Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

Disco Elysium: A Game with Character

The official cover art for Disco Elysium: The Final Cut. All rights reserved to ZA/UM.

 What makes a game interesting or “good” depends on each individual, and also on the developers’ intentions. For example, it doesn’t make any sense to judge Minecraft based on its story, because there is none. Keeping this in mind, this review will take a different approach to evaluating Disco Elysium, and what things specifically make it a “good game.”

Disco Elysium is an RPG released by European indie studio ZA/UM in 2019.

In it, you find yourself playing as Harrier Du Bois, an alcoholic cop whose latest bend has rendered him an amnesiac. However, there’s no time to relax, as you’re immediately expected to solve a murder. This brings me to my first criterion of what makes it a “good game”: its compellingness. In my playthrough, I hardly wanted to stop once I started. 

This ties into my next point: this game has interesting and engaging mechanics.

 Disco Elysium has a very unique gameplay mechanic based on D&D-based skill checks that is very closely intertwined with its narrative. The higher a particular skill is, the higher the chance you have of successfully completing a task that calls on that specific skill. To get skill points, you have to progress through the story. Interacting with people, completing side quests, and thoroughly exploring dialogue options all give you experience points which then contribute to a level up, and therefore, a skill point. These skill points also reflect back to the plot, as you can easily miss a dialogue option if a particular skill isn’t high enough. Depending on how you decide to play Harry, you could have a completely different narrative experience than someone else who has played the game. As it stands, there are probably hundreds more secrets in the game that haven’t been discovered because someone didn’t pass a certain skill check. This keeps players coming back for more because there’s always something new to discover.

This game also has impeccable character design. The character the player controls, Harrier Du Bois, is harder to classify since player choices determine what personality he will have. However, the player is told that he was a down-on-his-luck alcoholic before taking control of him. From the start, he is an interesting character because he is so far gone; you can’t help but feel a little sorry for him. He’s also a loveable goofball when he isn’t drinking. 

In contrast, there is your lieutenant partner, Kim Kitsuragi. From the start, Lieutenant Kitsuragi is introduced as a competent officer, which is a far cry from Harry. Since he is such a serious and strict character, you’re probably not expecting to like him that much. However, Kim is easily the best character in the game. Although he’s very much a “straight man,” he is also very loyal and occasionally extremely funny. For example, if at the end of the first day of the game you have no money, Kim sells confiscated hubcaps to help you pay your bills. 

A more amusing example is that if you have enough points in a particular skill, you can convince Kim to dance with you. In fact, most of the decisions I made in my playthrough were influenced by what I thought Kim would think of them. There is also a benefit to doing good by Kim. If you play your cards right, you will gain a bonus called “Kim really trusts you.” When I got this perk, this was by far the most fulfilled I felt via a video game in a while. 

At its core, Disco Elysium is filled with a sense of character. By playing the game, 

you can see how much love and dedication went into this project. In a highly narrative game like Disco Elysium, dialogue is important. Nothing said in this game seems repetitive or contrived. Instead, this game is consistently and constantly funny. You can groan at the very obvious dad jokes or even laugh at the ridiculousness of being able to pet a mailbox. There’s even a cryptozoology path you can go down for all fans of the supernatural and mysterious. 

In Disco Elysium, there’s something for everyone. In the world of RPGs, it puts forth unexpected gameplay, as the skill check based mechanics are things typically only seen in Dungeons and Dragons direct games, such as Baldur’s Gate 3. All of these things combine to make Disco Elysium a unique gaming experience. Despite the inevitable subjectivity of personal opinion, Disco Elysium can truly be classified as a “good game.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Allie Metzger
Allie Metzger, Assistant Technology Editor
Allie Metzger is the Assistant Technology Editor for the Mace & Crown.

Comments (0)

All Mace & Crown Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *