Disco Elysium starts with the momentum of a jet plane roaring off the tarmac. The fact that it does this through words alone, a conversation with your ‘ancient reptilian brain’ regarding a hangover no less, makes it all the more memorable.
Disco Elysium kicked some serious goals when it was released in 2019. Almost immediately it was celebrated as the heir to the throne of Planescape: Torment – the benchmark by which all other narrative-focused role playing games are judged.
The comparison isn’t far off the money, but it could go one step further. The dialogue is so incredibly sharp and pointed, revelling in its own unique viewpoint and wit in a way that recalls the work of word-drunk luminaries such as Quentin Tarantino. It’s actually that good.
I’ll be the first to admit that I slept on Disco Elysium when it first came out. I heard it was fantastic, but didn’t initially have the time to get around to actually playing it. I knew I would eventually, so I didn’t despair – until it was unceremoniously banned by censors in Australia that is.
Thankfully, after a few months of self-congratulatory posturing and puffing-up their enormous cock-shaped plumes, the censors relented in their race to the bottom. The path to progress was reopened and finally I was able to dive into Disco Elysium – The Final Cut.
The thing that struck me immediately was – and you won’t believe this – the beginning. Disco Elysium starts with a strikingly original concept: a branching conversation between you. Or more precisely, a bunch of competing facets within you.
Each part of your personality is voiced in a fashion that differentiates it from the other parts of you. What each facet, ranging from your ‘ancient reptilian brain’, to ‘limbic system’, to ‘electrochemistry’, wants is different and often in competition with what others want or suggest. It is confusing, it is emotive, it is clever, and it is at times downright hilarious.
The first 30 minutes of Disco Elysium are groundbreaking – more singular and fascinating than anything I have come across in video games in years. This combination of an innovative concept and absolutely flawless execution simply needs to be witnessed – not only by video game fans, but by anyone who takes pleasure in the spoken word (the voice actors’ performances are incredibly effective too).
The truth is I could bang on about this for another few hundred words, but I don’t think either of us would be much the wiser for it; which is why I suggest an alternative.
Here are the first 30 minutes of Disco Elysium – The Final Cut to show you exactly what I’m talking about. Revel in the madness: dance to the disco music.