Disco Elysium Is A Dream Detective Game | Disco Elysium Impressions

Disco Elysium Is A Dream Detective Game | Disco Elysium Impressions


Disco Elysium is the most fascinating and
unusual game I’ve played all year. Put plainly, you’re an alcoholic detective
with booze binge-induced amnesia trying to solve a grisly murder in the docklands district
of an alt-retro city. But there’s a hell of a lot more to it than
that. It’s strange. It’s weird. In my personal opinion, it’s absolute f**king
bizarro outstanding. I can’t even tell you if I actually… enjoy
it or not, simply that I’ve been so violently dragged into its avant-garde universe that
there isn’t an awful lot more that I can really think about. Regardless of whether or not I’d use the
word “enjoyable,” I do love playing it, and there’s a lot of things that I want
to talk about having played the first in-game day. I’d like to give you a warning, though. Disco Elysium can be aggressively esoteric
and incomprehensibly clever at times. As a result of that, it’s difficult to talk
about it in any meaningful way without getting a bit esoteric and clever too. It’s deep as balls, basically, and while
I adore that to bits because it scratches my pretentious, wanky critic itch, I know
that’s not going to be everyone’s jam. So, I’m going to get a bit conceptual and
talk about how Disco Elysium feels like a weird dream game. If that doesn’t sound like it’s up your
street, then perhaps Disco Elysium won’t end up being for you. If that sounds like an incredibly jazzy time,
then watch on, like the video, and jump into the comments to share your incredibly intellectual
thoughts. Oh, and we’ve recently partnered up with
Displate, producers of fancy metal posters, to open our very own Rock Paper Shotgun store
– there’s a link to our hand-picked posters in the description – everything from Cyberpunk
to The Witcher 3 – and if you do buy anything, a bit of that money comes back to the channel. So do have a look!. There are plenty of video games that offer
a traditional crime drama story, and Disco Elysium isn’t one of them. In fact, it’s as far from “traditional”
as I think it’s humanly possible to get. The way you interact with things is pretty
standard: you explore the environment, click on items of interest, and either take them
or the knowledge they give you to various NPCs with different things to say, objectives
to accomplish, or secrets to hide. Where things jump off the diving board of
ordinary directly into a swimming pool full of existential custard is in the process of
deduction. Like your objective to find a freezer big
enough to store the body of the victim in the murder you’re investigating, so that
you have more time to perform an autopsy before having it carted off to the forensic lab. The solution to this quandary begins in a
bookshop called Crime, Romance, and Biographies of Famous People. The owner, Plaisance, has obscured a corner
of the shop in curtains. I press her on this, and she admits to the
building suffering from a curse. She only accepts my offer to help her investigate
once I embody the role of a paranatural investigator trained in the art of seeking out and expelling
malicious spirits. And so, she gives me a key to the door on
the other side of the curtain. Behind the door, further into the building
that the bookshop’s a part of, there’s a dilapidated martial arts school. Going through the back entrance into the dark
corners of an office block once used to design a tabletop RPG, I enter into the depths of
the basement to find a giant, red-eyed, sinister polar bear. The polar bear is a novelty freezer from a
long-gone ice cream bar business that fell through because people were too scared to
buy the ice cream. It’s big enough for two corpses, and so,
my partner and I haul the murder victim all the way down into the basement and shove him
in it. Another moment in the game, partway through
performing the autopsy, I make use of a skill called Inland Empire and strike up a thought-based
conversation with the corpse, which unearths new threads. At one point, my really ugly necktie chimes
in, siding with the corpse in insulting me. This is quite a weird way of going about detective
work. Instead of in something like, say, a Sherlock
Holmes game, where you find various clues about a crime scene and piece them together
through logical deduction in order to figure out the next step or solve a piece of the
puzzle, Disco Elysium has you following feelings and emotions to their illogical and unexpected
conclusions. Disco Elysium is very hypnagogic in nature
– that’s the word for that transition period between being awake and being asleep. That soupy state I associate with the films
of David Lynch – worlds that feel like lucid dreams. Take, for example, the ambiguous period of
time the game takes place; the year is just referred to as ‘51, without an indication
of the century, or even the millenium. The main protagonist is a huge fan of disco
– I mean, look at him – but it’s a musical genre that didn’t arrive until the 1970s. There are alt-tech cars, muzzle-loading pistols,
sci-fi ceramic armour, no internet, complex data storage, and the nation where you live
is just barely on the other side of a failed Communist revolution. The amalgamation of these contradicting things
make every waking moment in Disco Elysium feel like a dream. The characters that you encounter, as well,
seem completely unfazed by unusual things in one moment, and deeply concerned in the
next. It’s like those vivid dreams where your
subconscious pulls from everything you’ve ever experienced and blends it together. You only realise how little sense it made
once you wake up, but in that dream you just take it all at face-value. This is fascinating in and of itself, but
the best hypnagogic works have a compelling narrative justification for their hypnagogia. In Twin Peaks, it’s the incomprehensible effect
of the spirit world leaking into the town. In Mandy featuring Nicholas Cage, it’s a
mixture of the supernatural and the fact Gace gobbles up LSD. Disco Elysium’s narrative justification
is a bit more mundane: the main protagonist’s absolutely chronic hangover. When you’re hungover, particularly as a
result of a significant binge, you can feel like you’re only half-present in reality
and slightly detached from your senses. The role that Disco Elysium places you in,
