25/07/2021

๐Ÿ•บ Disco Elysium | PS5 | Review | 9.5/10 | "Bringing Disco back" ๐Ÿ•บ @studioZAUM #GameDev #IndieGames

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The Disco Elysium opening tells you a lot about the game. First is a weird exchange between your limbic system and the void, and after that’s all done you awake in a trashed hotel in only your underwear, whilst hearing voices and with total amnesia. You proceed to find your clothes - which includes a talking tie - and it’s off to the races. It's interesting, it's surreal and it encapsulates the rest of the game.

The game is compelling on many fronts, first its narrative – which, at its face value is based around trying to solve a murder mystery -  but as it unfolds, it incorporates a lot of intriguing twists and turns, becoming about a lot more. Ideologies such as race, class, corporate greed and political leanings all get explored in great depth, with lots of characters giving various opinions on those subject matters. 

One thing I liked about the decisions you could make was that one available option was to dismiss these topics and just either play dumb or give a sarcastic remark. Though I didn’t often use these, it was nice that you weren’t forced into one side of the debates, especially as this is a fictitious world and so I didn’t find it as easy to pinpoint where my own thoughts lay, especially in the early stages where you know none of the histories of this universe.

Characters are some of the most well rounded and engaging I’ve encountered in video games; people were complex and felt very real. They ranged from the sympathetic to the deplorable and their motives could be shrouded, you didn’t always know what their true intentions were. I always enjoyed meeting new characters and learning their backstories and ideologies.

The voice acting - which has been added for the enhanced edition - is also a massive highlight. With so many characters, as well as having conversations with inanimate objects or various parts of your psyche, it’s all much more engrossing with full voice acting. Hearing the conflicting tones within your psyche gives individuality and separation, nuances which would have had a lesser impact through text alone. The voice acting really matched the characters and all were of a high standard, I was very impressed throughout the game with the quality.

There is no combat in the game, instead, Disco Elysium uses skill checks and dialogue trees. There are 24 skills you can enhance; ranging from perception to authority and this freedom means that you can really hone how you want to play your character. You can be anything from a sympathetic, artistic drunk to an authoritative despot. You also have a ‘thought cabinet’ that represents your ideologies and personality traits picked up from agreeing or disagreeing with characters as you go through the game. All this really helps you shape your character and how you wish to not only proceed through the narrative but how you want your character to be viewed in the wider world.

The visuals and music both greatly add to the overall gameplay experience. The music captures the harrowing desolation of the war-torn areas and the oil painting styled visuals are both beautiful yet miserable. The world of Disco Elysium has a lot of misery and pain in it, a lot of the characters are despondent, the buildings ravaged by war etc. yet the music and art style create a dichotomy through all the ugliness. There is an allure that still shines within the world, a beautiful snowstorm or vibrant light and colours can sometimes pierce through the gloom.

There are a few slight negatives in Disco Elysium. For instance, though I have just praised the music, having it restart when you go from area to area can make it feel repetitious. Also, in one section I had to go up and down between two characters four times - which consisted of three loading screens every time - making it felt tiresome by the last trip, and it’s unfortunately not the only occurrence.

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