Disco Elysium

A box with a monstrous tiger-tentacle painting, overlaid with text that says "Thought Complete: Some Kind of Superstar"

The other day I 360˚ spin-kicked a guy twice my size in the chin. He was guarding a button that opened a door, you see. Behind that door was the incorrigibly corrupt union boss, whom I needed to butter up so I could get a body down from a tree without popping it like a watermelon. I'd have gotten it down a week ago, but I was drunk out of my gourd. More conducive to getting bodies into trees than out of them.

This is one of the more mundane activities I've partaken in as the protagonist of Disco Elysium. That includes the spin-kick.

A game screen with two pictures in the bottom left, overlaying an image of a shabby bookstore in a snowy environment
the bookstore is very specific

Disco Elysium is an isometric RPG by ZA/UM; it's their first game and it's a monster debut. It is the best RPG I've played in years, hands down, and I've played a shitload of RPGs in my time on this intermittently enthralling hell planet. The writing is a quasi-absurdist delight. It's beautifully animated. The music fits the scenes well. The characters have enough depth to make nearly all of them at least a titchy bit sympathetic¹, and it has a ton of replay value considering the variety of different approaches, skills, and copotypes. Yes, copotypes.

You are a cop assigned to solve a murder, and you have woken up drunk². So drunk you've developed retrograde amnesia. Inconvenient for murder-solving. It's bad enough that your next-door neighbour at the cheap hostel you crawled into has to remind you you're a cop. Your first quest is simple: retrieve your necktie from the ceiling fan. If you lack enough savoir faire, you will die from exertion in the attempt because – reminder – you're a heart attack waiting to happen. Highly recommend trying it. You are also stuck with a ghoulish rictus on your face unless you get extraordinarily lucky.

A painting of the protagonist, a man with mutton-chop facial hair wearing an awkward grin
seriously you're not starting off all that great

The luck involved is dice rolls. It's a standard skill check, which is to say your skill level in a certain thing modifies your dice roll and compares it to a challenge rating. In most games, this is just doing fussy arithmetic. Not in Disco Elysium! Skills have personalities now, and they'll talk to you while you're making decisions. (So will your necktie.) Some skills advise you not to lift the very heavy weight you definitely can't lift. Others gleefully try to convince you to chow down on the handful of speed you found in a shed so you can finally become SUPERCOP. Commune with the spirits. Steal a book about cockatoos. Punch a twelve-year-old (who absolutely deserves it)³. If you can make the roll, you can do it. Spin-kicks? Spin-kicks.

You will also eventually get a copotype, which is like Myers-Briggs for post-apocalyptic police. Socialist rockstar cop? Yep. Stand-up good-guy po-leece man? Sure. Free-market juggernaut asshole cop? ... if you must. The thoughts you have will affect it, and those thoughts range from Inexplicable Feminist Agenda to Finger Guns (9mm) to Volumetric Shit Compressor. It's for getting your shit together.

A painting-like scene of the protagonist facing a dumpster with a young redheaded boy squatting nearby
where is the fun in that?

I absolutely love this game. I have not talked to anyone who didn't adore it. The only reason I can think of to discourage playing it is if you don't like a lot of dialogue – it's an RPG that borders on point-and-click visual novel. It's so well-written, though. The sense of humor is dry and dark, but veers toward zany rather than grim. The voice acting is remarkably gripping, especially when talking to your own brain. (It mocks you.) It's a buddy cop narrative for people who don't like cops.

Most newer computers with a decent CPU should be able to run it. You could make integrated graphics work, though having a GTX 1060 GPU or better is ideal. I would suppose a reasonably beefy laptop could handle it. Desktops should be fine. It's not especially graphics-heavy, but it does take up its fair share of memory and processing power.

At the very least, Disco Elysium will make you laugh and make you think. If it doesn't, well, you'll eat your weight in weird drugs and learn more than you ever wanted to know about cryptids. What's not to love?

Game: Disco Elysium // Recommend: 100% yes // Price: $39.99 on Steam // Developer: ZA/UM

¹ except the scabs. Fuck those guys.

² the developers have said one influence was commenting on addiction, which they've struggled with personally

³ I savescummed in this game exactly one time, and it was so I could succeed at punching that little shit



Occasionally reality-prone. Cross-stitch, synthwave, and video games.