as a crime-solving alcoholic amnesiac, fits very well into the hypnagogic world that it
gives you to explore. When you’re practically zombified the morning
after a booze-up, reality feels like a dream. And Disco Elysium recreates that feeling astoundingly
well. Lending nicely to this illogical, dreamy feel
is Disco Elysium’s artstyle. Every object, building, character, and NPC
portrait resembles an expressionist painting, with rough brushstrokes and stark colour contrasts. Expressionism as a style of art is meant to
focus on subjectivity, distorting reality to evoke different moods and ideas, which
fits in really nicely with the very subjective, distorted story. It also has the added bonus of looking really
f**king pretty. The case you’re investigating in Disco Elysium
is a grisly murder. In the square behind the hotel you’re staying
in hangs a bloated, bruised body, strung up by the neck with strap used for holding down
crates for transporting. Your partner on the case, Kim Kitsuragi, takes
a photograph of the corpse for use as evidence in the investigation, and you’re then shown
the photo. It’s incredibly grim and morbid, but look
at it! It’s absolutely gorgeous! The composition is really striking! I daresay I’d fancy printing it off on some
canvas and hanging it up on my wall–or, perhaps, have it rendered onto metal and available
for purchase at Displate dot com. That subjective distortion of reality to evoke
emotion also features in perhaps the biggest driving force behind what makes Disco Elysium
so strange: the way in which its skills take form. Rather than your traditional RPG perks – your
“Sleight of hand,” or “Animal handling” – developers ZA/UM implement a system wherein
the skills each manifest as a different aspect of your inner-monologue. Each skill has a distinct personality, with
their own motivations, dislikes, and conversational styles. Like your ever-critical, self-destructive
Ancient Lizard Brain, or even your Limbic system–that’s the bit of your brain that’s
in charge of memory, emotion, and also your nerves. That’s how granular we’re talking here. It makes more sense if I put it in context. I came across a couple of elderly men playing
what appeared to be a game of Bowls. While listening in on their conversation,
one of my skills chimed in with a suggestion. Physical Instrument, which allows you to perform
muscular feats of prowess like kicking down doors and breaking open chains, has a bit
of a toxic masculinity thing going on. Whenever something societally deemed feminine
is discussed, suggested, or even just within your line of sight, Physical Instrument, with
all the grace of a brutish dudebro sports teacher, will rock up to declare how uncomfortable
they feel about it. When coming across a faded poster for a long-gone
androgynous hair salon, for instance, Physical Instrument remarks how the mere existence
of the visage of this gender-neutral hair makes them feel threatened. And the suggestion? These two old men were playing a game involving
balls, and as a superior macho specimen, my drunk cop should display his supreme prowess
and raw masculine energy by joining in and establishing dominance. Endlessly curious about where this would lead,
I decided to agree to this suggestion. I picked up the ball, pressed it to my cheek,
judged the weight of the ball in my hand, felt the wind rush past me. [Skill Name] reassured me that the onlooking
elderly men were struck in awe by my raw power. I span, span again, and YEETED that ball with
all my might into the ocean. I had done it, bested these weary players
at their own game. For neurotypical people, folks who have an
average-functioning brain and no mental health conditions, this isn’t necessarily how your
inner-monologue typically works. When you’re in a dream, though, you’ll
encounter characters and concepts that in one way or another act as outlets for your
subconscious. Ever had someone in a dream tell you something
poignant or important? Express a feeling that you’d previously
had difficulty defining? Come out with an internalised thought that
you’d burrowed away? The skills in Disco Elysium feel very much
in a similar vein as that, and their tangible presence in the conscious reality of the main
protagonist, combined with all of Disco Elysium’s other strange qualities, really does make
me feel like I’m playing a dream game. Oh boy, that was a little bit conceptual,
wasn’t it? But, from what I’ve played of it so far,
that’s what Disco Elysium has got me thinking about. And that’s only after a single in-game day,
so I can’t quite imagine how much more introspective I’ll get once I get my artsy little hands
all over the rest of it. I think that, even if you didn’t gel with
some of the out-there ideas in this video, it can still be useful for you. Didn’t like the sound of any of that? Given that’s where I am with it this early
on, you’re probably not going to enjoy Disco Elysium. That’s absolutely fine, though, it’s one
of those games that I feel will seriously appeal to some people, and seriously turn
off others. If you weren’t turned off by it, though,
I wholeheartedly recommend putting it on your radar if it wasn’t there already, and maintaining
its presence on your radar if it already was. Doesn’t need to be there for long – it’s
out on the 15th October. If you enjoyed this video and would like to
support the channel, please do use the link in the description to check out our Displate
store. There’s over half a million designs and
Displate’s unique metal posters are built to last and use a magnet mounting system that
doesn’t involve drilling into your walls and losing half of your deposit. The three of us here at RPS each have a little
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but you’ll be supporting the environment – for every Displate sold, ten trees are planted. So it gets thumbs up from our resident eco-warrior,
Alice. Did you like this deep and philosophical exploration
into Disco Elysium so far, or do you think I’ve gone too far and must be stopped? Let me know in the comments. If you found this video helpful in giving
you a good idea of whether Disco Elysium is a game you should look out for, then you should
give it a like, and subscribe to Rock Paper Shotgun for more videos like it. Cheers for watching, and hopefully see you
again soon.

