Disco Elysium: The Final Cut PS5 review. You have never played a game quite like Disco Elysium before, of this I am sure. As an absolute wreck of a man inhabiting a world that could be considered something of a twin to our own in an earlier time, Disco Elysium puts players in control of a veteran detective who becomes so inebriated one night that he quite literally forgets everything. Oh but it gets better too. In addition to enjoying a catastrophic bout of amnesia (and trashing his hotel room), our sloshed sleuth has also manifested no less than 24(!) different personalities and traits that each manifest themselves at different (and often inopportune) times.
Tasked with resolving a murder investigation that crosses socio-political and economic fault lines, enduring the sort of hangover that makes you feel like your skull is three sizes too big for your head and those aforementioned 24 different character traits, it’s up to you try and solve the murder and convince your stoic partner, Kim Kitsuragi, that everything is A-OK and you can get the job done while piecing your life together. The beauty of Disco Elysium though, is that nothing has to be A-OK and that should you choose, you can fully take the plunge down a narcotic and alcohol fuelled rabbit hole that threatens to rip apart reality as you know it.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut PS5 Review
Viewed from the same sort of fixed elevated perspective that will prove familiar to folks who have indulged in the likes of Pillars of Eternity and the Wasteland games, Disco Elysium has you attempting to (or not) piece your life together and attempt to get on with the important business of investigating the murder which has taken place. In practice, you’ll be cutting about the city of Revachol, speaking to suspects, questioning witnesses while maybe doing a spot of karaoke before smoking, drinking, injecting and snorting your weight in illegal brain smashing substances.
How you follow the investigation and live your life is entirely up to you.
Essentially a tabletop RPG made pixel, our wrecked protagonist is broadly governed by four different categories; intellect, psyche, physique and motorics. Within each of these categories are six traits which enable him to succeed or fail in a wide variety of often hilariously improbable situations. While you have the usual sort of self-explanatory traits that you might expect to see such as endurance, perception and logic, it’s really the more esoteric traits that are much more interesting.
Disco Elysium Is Easily The Best Detective Game Ever Made
Inland Empire for example, allows you to develop a keen sense for hunches and identifying hidden truths in the world that nobody else can see. While super handy, it can also make you appear like a complete lunatic, since your attempts to pull back on the curtains of reality make you babble all sorts of nonsense that would get most folk committed. Electrochemistry on the other hand, ‘enhances’ your relationship with drugs, allowing you to gain more insight and higher highs when using them, but the downside is as you can probably imagine, that you run the risk of becoming a rabid crack fiend with teeth that look like they belong to a melted corpse.
While each of these traits and skills appear during conversations and when performing certain tasks (you can improve these traits by wearing different clothes and smoking, drinking and taking drugs – though there are drawbacks to each), it’s a relief to discover that there’s no right or wrong way at all to do things in Disco Elysium. A failed skill check might just lead the narrative down a different route, whereas some skill checks allow you to come back and retry them once you’ve raised the skill in question to an appropriate level.
Where this assortment of different skills and traits really excel though, is in how each blends into the overall narrative and this is where the 24 different personalities come into play. Regardless of whether or not you’re in a conversation with someone else, or even if you’re just moseying down a street, one or more those 24 different personalities could manifest and set off an entirely unexpected turn in events.
Imagine it, you’re in deep conversation with a witness and thanks to your Electrochemistry trait you notice that they’re smoking a massive, delicious cigar which you absolutely must have, allowing you to take things in a completely different direction as a result. Likewise, you could be walking down the street and your Inland Empire might decide to kick in, tapping you into a smell carried on the wind which might in turn lead you to a secret hideout or some other unexplored area.
Proving yet further sophistication to Disco Elysium’s personality and abilities mechanics is the Thought Cabinet. A repository where you’ll store certain key thoughts which are obtained by completing special conversations with one of the 24 different personality traits at specific junctures in the game, each thought provides bonuses that can benefit you in different situations depending on what those thoughts are.
For example, the ‘Hobocop’ thought allows you get more credits for picking up rubbish from the street and trading it in with your trusty plastic bag (yes, this is a thing), but lowers your authority and makes you difficult to be presentable to more refined individuals who’ll struggle to get past the whiff of dumpster diving desperation that you’ll have around you. This is yet one more example of the breadth and width of experience that Disco Elysium provides, allowing players ample opportunity to derail themselves from the main story at any time.
As such, this sort of derailment occurs extremely frequently in Disco Elysium and it never feels unwelcome, but rather feels like a natural and organic way to get more out of the game world that no other game has come close to pulling off. Because of the unparalleled amount of variance and creative latitude that exists when it comes to the makeup of your pitiful protagonist, combined with the sheer density of the game world and all the different quests, hidden tasks and thousands of different outcomes available, every playthrough of Disco Elysium is akin to an extravagant kaleidoscope; a unique burst of colour and brain scrambling variance that’s different every time you play.
Disco Elysium’s Writing Is Utterly Without Peer
In terms of progression, Disco Elysium ascribes to a fairly straightforward system where as you gain experience from completing tasks, speaking to people and completing thoughts, you can choose to upgrade the potency of one of the 24 different personality traits, or you can unlock another slot in your thought cabinet to complete another thought. It’s not especially ground-breaking stuff, but it does ensure that you’re always given something to work towards (as if the story, quests and exploration weren’t already enough).
