Disco Elysium

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Disco Elysium
Disco Elysium Poster.jpeg
Designer(s)Robert Kurvitz
Artist(s)Aleksander Rostov
Writer(s)Robert Kurvitz
Composer(s)British Sea Power
  • Microsoft Windows
  • 15 October 2019
  • PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • 2020

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.


A screenshot of the interface

Disco Elysium is a role-playing video game that features an open world and dialogue-heavy gameplay mechanics.[1][2] The game is presented in an isometric perspective in which the player character is controlled.[3] The player takes the role of a detective on a murder case who suffers from alcohol and drug-induced amnesia.[4]

The gameplay features no combat in the traditional sense; instead, it is handled through dialogue trees and skill checks.[5] 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.[6] 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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]


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.[1] 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.[1] 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[edit]

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.[8][9] 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.[9] A team consisting of eight writers also assisted Kurvitz.[10][11] The game's original title was No Truce With The Furies, but was renamed in 2018.[12] During development, some of the staff relocated from Estonia to London, with other designers working out of Poland, Romania, and China.[10][13] Majority of the game's funding was provided by Estonian businessman Margus Linnamäe [et].[13][14] 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.[15]

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.[16][17] The voice-acting cast includes progressive metal musicians Mikee Goodman of SikTh and Mark Holcomb of Periphery,[18] Dasha Nekrasova of the American podcast Red Scare[19] and some of the hosts from the podcast Chapo Trap House.[16][20]

Disco Elysium was released for Microsoft Windows on 15 October 2019, with a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One release planned for 2020.[21][22]


Aggregate score
Review scores
PC Gamer (US)92/100[1]

Disco Elysium received "universal acclaim" according to review aggregator Metacritic, with it being praised for its narrative and conversational systems.[23][1][27][25] PC Gamer praised the game for its depth, freedom, customization, and storytelling and called it one of the best RPGs on the PC.[1] 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.[25] The Washington Post said that the game is "conspicuously well written".[27] GameSpot awarded it a 10 out of 10, their first perfect score since 2017.[24][28] PCGamesN wrote that the game set new genre standards for exploration and conversation systems.[26] Conversely, Eurogamer criticized the game for not offering enough choice in role-playing and for a distinct lack of focus.[29]

The game was nominated for four awards at The Game Awards 2019 and won all of them, the most at the event.[30] Slant Magazine,[31] USGamer,[32] PC Gamer,[33] and Zero Punctuation[34] chose it as their game of the year, while Time included it as one of their top 10 games of the 2010s.[35]


Year Award Category Result Ref
2019 Golden Joystick Awards Ultimate Game of the Year Nominated [36]
Titanium Awards Best RPG Nominated [37]
Indie Game of the Year Nominated
The Game Awards 2019 Best Narrative Won [30]
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 [38]
Best Indie Game Won
Best Writing Won
23rd Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Game of the Year Pending [39]
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 [40]
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 [41]
Best Visual Art Pending
Best Debut (ZA/UM) Pending
Innovation Award Pending


