Disco is *not* dead.
Overall 7.90
It is very rare that I find a game that is tailor made for me. There are two general things I consider myself an "expert" in. Video games and politics. The former needs no introduction, I am a member of this website after all. I love virtually all games and the genres they encompass. This includes platformers, adventure games, puzzle games, action titles, and everything in between. But my favorite is the role playing game genre. Whether it be strategy RPGS, JRPGS, or even MMOs I tend to have a bit of a soft spot for this genre. Particularly for traditional Western style choice based RPGs

In terms of politics, I can be nearly obsessed with them. Reading both up on political history as well as events in the present. It's always interesting knowing about what goes on in the world and developing theories to as of why they are occurring and the best course of action to take. If you would allow me to get a bit more personal, I lean much into the "left" side of the spectrum. To the point where one could accurately describe me as "socialist".

What makes Disco Elysium so intriguing to me is that it mixes these two interest. Not only is it a role playing game that mixes well with political commentary, but it does so with the vision of arguably my most beloved subgenre and political beliefs. Traditional WRPG and socialist thought. This should make the game be among my favorite of all-time, but due to some core gameplay aspects that just aren't there, mixed with some awkward pacing it just doesn't reach it.

The game has you start out playing as...someone. You don't know your name, who you are, what you are doing, or where you are. You quickly learn that you are a detective who is in a hotel in the fictional city of Revachol. The city being a cross between a 1970s English Industrial City and Portland, Oregon. In the hotel lobby you discover your new partner Kim Kitsuragi and you two work on solving the murder of a middle age man who has been hanged.

Throughout traveling the city you come across wacky characters and caricatures such as a meathead white supremacist, a criminal trade union leader, a strange eccentric billionaire, technopunks, and so on. These characters really bring life to the city of Revachol and just what type of place it is. What's more is that lot of these characters are voiced by well known leftist figures such as the cast of Chapo Trap House (my favorist podcast).

Gameplay wise the game is a point and click Western RPG in a detective setting. The game is filled with stats to improve various traits that unlock dialog options as well as the likelihood of the player completing certain tasks. These tasks range from knocking out bodybuilders to understanding graffiti art to breaking and entering homes.

While it may seem traditional there is a lot of innovative elements as well. Such as when investing in certain attributes your inner consciousness will give advice. A little "voice" in your head. What's even more interesting is that these voices will often contradict one another and at times even starting arguing with each other. It's much more interesting than it sounds and it really adds to the game.

Now everything I have described about this game makes it sound like my dream title. So why is this far from a perfect ten? Because while the concept of the game is incredible, and while it does a lot of things right, and adds in a lot of unique things...the execution isn't there at times.

For starters despite the game feeling like a traditional heavy based choice RPG, it just isn't. Unlike say Troika or modern Obsidian and CDProjekt titles, your choice just don't matter much of the time. Outside of a few standout examples, the fruits of your actions either aren't shown how they effect the people around you or just simply don't in any significant way.

To make things clear, I am not asking for the world to revolve around my character. I realize this isn't that type of game. But I at least expect that if I break into a house and give a child illegal narcotics, then there would be some lingering consequence to that besides the child just saying "Thank you" and that's it.

This lack of cause and effect on the world makes the game feel less like a RPG with detective setting, and more like a point and click adventure game with notable RPG elements.

All this also isn't helped by the games dialog tree. While the writing is very clever, it rarely matter what questions you ask people. Not just because it doesn't effect any real outcome, but because at any time you can go back and select the other dialog option you wanted to say with virtually zero consequences. The game almost never takes away a dialog option after choosing another one, the dialog tree is presented in merely a list of things you can ask, and the way it is crafted you are almost always better off selecting all of them. Again this really minimizes the role of the "choice" you have in this game.

The final complaint I have with this game is the pacing. The first half of the game is paced well enough and it gets you invested much more in a simple murder story than you'd expect. However, halfway through the game it begins to feel much more aimless. It becomes one of those "what the fuck do I do now?" sort of games as you wander around trying to figure out what trigger there is to progress the story. Out of nowhere then does the game suddenly pick up, and as it starts to become really engaging it abruptly ends right as the climax is underway.

It just makes the game feel like an hour or so is missing from it. Especially considering that throughout the backdrop is civil unrest and revolution. The ending makes it feel like any moment now people will be taking the street in arms, yet the game's credits roll just before that occurs. It makes the whole thing a bit anti-climatic.

Now, I don't want to be too negative on this game. It is quite good. It has good characters, a good setting, good humor, and surprisingly good political commentary. Too often are games made by people who are either centrists or "liberals" which tend to result in titles like Bioshock Infinite which tend to have very shitty limpdick messages of "both sides" and "the oppressed are destined to become as bad as the oppressors" and so on. It's actually very nice to see a game where I nod along and even provides insight to my own beliefs.

But at the end of the day that alone isn't enough to have the game reach the heights of others. Disco Elysium is a fun detective adventure game with some strong RPG elements and great political commentary. But I just can't help but feel that it could have been so much more.
Posted by Punk Rebel Ecks Wed, 25 Dec 2019 21:02:12
Wed, 01 Jan 2020 01:21:42
Wow people seem to love this game, nice to see another viewpoint on it. Very well explained, sounds interesting to be sure.
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