The Final Review: Disco Elysium

Nathaniel Simon, Featured Writer

If you have been on the internet for any length of time since October of 2019, you’ve heard about Disco Elysium. It has won 14 awards since it’s release including 4 from the game awards categories, Best Narrative, Best Independent Game, Best Role-Playing Game, and Fresh Indie Game. It is honestly one of the most well polished, well written games I have ever played. Out of the 140 games I have in my Steam library this one tops them all. But how does a game that only came out recently, top all of the charts and become one of the hits of the new decade? Well, to find out we need to start at the beginning.

Disco Elysium, originally titled No Truce With The Furies, was taken from a poem by R.S Thomas called “Reflections”. It is an isometric RPG developed by ZA/UM, Russian for from the mind or for the mind. ZA/UM is an Estonian based company founded by a failed author and failed musician named Robert Kurvitz who’s love of the genre and medium of RPGs could be traced back to his days playing Dungeons and Dragons. 

In Disco Elysium you play as, well you don’t know. All you know is that you wake up at the start of the game in your tighty whities, with no memory of who you are/were. You eventually learn you are a cop and that you and your partner, Kim Kitsuragi, have been assigned to a case. The game follows the unnamed cop as he learns about the world around him, himself, his old life, and the case at hand. You can play him however you like because it is a role playing game. There are various ways to play through the game, all of which change dialogue choices and determine at what points you succeed or fail. 

Disco Elysium is played entirely through dialogue, and there are no real combat mechanics to speak of. Everything you do is done through choosing wisely in conversation and by succeeding or failing on skill checks, which are determined by rolls of 2 six sided dice. You have 24 skills divided into 4 categories to work with, each acting like a  narrator to the game. The main character has lost his memory and his 24 skills help him to keep moving. Each skill represents a part of his body and brain. They are abstract concepts that have their own angle and point of view when it comes to their narration. By no means does no combat mean no action. Every dialogue option is steeped in the world it inhabits. What I mean is, it blends tone so well it can be funny, serious, and macabre all in one line of dialogue. The game manages tonal shifts so well that they are almost unnoticeable and feel completely natural in practice. I’d love to talk about the game’s story more but I can’t without spoiling the game’s twists and turns. The game is not perfect however. It has a few minor typos that sometimes distract from the reading and there is a lot of reading, so it’s not for everyone. 

In conclusion, Disco Elysium is probably one of the best games I have ever played and one of the easiest games to score. Disco Elysium, due to its well written dialogue and story, deserves a 10/10. I wish I could talk about the game more, I wish I could have gushed about it’s characters, about it’s music and worldbuilding, but to do that would risk me spoiling the game and having to write another page or two of this article. I suppose this is goodbye then, I wish I could have been in school to say it, but this is going to be the last review I write for the paper. I hope that you enjoyed the ride and actually read some of my reviews.