I noticed Disco Elysium was available at my local library and remembered hearing a lot of good things about it. So I decided I might as well give it a try, even though its genre might not be the closest thing to my liking. The game in question is a tabletop role-playing game in the form of a video game, and the genre is a murder mystery. I like tabletop role-playing games, but murder mysteries themselves are quite boring. So what did I think of the game in the end?
The game starts with darkness and brainless dialogue of different voices. I’m confused. The game character eventually wakes up, and I think his strange dialogue is due to the morning sickness of the character. The character is revealed to have lost his memory, which supports hearing strange sounds – the character is a bit confused. As I progress, it becomes clear to me that the voices are not just caused by memory loss. They are the bread and butter of the game.
The player controls a dude who has lost his memory. Little by little, it becomes clear that he is a police officer who had come to a town called Revachol to investigate a murder. This murder investigation is practically the entire game. The case itself isn’t even very interesting at the end of the day, but they try to spice it up with amnesia. I won’t spoil the outcome, but I will say that I was disappointed.
The story doesn’t really go anywhere. A lot of time has been spent on building the world, and it mainly happens through dialogue. Unfortunately, I am not interested in listening to ten minutes of tales of civil wars or world history. And there is a LOT of this dialogue. The player still has to go through almost all dialogue options so that nothing essential is missed. At the end of the game, I just found myself pressing through completely pointless dialogues without reading them at all. Still, I understood the plot of the game very well. Topics could be shortened considerably in the game.
The game has a huge number of characters. It is sometimes really difficult to make any sense of their speech. You’d think this would add to the sense of mystery, but no. By the end of the game, I didn’t like any of the characters, which is pretty rare. Everyone mainly just hates our main character or the world. And when you add awkward dialogue on top of that, you have a weird mixture of annoying characters.
Not all the dialogue takes place with the characters, but as I already hinted, the main character hears voices inside his head. They are the inner voices of different character traits and characteristics. For example, empathy or logic might suddenly start talking to the player, giving their opinion on the situation. Another example is “cold shivers”, which sometimes tell about things happening somewhere else. This babbling of different features is a nice idea. But in reality, their constant interruption of an already long dialogue is annoying.
Disco Elysium is a tabletop RPG in video game format. In tabletop role-playing games, the story is influenced by choosing what the player says and does, and the success of the action is determined by rolling dice. These elements have been brought to the video game well. The player can travel around the game world freely talking to the characters they want. What you say to the characters affects the outcome of the game and how the characters feel about you.
Throwing the dice has been brought into the game logically. In some places, the player will be able to select options that show the percentage of success during dialogue or when examining objects. For example, the player can try his luck to jump high. Logically, failure often has its price, and success is a good thing. The success rate is determined by the character’s various characteristics, levels and bonuses brought by clothing. Again, you get more levels by making various dialogue choices and tasks.
The gameplay is not exactly exciting, let alone fast-paced. And of course it doesn’t have to be. The idea of the game is to convey the story and not be an action adventure. In some places, the slow exploring of areas is a bit of a pain in the ass. Exploring the world isn’t terribly interesting either, because the area is, after all, quite small. Places rarely get new things to explore, unless something clearly indicates that something new to explore has popped up. There are surprisingly many individual things in the world that can be explored, such as mailboxes, trash cans, statues and benches. But even less often you need to return to examine them after the first time.
There is always one main story mission in the game, but you can also find side missions. They are not mandatory, but doing them will reward you with experience points, which you can use to gain levels again. With the levels, you can really develop the character so that he is better able to do different things. I actually never even went through the mission list myself, because pretty much everything got done just by ticking off places. You talk with the same characters and explore the same places again and again.
The character’s movement is sometimes really stiff. There are no problems with moving in an open space, such as a square. When entering tight spaces, the character gets stuck relatively easily, and only by flicking back and forth can progress be made. The camera angle does not help, because it is fixed to a certain angle. As a result, sometimes getting to some places is not at all clear to the player. Fortunately, if there is an object in the distance that can be examined, then by clicking on it, the character will automatically waddle towards it and not get stuck. In this way, I was able to pass through some difficult “obstacles”.
MUSIC & SOUND
There is nothing inherently wrong with the songs on the Disco Elysium soundtrack. The problem with the game’s music is that you get to hear the same songs way too many times. In addition, they always start from the same point, which triggers me at least. For example, every time the player leaves the main character’s hotel, an annoying horn sound starts.
The sound acting is, well, shall we say original. The characters sound like they are somewhere close to France. The voice actors live up to their roles well. On the other hand, sometimes so much that some of the sounds start to annoy you beyond measure. One good example is a kid who is just swearing around throughout the game, and their voice gives me goosebumps even now when I think about it. A special mention from a Finn like me goes to this kid’s friend, who is also loud-mouthed, but all of their swear words are in Finnish! I remember being a little surprised when I suddenly read the word “fägäri” among the English on my television screen. The name of the character in question is naturally Cunoesse Vittulainen.
The graphical look of Disco Elysium is very original – just like the whole game. The style is cartoon-like, but at the same time watercolor-like. It is abstract, because the colors don’t have boundaries. I like this up to a point. Due to its originality, the game is memorable. However, there are situations when it is difficult to understand the graphics. A good example of this is some of the character icons, which are a bit messy in places. For example, take a look at the messy sweater of the gentleman in the first picture of the post.
I wish I liked Disco Elysium more than I actually did. It’s a really nice idea, and I appreciate when more effort is put into the story rather than into creating an empty gaming experience. Too bad the story wasn’t very amazing in the endgame. However, the game stands out from the crowd due to its special graphical look and bold character script. The game is a bit too strange for me and the strange game mechanic choices only made me annoyed. Let’s see if I can get the game’s abundant fan masses to rant about my rating.
- Distinct graphical look
- Nice ideas
- Tabletop role-playing game in video game format is well executed
- Bland story
- Annoying voice acting
- Stiff gameplay
- Almost too weird, e.g. different voices inside the character’s head interrupting the dialogue
- Repetitive soundtrack