Disco Elysium is a wordy, weird journey begging to be explored

I have played a few hours of Disco Elysium now and when things get really busy during review periods, the number of previews being written really slacks off. But Disco Elysium is the kind of game that you just need to tell people about, a gem in the rough that offers something special, something different that is begging to use up your time as you read your way through the strange happenings.

You start the game unconscious, and well, I think at one point or more you beg to be unconscious again. Parts of your body speak to you: your limbic system, your reptilian brain, your sense of authority. All of these bits of you have stats, indicating whether you are good at physical feats, mental gymnastics, being dramatic or touching the dark, hidden world of the undead and obscure. All of these parts offer you choices, shaping the character you are. Do you decide to be a communist, maybe just a little? Are you a regular cop, a boring cop, or something like Patrick Jane from The Mentalist (though much, much uglier, sorry to say)? All of these stats form your character and how you interact with the world as you realise you are an alcoholic amnesiac who is supposed to be investigating a murder. You don’t even know your name and it seems you misplaced your identification papers and several other important items.

Disco Elysium plays a lot like a CRPG, though I haven’t seen any combat in my few hours yet. I don’t want to see combat, I don’t think my character would be any good in a fight, not with his pot-belly and shaking hands and terrible constitution. Apparently I am a veteran detective, but I can’t get near a corpse without losing the contents of my stomach. I don’t mind the lack of combat because I am too busy enjoying all the WORDS. ZA/UM says the game has a million words and from what I have seen, the quality in that quantity is making it worth reading every smidge of text, from the dubious union boss that screams mafia don, to my brain telling me odd things to try out. In one (short and failed) playthrough I couldn’t help pick up a broken but still smouldering cigarette butt, in another, my character really wants to do karaoke.

I’m like Sherlock Holmes, but nobody respects my genius. Or perhaps they are thrown off by the stench of vomit and the stupid grin on my face that used to be popular decades ago and isn’t even used ironically anymore.

Thankfully despite my amnesia, my Encyclopaedic part of my mind is full of tidbits of information so I have a small understanding of the setting and the city I am in. I’m so broke I am considering sleeping in the rubbish or collecting trash to recycle and the whole time, a detective from another precinct is following me around… long side-on glances and sighs as he pretends to review case notes as I do the weirdest things. Thankfully my Visual Calculus skill is good enough that I can pick up fine details, like the exact number of footprints in the mud and what size shoes made the marks. I’m like Sherlock Holmes, but nobody respects my genius. Or perhaps they are thrown off by the stench of vomit and the stupid grin on my face that used to be popular decades ago and isn’t even used ironically anymore. My character is so out of touch.

I believe the game is somewhere between 60 and 90 hours and I can believe it. It took around 4 hours to reach the end of the current day, as time ticks on as you read through dry reports or old case files and I have no idea where I will sleep. Or how I will pay the bill at the place where I was staying, where I trashed the place and drank enough liquor to kill someone. Maybe I am dead and this is hell. It would explain why nothing is going my way. Not that I am not enjoying myself thoroughly as I dig through this unique, puzzling mess.

Disco Elysium is on Steam and GOG and releases on 15 October.

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

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