When Disco Elysium came out during the tail end of 2019, there wasn’t a whole heap of fuss made about its release. Despite scoring rave reviews from numerous critics its popularity didn’t properly take off until it took a whopping four awards home from The Game Awards. As a game that was only available on PC at the time, many gamers missed out on a quintessential role-playing experience. Disco Elysium: The Final cut is looking to fix that with an enhanced version of the game releasing for the PC, PS4, and PS5, with Xbox and Switch versions coming later down the track. It includes full voice acting, four quests that were cut from the base game, and a bunch of small QoL improvements to make the experience smoother. Unfortunately for us Australians, a refusal of classification means that all versions will be pulled from store shelves, making it nigh-impossible for Aussie gamers to experience the best version of one of 2019’s best titles.
Disco Elysium takes place in the fictional district of Martinaise in the city of Revachol, a truly dystopian and ravaged place haunted by a violent history. You play as a detective devoid of memory and victim to a blistering hangover, establishing at the outset that our protagonist isn’t as simple as he looks. You quickly find out that you’ve been sent to Martinaise to investigate a murder alongside Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi. What follows is a deep and complex narrative that explores countless themes and societal problems from all angles. It’s a story where anything can happen, tailoring itself to your choices as you become the kind of cop that you want to be within Martinaise. While it stumbles in its final act with an underwhelming third act, it’s a thrilling and engaging roller-coaster of eccentric characters and razor-focused world-building.
While Disco Elysium’s intriguing narrative premise is what initially drags you in, it’s the world and its inhabitants that keep you hooked for hours on end. Martinaise and its surrounds are some of the most well-realized and fleshed out settings in all of gaming. Every interactable in the world has a story to tell or secrets to share, as insignificant as some may be, it all contributes to the broader picture painted by ZA/UM. The characters you’ll interact with are just as enthralling as the world they inhabit. They’re eccentric and quirky to no end, leaving each one feel unique if their starkly contrasting world views and ideologies weren’t enough to begin with. The fantastic voice acting doubles down on this, and the same can be said for the new narration included in the Final Cut. Everything is voice acted here, which significantly cuts down on the reading and creates a more immersive and effortless experience.
Disco Elysium is first and foremost a role-playing game that puts player choice first and caters to multiple play styles. You start by either choosing a preset build or by manually choosing where to use skill points in order to build your desired character. There are four main areas you can invest in, with each one containing six unique skills that affect your character in different ways. As you complete objectives, learn about the world, and interact with characters, you earn experience points to further grow your character.
There’s a plethora of different builds you could go for in any given playthrough and each one provides unique ways to solve the problems you’re presented with. The game makes heavy use of skill checks where whether or not you succeed at a particular action depends on a dice roll, that can be further affected by your build. You can also find new information, put characters in particular situations, or equip certain gear to boost your odds even further. Most of these checks can be retried upon levelling up, and non-linear progression means you can take attempts that you usually wouldn’t.
You still have to be careful, though, as one wrong decision can mean losing health, morale, or even dying all-together, triggering an impromptu ending. Not once in my two distinctly different playthroughs did I feel as if I should’ve invested in other areas. If the obvious option might not work best for the type of cop you’re trying to be, there’s always another way around, you just have to look for it.
What compliments this core gameplay loop further, is the Thought Cabinet system, where you can find and invest in certain Thoughts that can be used to boost particular aspects of your character. Each one requires a certain amount of in-game time to fully manifest and provide benefits, and they can be changed or dropped if you have a skill point. You can also invest skill points into unlocking more slots for the Thoughts you develop, so you never have to worry about making a bad decision. The beauty of this system, though, is that it also acts as a way to flesh out how the protagonist is feeling. It’s a representation of his internalized thoughts, providing more insight to his mental state and character as the narrative unfolds.
There’s nothing quite like exploring a watercolor style environment like Martinaise in Disco Elysium. There’s something so fitting about the art style used to explore this setting, streets feel grim and dystopian, you can almost feel how cold it is through the screen. Character models are similarly well-designed, and the portraits tied to each one when in conversation are filled with expressive detail and vivid colors, starkly contrasting against the backgrounds they’re set to. It all runs smoothly as well, with most of the small bugs and issues I’d experienced around launch being entirely non-existent.
THE PC VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is the definitive version of an already brilliant game. It’s a melding pot of eccentric characters, thought-provoking social commentary, and a staggering sense of world and place within its setting. Its main narrative might fumble in its conclusion, but everything you’ll experience before that is some of the best stuff you can find in this kind of RPG.