What is particularly refreshing to discover however, is that Disco Elysium very much takes place in a living, breathing world that moves on regardless of your actions. As the days go by, unique events happen, people appear in different places at different times and new opportunities present themselves. In addition to providing yet another layer of depth to a game that it is already super deep, this also underscores the notion that Disco Elysium is a game that you’ll keep coming back to long after the credits have rolled.
Though the game permits a staggering variance of player experience, Disco Elysium is very much a detective game in every fibre of its being, which means there is an onus on conversations, reading, problem solving and clue hunting above all else. So don’t expect a shootout every five minutes because you quite simply won’t get one. Disco Elysium trades on the strength of its characters, story, dialogue and nuanced experience, and it’s all the better for it.
Then there’s the world of Disco Elysium itself, which is hands down one of the more densest, most fleshed out gaming worlds I have ever had the pleasure to spend any amount of time in.
A broad society which embraces a pan-European culture with a widespread stylised French dialect, the city of Revachol represents a socio-economic microcosm of a world emerging from the throes of communism and global revolution. What this setting results in is one of the richest worlds ever conceived in a video game; a world where politics, ideologies and histories come crashing together, often violently, and where your character is the catalyst to ignite this particular powder keg of petroleum stained social-cultural soup.
Because Disco Elysium’s world building is absolutely second to none, the manner in which you can effectively ‘play’ your character (this is an RPG in the truest sense after all) is almost limitless. Whether you decide to embrace communism, fascism, socialism, conservatism or nothing at all – it’s entirely up to you and some of the quests which you’ll receive will be exclusive to your political leanings too.
A Densely Rich And Intelligent World Populated With Unforgettable Characters
The characters also are so well-written that it’s nigh on impossible to not be inexorably caught up in their plight. From the silver tongued, walrus of a man that is Evart Claire, a highly intelligent but deceptively affable union boss to the red-headed, freckle-faced Cuno, a deeply profane, drug-addled teenager whose myriad of vices all serve to hide a heart that bears a thousand emotional scars, the cast of characters in Disco Elysium are utterly unforgettable.
The writing which underpins Disco Elysium’s world, characters and the events which connect them is unparalleled in its calibre. These are places that you want to visit and inspect every inch of, people that you want to talk to and learn everything about and events that you’ll want to see through to their conclusion. Playing Disco Elysium feels akin to living some sort of fever dream. An experience that deftly blends together the mundane with the existential in a hedonistic slurry worthy of the silver screen likes of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, I’ll say it again; there’s nothing like Disco Elysium on the market right now. Nothing.
In the leap to PlayStation consoles, Disco Elysium arrives in enhanced form, hence the new ‘final cut’ suffix that the game carries. Rendered at an eye-popping 4K resolution, Disco Elysium’s painterly and detailed art style has never looked better, employing a clean and vibrant look that beautifully visualises everything from a packed cafeteria lounge, where the air is thick with cigarette smoke, to the snow-bitten slums which radiate outward from the center of the city. Certainly then, much like other aspects of the overall package, the visuals in Disco Elysium are a triumph of imagination and they’ve never looked better to boot.
Aurally too, Disco Elysium doesn’t disappoint. Embracing an utterly entrancing mixture of disco and sadcore music genres, the soundtrack that accompanies your sleuthing escapades is at once utterly arresting and yet a perfect match for the on-screen action. More than that, Disco Elysium’s PlayStation debut also brings with it full voice acting for all of the characters in the game; a welcome boon indeed that makes the game’s previous wall-o-text only narrative beats, so much easier and immersive to follow.
A Clunky Port Effort Takes Almost Completely Derails One Of The Year’s Early GOTY Contenders
As good as Disco Elysium is and it’s not just good, it’s absolutely bloody brilliant in ways that so many other games simply cannot touch right now, it’s towering calibre is almost completely undone by the poor quality of the port. Despite the recent release of the much anticipated 1.2 patch, there are still a ton of bugs to be found in the game.
Though the occasional crash can be tolerated, in addition to the clumsy environment navigation and interactions and an occasionally juddery frame rate, a far more grave transgression is that some quests simply cannot be completed due their bugged nature. Whether that’s points of interest in the world which need to be interacted with in order to proceed but can’t, or side quests that softlock right at the very end, preventing you from completing them, it’s clear that Disco Elysium is still badly in need of more patching before it be considered ‘fixed’.
For a small studio like ZA/UM it’s important to recognise the realities that are at play here. They’ve shipped a game during a global pandemic across two different platforms (while working on Nintendo Switch and Xbox One releases of that same game for a Summer 2021 release) and have been hard at work (over weekends no less) on developing patches to fix the game; that’s no mean feat.
However, if we’re recognising realities we should also recognise another; in its current, on the shelf form, Disco Elysium is a clear cut 10/10 game stuck inside a 6/10 wrapper and that’s the biggest crying shame of the year so far. As it is, though Disco Elysium is still able to be completed in its current form, so many other nooks and crannies of its dense and beautiful world have been compromised that you’d be better of waiting for the next round of patches before diving into what is otherwise an early, straight shot candidate for RPG of the year.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is out now on PS4 and PS5.
Review code kindly provided by PR.