Back in 2018 when the world was a different place, I spent some time at EGX Rezzed, situated in the heart of London’s docklands. A slightly smaller, more indie focused version of the UK’s bigger EGX event, I had the chance to check out and play a host of games. But there was one which stood out – a mysterious text-focused, point and click, RPG adventure game. That game was Disco Elysium. The half an hour I got to spend with Disco Elysium back then gave me all I needed to know, ensuring it was on my radar going forward, mostly as it was something very unique and utterly special. After releasing on PC through Steam, picking up nearly every award possible, it’s now time for the wonderful world of Disco Elysium to come to Xbox – in The Final Cut.
Let me get this out of the way before we begin – nothing will prepare you for this game. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever played. The level of freedom, the way a story is put together, and the strange world which your anti-hero inhabits is one of the scariest, unusual places I’ve ever spent time in. It’s part detective story, part metaphysical comedy. But it is full-on genius.
You start the game by choosing a character set up, just like you would in any other RPG. However, whilst you don’t choose the character itself, you do choose how you want to play. Do you prefer a physical build, or that of an intellectual, throwing skills and points into knowledge and awareness in the hope it’ll get you by?
After that, you are thrown into a void, finding yourself talked to by a strange creepy entity; one that happily spends time discussing your life and purpose. You wake up half-naked on a motel floor. The debris from a night of drinking and excess lies strewn across the room, including the clothes you have to quickly gather. You are an out-of-shape middle-aged moustached man who can’t remember how he got here, or in reality, who he actually is. You get yourself together and soon work out that you are a detective and the reason you’re staying in this hotel is that you are on a murder case. A dead body in the garden outside the hotel has been lynched, hanging from a tree for a week now. Your partner is waiting for you to begin the investigation in the lobby. The case begins…
The story, dialogue, and writing in Disco Elysium and The Final Cut version are probably the best I’ve ever encountered in a game, particularly in terms of originality and prose. It’s unbelievable the way the team behind it have written in so many different possibilities in the choices you make and how madly weird they can make the world. And when I mean weird, I mean very weird. Parts of your psyche, emotions, and feelings talk to you, giving advice. It’s like there are a hundred competing voices and personalities of your character wanting to take control of the narrative and to guide you through. The beauty though is found in the fact that you can play the game in many different ways. For example, if you want it to be a straight up detective thriller, leaving you to solve cases, it can – and it’s very rewarding. Yet you can be completely anarchic if you wish, doing crazy unpredictable things to everything around you. The game caters for that.
The setting of the fictional city of Revachol – a decaying city settling in the shade of its former glories – is superb. Expertly crafted with a deep political history and warring factions, it’s a place that feels well lived in and real. It’s also a place you will want to learn more about and Disco Elysium allows for that across the 50 hours or so running time that it promises. It’s utterly deep and massively fascinating.
Gameplay-wise it plays very much like an RPG game mixed with a sort of point of click adventure. You wander around the city exploring the world, taking in items and things of interest to collate information about the world and the case itself. You speak to characters, yet as you do more info is gained which might add to the main quests or suddenly pop open a fun distraction or side quest. The dialogue tree options are nothing short of intense and so varied that you could spend days taking in different walkthroughs with varied results.
Throughout, there are lists of quests that keep adding clues about what to do next, or who to meet. And there is a skill tree where you can get experience from solving tasks or just chatting away. This list of skills is the most ambitious and interesting bunch of items to spend your skill points on. Separated into Intellect, Psyche, Physique, Motorics, the subsets of these main groups might then work into composure or endurance or – my personal favorite – that of Inland Empire which enables you to ‘grope your way through invisible dimensions of reality’.
Putting points into certain skills will help you overcome specific situations, like you might get a dice roll to see if you can cope with an event or do something towards a quest. For example, when you try to examine a dead body you keep being sick, which stops you from doing so, but if your endurance is high your percentage roll will allow for a better success rate.
Disco Elysium is great throughout, yet if I had one criticism about the game I would say the controls can be a bit fiddly at times, and it certainly took me a while to get used to the setup of selecting items and characters.
In the visual department, Disco Elysium – The Final Cut looks great with its artistic styling, beautiful city design, and great use of text fonts. Everything looks like it’s been hand-drawn in watercolor, and the little thumbnails for the characters when speaking are a work of art of their own. The soundtrack is stunning as well; elegant in all the scenes. And with The Final Cut edition we have on console, all dialogue has been fully voice cast. Now, I know I’m gushing maybe a bit too much but it ensures that Disco Elysium has some of the best voice acting there is. The cast fully embrace the weird world with relish and nuance in every line of dialogue delivered. Huge congrats must go to the vocal direction.
Disco Elysium – The Final Cut is one of those games which only comes along every now and then. It’s a true piece of art, with fantastic writing, brilliant voice acting and highly unusual and unique gameplay elements. There is a lot of game to be had here in terms of pathways and ways of playing through it all, but it certainly deserves the multiple playthroughs it allows.
Disco Elysium hooked me in way back in 2018 and even now it fails to ever disappoint.
Involve yourself with Disco Elysium – The Final Cut by visiting the Xbox Store