24 thoughts on “Disco Elysium Is A Dream Detective Game | Disco Elysium Impressions

  1. This game has been on the top of my Steam wishlist for almost a year, so it's great to get new info on it. Cheers.

  2. I played the demo at the last EGX. I found it staggering, tbh. It's a bit like the Breaking Bad thing where you go "oh… so how comes everything else isn't this good?" (or Fleabag for a more contempory example)

    Elysian fields… we are storming the heavens.

  3. It's interesting. I've already heard some criticism of this game due to the seeming "brick to the face-iness" of it's dark writing. Case in point, the stained trousers line from the beginning… I still don't know if I like or loathe that line.

  4. GOTY for me right here..I watched the first our from 10+ different streamers and the fact that Planescape Torment is my favorite game of all time..this game is a no brainer.

    The wait for it has be rough as I keep hearing people praise this game every single day and I cannot WAIT to sink my teeth into this. I also have a gut feeling that this will end up ontop of my GOTY list.

  5. I can't wait for this game, it looks like one of the closest games to Planescape Torment we've ever gotten.

    The sheer way that all your thoughts can interact with the game and even each other is just astounding, I can't imagine how hard it was to keep all of those in check.

  6. I'm another one who instantly noted this down as soon as I saw it at last EGX. This only confirmed I was right about it. It looks amazing. Great video!

  7. How's the soundtrack? I first got interested when it was called No Truce With The Furies (still a better title IMO) when I heard British Sea Power were doing the music. Any good?

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