|Composer(s)||British Sea Power|
Disco Elysium is a role-playing video game developed and published by ZA/UM. The game is inspired by Infinity Engine role-playing games, and was designed and written by Estonian novelist Robert Kurvitz. It was released for Microsoft Windows on 15 October 2019, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releases planned for 2020. Disco Elysium received universal acclaim from critics, with its narrative and conversation systems receiving the most praise. It was also nominated for and won several awards, including game of the year.
Disco Elysium is a role-playing video game that features an open world and dialogue-heavy gameplay mechanics. The game is presented in an isometric perspective in which the player character is controlled. The player takes the role of a detective on a murder case who suffers from alcohol and drug-induced amnesia.
The gameplay features no combat in the traditional sense; instead, it is handled through dialogue trees and skill checks. There are four primary abilities in the game: Intellect, Psyche, Physique, and Motorics, and each ability has six distinct secondary skills for a total of 24. The player improves these skills through skill points earned from leveling up, and is able to raise a skill temporarily by equipping a piece of clothing. Upgrading these skills help the player character pass skill checks, but could also potentially result in negative effects and character quirks. For instance, a player character with high Drama may be able to detect and fabricate lies effectively, but may also become prone to hysterics and paranoia. Likewise, high Electrochemistry shields the player character from the negative effects of drugs and provides knowledge on them, but may also lead to substance abuse and other self-destructive behaviors.
Disco Elysium features a secondary inventory system, the Thought Cabinet. Thoughts are unlockable through conversations with other characters, as well as through internal dialogues within the mind of the player character himself. The player is then able to "internalize" a thought through a certain amount of in-game hours, which, once completed, grants the player character permanent benefits but also occasionally negative effects.
Disco Elysium takes place in the fictional city of Revachol in the island chain of Insulinde, specifically in the Martinaise district that is plagued by poverty, crime, and corruption. Revachol is still very much marked by a failed communist revolution that took place five decades before the start of the game. The movement was successful in overthrowing the old monarchy that controlled the city, and even formed a commune afterwards, but was soon toppled itself by an invasion of an alliance of capitalist nations calling themselves "the Coalition", who wanted to bring a stop to the commune. Revachol has since been designated a Special Administrative Region under the Coalition, who holds a strong grip over the city's local economy and keeps its autonomy at a minimum. One of the few governmental functions that Revachol is allowed to handle itself is upholding the daily law and order, which is the task of the Revachol Citizens Militia (RCM). While starting out as a voluntary citizens brigade, the RCM has since grown and evolved into a semi-professional police force.
The player-controlled protagonist is an RCM detective sent to investigate the murder of a man who has been found hanging from a tree. The murder is believed to be connected to a week-long strike upheld by the local dockworkers' powerful union. Shortly after arriving however, the detective has been going on a prolonged drinking binge around the Martinaise district following an emotional breakdown. The game then starts after he wakes up with a severe hangover in his trashed motel room with no memory of who he is. It is now up to the player to both solve the murder case and guide the detective to rediscover his identity by filling holes in his memory.
Development and release
Disco Elysium was developed by ZA/UM, a company founded in 2016 by Karelian-Estonian novelist Robert Kurvitz, who served as the game's lead writer and designer. Kurvitz had had previously created the game's setting for a tabletop RPG, and has also written novels, such as Sacred and Terrible Air (2013), that take place in it. A team consisting of eight writers also assisted Kurvitz. The game's original title was No Truce With The Furies, but was renamed in 2018. During development, some of the staff relocated from Estonia to London, with other designers working out of Poland, Romania, and China. Majority of the game's funding was provided by Estonian businessman Margus Linnamäe. ZA/UM cited a variety of different influences and inspirations for the game, including other games Planescape: Torment and Kentucky Route Zero; television shows The Wire, True Detective and The Shield; the literary works of Dashiell Hammett, China Miéville, the Strugatsky brothers, and Émile Zola; and artists Rembrandt, Ilya Repin, Jenny Saville, Alex Kanevsky, and Wassily Kandinsky.
The game's art, drawn mostly in a watercolor style, was led by Aleksander Rostov, while the game's soundtrack was written by the English indie rock band British Sea Power. The voice-acting cast includes progressive metal musicians Mikee Goodman of SikTh and Mark Holcomb of Periphery, Dasha Nekrasova of the American podcast Red Scare and some of the hosts from the podcast Chapo Trap House.
Disco Elysium received "universal acclaim" according to review aggregator Metacritic, with it being praised for its narrative and conversational systems. PC Gamer praised the game for its depth, freedom, customization, and storytelling and called it one of the best RPGs on the PC. IGN praised the game's open world and compared it favorably to the The Witcher 3 and Red Dead Redemption 2, despite being much smaller. The Washington Post said that the game is "conspicuously well written". GameSpot awarded it a 10 out of 10, their first perfect score since 2017. PCGamesN wrote that the game set new genre standards for exploration and conversation systems. Conversely, Eurogamer criticized the game for not offering enough choice in role-playing and for a distinct lack of focus.
The game was nominated for four awards at The Game Awards 2019 and won all of them, the most at the event. Slant Magazine, USGamer, PC Gamer, and Zero Punctuation chose it as their game of the year, while Time included it as one of their top 10 games of the 2010s.
|2019||Golden Joystick Awards||Ultimate Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|Titanium Awards||Best RPG||Nominated|||
|Indie Game of the Year||Nominated|
|The Game Awards 2019||Best Narrative||Won|||
|Best Independent Game||Won|
|Best Role-Playing Game||Won|
|Fresh Indie Game (ZA/UM)||Won|
|2020||New York Game Awards||Best Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|Best Indie Game||Won|
|23rd Annual D.I.C.E. Awards||Game of the Year||Pending|||
|Outstanding Achievement in Story||Pending|
|Role-Playing Game of the Year||Pending|
|Outstanding Achievement for an Independent Game||Pending|
|Outstanding Achievement in Game Design||Pending|
|Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction||Pending|
|NAVGTR Awards||Game of the Year||Pending|||
|Art Direction, Contemporary||Pending|
|Gameplay Design, New IP||Pending|
|Game, Original Role Playing||Pending|
|Writing in a Drama||Pending|
|Game Developers Choice Awards||Best Narrative||Pending|||
|Best Visual Art||Pending|
|Best Debut (ZA/UM)||Pending|
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