Final thoughts on Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium may be the first role-playing game that gave me a virtual mid-life crisis. Tossing me in the shoes (er, dirty socks) of a disgraced detective who was so disgusted with his life that he went on a three-day bender to forget everything and start over again — in the middle of a case, no less — had me rethinking of what it was to pilot a hero.

Was Harry a hero? If I wanted him to be, I guess that he was. But by handing a complete wreck of a human being to a player, we were given something far more unique to this genre — freedom to be weird. And being weird is what Disco Elysium is all about. After all, Harry is guided by a host of inner personalities who vie, bicker, advise, and lead, often in different directions to each other. It’s hard to be sane and normal after that.

I finished up this CRPG a couple of weeks ago, to my immense satisfaction. During my time pursuing a murder case in this mythological European island city, I felt the freedom to deviate from the nice/naughty paths to explore some of the true oddity that can happen when you’re piloting a broken human. I’m always choosing weird options in RPGs to see what the devs come up with, and this is exactly the kind of game where that pays off — in advancement or story or amusement — more often than not.

DE is more akin to adventure games than traditional fighting RPGs (there is precious little combat in this). Reminded me a lot of Planescape Torment in that regard, not to mention how the main setting is a very rundown and depressing city. Focusing more on skills than fighting made for a very fascinating experience, and except for reloading the game a bazillion times to beat some of those low odd checks, it was a great change of pace.

So a couple of things I didn’t like. At times, Disco Elysium delves into extremely wordy treatises on politics that almost seemed like gibberish (but probably makes more sense to Europeans used to these tricky governments). And while there are laughs, the whole game atmosphere is depressing. I often came away from the game feeling emotionally wrung rather than jazzed up.

All in all, I had a great time and lend my praise to this title as one of the more excellent and imaginative RPGs that the industry has produced lately. I don’t feel a desire to replay it, which is weird, but I am very glad that I got to go through it at least once.

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