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kelly, Andy (15 October 2019). "Disco Elysium Review". PC Gamer. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  2. ^ Cohen, Coberly (16 October 2019). "Ambitious open-world RPG Disco Elysium lets you take on the role of a mentally unstable detective". Techspot.
  3. ^ a b Williams, Mike (16 October 2019). "Disco Elysium Review: The Voices in Your Head Are Real, and They'll Get You in Trouble". USgamer. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  4. ^ Lang, Brad. "Disco Elysium Review – Stayin' Alive". criticalhit.net. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Disco Elysium skills & character creation: Intellect, Psyche, Physique, Motorics, and the 24 skills explained". rockpapershotgun.com. 14 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Disco Elysium Thought Cabinet: the Thoughts system explained". rockpapershotgun.com. 15 October 2019.
  8. ^ Taylor, Haydn (31 October 2018). "Chasing oblivion with Disco Elysium and alcohol addiction". Gamesindustry.biz.
  9. ^ a b Macgregor, Jody. "Disco Elysium's lead designer wants to make an expansion and sequel, has already written a novel". PC Gamer. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Making games under threat of nuclear war". GamesIndustry.biz.
  11. ^ Price, Edward. "Disco Elysium – Rezzed 2018 Interview". gameanalytics.com. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  12. ^ Tarason, Dominic (9 March 2018). "No Truce With The Furies gets a mad new title and trailer". Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
  13. ^ a b Altküla, Magnus (22 October 2019). "Kaur Kender on new computer game: It's like 'Truth and Justice'". Postimees. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  14. ^ Helemäe, Deisi (5 September 2018). "Kaur Kenderi uus videomänguäri on neelanud juba 700 000 eurot investorite raha" (in Estonian). Geenius.ee. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  15. ^ "Steam :: Disco Elysium :: Disco Elysium - FAQ - Inspiration & Recommendations". steamcommunity.com. 17 January 2020. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  16. ^ a b ZA/UM (15 October 2019). Disco Elysium. Scene: Ending Credits.
  17. ^ Lipscombe, Daniel. "Disco Elysium comes to life once the talking stops: ZA/UM details its approach to creating a truly expressive RPG". GamesRadar+. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  18. ^ Munro2019-10-22T15:50:20Z, Scott. "Sikth and Periphery members star in hit video game Disco Elysium". Metal Hammer Magazine.
  19. ^ Elysium, Disco (16 October 2019). "Good ear!".
  20. ^ Chapo Trap House Podcast Episode 378, "The Story of Coach O (12/23/19)", time index 31:54
  21. ^ Marzano, Anthony (15 October 2019). "Police procedural cRPG Disco Elysium is out today". Destructoid. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  22. ^ McCarthy, Caty (31 October 2019). "Disco Elysium Coming to Consoles Next Year, Devs Confirm". usgamer.net. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  23. ^ a b "Disco Elysium". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  24. ^ a b Wildgoose, David (4 November 2019). "Disco Elysium Review - Pure Dynamite". GameSpot. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  25. ^ a b c Cardy, Simon (16 October 2019). "Disco Elysium Review". IGN. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  26. ^ a b Scott-Jones, Richard (8 November 2019). "Disco Elysium review – a new standard of RPG writing". PCGamesN. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  27. ^ a b Byrd, Christopher (17 October 2019). "'Disco Elysium': Riveting delirium". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  28. ^ GameSpot Staff (4 November 2019). "GameSpot's Full List Of 10/10 Reviews And How Those Scores Are Decided". GameSpot. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  29. ^ Hetfeld, Malinda (18 October 2019). "Disco Elysium review - large-scale whodunit with a distinct lack of focus". Eurogamer. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  30. ^ a b Makuch, Eddie (13 December 2019). "The Game Awards 2019 Winners: Sekiro Takes Game Of The Year". GameSpot. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  31. ^ Staff editors. "The 25 Best Video Games of 2019". Slant. Retrieved 15 December 2019.
  32. ^ McCarthy, Caty. "USG Game of The Year 2019: Disco Elysium Let Us Be Human, No Matter the Cost". USGamer. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  33. ^ PC Gamer staff. "Game of the Year 2019: Disco Elysium". PC Gamer. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  34. ^ Croshaw, Yahtzee (1 January 2020). "2019 Best, Worst, and Blandest – Zero Punctuation". The Escapist. Zero Punctuation. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  35. ^ Gault, Matthew (19 December 2019). "The 10 Best Video Games of the 2010s". Time. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  36. ^ GamesRadar staff (25 October 2019). "Vote now for your Ultimate Game of the Year in the Golden Joystick Awards 2019". GamesRadar+. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  37. ^ "Titanium Awards 2019". Fun & Serious Game Festival. Archived from the original on 21 November 2019. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  38. ^ Meitzler, Ryan (22 January 2020). "The New York Video Game Awards 2020 Winners Revealed; The Outer Worlds Takes Game of the Year". DualShockers. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  39. ^ Chalk, Andy (13 January 2020). "Control and Death Stranding get 8 nominations each for the 2020 DICE Awards". PC Gamer. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  40. ^ "2019 Nominees". National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers. 13 January 2020. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  41. ^ Shanley, Patrick (8 January 2020). "'Death Stranding' Leads Game Developers Choice Awards Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 January 2020.

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