Disco Elysium is a traditional point and click adventure that borrows RPG elements to create a very unique narrative. The game puts you in the shoes of detective on a case and uses the fusion of skills and dialogue create a very personal experience. At least that's how the game is supposed to be played. The RPG elements mixed into Disco Elysium leave an opening for different ways to play the game.
The game mashes up point and click adventure with role playing game elements that can affect your ability to interact with NPC's or the map. There is a running 24 hour game clock with a day/night cycle. There's also a quest log, and an equipment menu. Sounds like a standard point n click right? I want to touch on the RPG elements first because that will help explain how the story is told in Disco Elysium, and how it stands out from anything I've played in the past.
From the RPG standpoint, Disco carries itself on a system where your skills affect different dialogue and map actions. Every dialogue action is a roll of the dice and still could fail but this isn't a hard stop, using the classic trick of loading your save will give you another shot trying an action. This is the first break in the fourth wall from how the game is intended to be played. Games like XCOM employ some effort to ensure saves play out the same way to deter this kind of manipulation. In Disco you're free to abuse it.
There level of your skills are increased or decreased by points in a tree, your clothing, consumed items, and the thought cabinet. The unfamiliar of the group, the thought cabinet, holds thoughts that can affect multiple skills at once. The "thoughts" available to think about need to be unlocked while playing the game and require a hardening phase before they unlock. Its a fairly unique approach to affecting a skill tree that further gives life to the story in this game.
The game does have a experience system that rewards you for finishing quests, or exhausting dialogue, awarding you a skill point. Players seeking to "max out" skills will want to complete quests which could feel like a chore if you're not engaged in the story of all the NPC's. And the main gist of the story is that you're a detective coming off a bender with some serious amnesia.
Moving onto the story, Disco Elysium is primarily a story game where it puts you into the driver's seat. Within a fictitious world your amnesia allows you to regain your understanding of the place you wake up in. You can really play this game in a number of ways but it always boils down to a point n click adventure where you're running around, finding items, and reading dialogue. I want to say right away that the dialogue is expertly written. Your character has a wide personality and the options are both funny and serious. There are a lot of genuinely funny interactions and text.
This game is a lot of reading.
You begin this adventure without pants and ass up with your face cemented into the ground for support. These first interactions drop you right into Disco's story telling. Dialogue appears in many ways. Skill points not only affect your success in doing actions, but also create new dialogue opportunities. For example having higher intelligence skill stats will grant you additional observational options, or if you gain an addiction a voice will hound you to score some smack. Depending on your skills and actions the game employs a volley of inner dialogues that create a true role playing experience.
In the port of Revachol a strike at the local shipping company has shut down the road. Your character has been called in to investigate a murder which you investigate with your partner Kim. Interacting with the world makes time go by and there are a lot of ways to interact with the world. Its truly up to you whether you care enough to exhaust dialogue options of the NPC's in Revachol or just read a book on the bench to pass the time waiting for future events.
The music is very thoughtful, slow and airy as you explore the town of Revachol. There were times of only environment sound effects, the sea and breeze. It is all very thoughtful.
Whether you choose to play the game as intended or abuse the RPG elements to 100% quests and dialogue, Disco Elysium is a treat to play.