disco Elysium may not be the game for you. Combat is almost entirely absent from the game, which can be a letdown for players who enjoy action-oriented gameplay.

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3. Limited Replayability

While the game offers a deep narrative and character development, it does have a somewhat limited replayability factor. After completing the game once, subsequent playthroughs can feel less exciting because you already know the major story beats and outcomes.

4. Steep Learning Curve

The game's unique mechanics and reliance on dialogue and skill checks can present a steep learning curve for newcomers to the RPG genre. Some players may find it challenging to grasp the full range of options and consequences.

5. Mature Themes

Disco Elysium deals with mature themes, including drugs, alcohol, and explicit language. This may not be suitable for all players, especially those who prefer more family-friendly gaming experiences.

How to Play Disco Elysium

To play Disco Elysium effectively, follow these steps:

1. Character Creation:

Start by creating your character. Choose your character's name, appearance, and stats. Be mindful of the stats you allocate, as they will influence your character's abilities and skills throughout the game.

2. Dialogue and Choices:

Dialogue is central to the gameplay. Pay close attention to the choices you make in conversations, as they can significantly impact the story. Experiment with different dialogue options to see how they affect the world around you.

3. Skills and Abilities:

Your character has various skills and abilities, such as Logic, Empathy, and Physical Instrument. These skills will determine your success in skill checks during the game. Invest points in skills that align with your desired playstyle.

4. Exploration:

Explore the city of Revachol thoroughly. Interact with the diverse cast of characters and investigate the crime scene to gather clues and advance the story.

5. Manage Your Thoughts:

Your character has an internal thought cabinet where you can equip different thoughts. These thoughts can influence your character's personality and abilities, so choose them carefully.

6. Save Often:

Save your game frequently, as decisions and actions are often irreversible, and you may want to explore different choices in subsequent playthroughs.

7. Experiment:

Don't be afraid to experiment with different character builds, choices, and approaches to the game. The depth of Disco Elysium encourages multiple playthroughs to uncover all its secrets.

Top 5 Alternatives to Disco Elysium

If you enjoyed Disco Elysium and are looking for similar gaming experiences, here are five alternatives to consider:

1. Planescape: Torment:

This classic CRPG is known for its deep storytelling, rich characters, and philosophical themes. It offers a unique narrative experience and a strong emphasis on dialogue and choices.

2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt:

While featuring more traditional RPG elements, The Witcher 3 offers a vast, open world with an engaging narrative and memorable characters. The choices you make throughout the game have significant consequences.

3. Divinity: Original Sin 2:

If you enjoy RPGs with complex systems, deep character development, and a strong narrative, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an excellent choice. It offers both single-player and cooperative gameplay.

4. Baldur's Gate 3:

Another title from ZA/UM, this game offers a combination of deep storytelling, character development, and turn-based combat. It's a good choice for those who want more traditional RPG elements alongside a gripping narrative.

5. Sunless Sea:

This indie game blends Lovecraftian horror with rich storytelling and exploration. Set in a mysterious underground ocean, it focuses on player choices and their impact on the game world.

In conclusion, Disco Elysium is a remarkable RPG known for its immersive storytelling, deep character development, and unique gameplay mechanics. While it may not be for everyone due to its slow pacing and lack of combat, it offers a distinctive and thought-provoking gaming experience for those who appreciate a well-crafted narrative. If you're looking for similar games, the alternatives listed above offer a mix of storytelling, character development, and engaging gameplay.

 

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