Caitlin Cronin – the brains behind the ACMI Women and Non-Binary Gamer Club – takes ZA/UM's quirky and beautifully-written isometric RPG Disco Elysium for a spin.
Disco Elysium is a brilliant game and one that is upfront about its oddness from the very beginning.
It opens with a conversation between yourself, your Ancient Reptilian Brain and your Limbic System; after which you awake on the floor to find you have partaken in a bender so “legendary” that you have quite literally forgotten who you are.
As it turns out, you're a detective who is in town to solve a murder. The bad news is that you seem to have misplaced your gun, your badge and all the knowledge required to solve said crime. Your new partner Kim Kitsuragi, a stickler for proper procedure, seems justifiably perturbed by this turn of events. This is only the beginning of what is one of the most remarkable games I have played this year.
In many ways Disco Elysium (developed by ZA/UM) is reminiscent of old-school RPGs and text adventures, with most of the action and interaction playing out in written text, dialogue and skill checks. While this may not be for everyone, the quirky writing and wry sense of humor is the game’s shining achievement. The writing is at times melancholic but always poetic and rich, providing real depth not only to the world of Revachol but also to the vast array of characters who inhabit it. This complexity also extends to your detective; through character creation options and upgrades, as well as narrative and dialogue choices, the game provides endless flexibility on the type of detective you wish to play.
Partway through the game I was awarded two achievements: “Literally The Sorriest Cop On Earth” and “The World’s Most Laughable Centrist”, a sly comment on the fact that our cop was constantly embarrassed by the damage he had caused on his bender and desperate to make amends.