Disco Elysium isn’t just a detective story. It is socio-political commentary, humour, interpersonal relationships, skill-based progression, rich story, and incredible voice acting all combined in one package. What is even better, is that the game has no entry barriers. It expects you to know nothing about gaming. All you need is a sense of risk and adventure, and a willingness to read.
When I say read, you might imagine a 1,000-page novel with several deviations from the main story, unnecessary descriptions of the sky, nature and the like. Disco Elysium could not be any further away from this assumption.
The writing in Disco Elysium is the game’s defining feature, standing out like a stain in a white shirt. It’s funny, gripping, and gets very real. The gameplay involves reading; and the reading is better than any combat-driven game I’ve played in the recent past. The disco in the brain more than compensates for the lack of keyboard and mouse clicky noises in the typical action-adventure genre.
Disco Elysium is set in a dystopian world. We wake up as a cop with a hangover, and conveniently start the game with no memory of this world. We find ourselves in the floor of a hotel in a city called “Revachol”. Intrigue increases as the game progresses.
We learn more about the case itself, and the wider conspiracy of race and revolution that surrounds it. As we explore the murky lands with murkier people, we also discover the cop’s own murky past. It is all very murky.
The game has dull lighting: the artwork of the environment is best described as “aesthetically dirty”. All that propels deadbeat cop to completing the investigation is his aim to convey to as many people as possible the fact that the end of the world is nigh, and that everyone must party till the inevitable end.
The cop’s journey need not be this nihilistic, of course. This is a role-playing game set within a Dungeons and Dragons framework of rolling and enhancing certain skills. How you want to play as the cop depends on dialogue decisions, internal monologues pursued, crazy actions, and some luck with the dice.
I left the rating of Disco Elysium to chance, and it scored a perfect 12 on the dice. While currently available on PC and PS, it will be available across platforms in the coming weeks.
(The writer is an economics graduate who spends her leisure time preparing for the zombie apocalypse)