Every now and then a game comes along that feels like one completely unique. Now we know what you’re thinking: you’ve seen the same thing across countless titles over the years – what makes this so different? We understand; Most of the time, when a game is described as “one of a kind,” you can probably identify at least a few worn tropes, and the same can be said of Disco Elysium: The Final Cut. This is a game that certainly has familiar individual mechanics, but when taken as a whole, there really isn’t anything quite like it in gaming right now.
Disco Elysium has been around on other platforms for some time and the chances are you’ve already seen gameplay or comments about the game, then you already know whether it will be your alley or not (which also gives us the unenviable work actually explain what the Devil it’s all about). This Switch release is subtitled “The Final Cut” and provides what appears to be the final version of the game; but we will go into what was added a little later.
The story begins in the deep, infinite nothingness of your subconscious. Voices begin to tell your thoughts and eventually you wake up in a devastated apartment room. Your clothes are scattered everywhere and you have no memory of the previous events or even of yourself. It’s a fascinating, if familiar, line-up, and a strong opening to a game that just keeps getting better.
The disheveled mutton chopped amnesia you play is the star of the show. Despite the severe memory loss, you quickly discover that you are a detective investigating the death of a man hanging from a tree in the back of a cafeteria. You work closely with no-nonsense Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi, who will guide you through your investigation but also isn’t afraid to scold you if you make questionable decisions. He is a wonderful character and we will protect him with our lives.
Disco Elysium is essentially an RPG. You can move your character directly and wander through the isometric world of Elysium, interacting with objects and characters in the process. The real meat of the gameplay, however, lies in the dialogue with the characters. To be clear, there is none In fact Fight in Disco Elysium; All of your stats and progress are tied to branching dialogue options and the decisions you make when interrogating and chatting with the game’s residents.
Your character is endowed with four specific characteristics: intellect, psyche, physique and motor skills. At the start of the game, you can choose a predefined character build to focus on one particular trait over the others, or you can customize your character from scratch. Each of these traits then breaks down into additional secondary skills that you can improve as you progress through the game. Juggling so many may feel daunting at first, but it’s actually not as complex as you might think.
As you work your way through the numerous dialogues when speaking to NPCs, you will also hear the disembodied voices of your various traits, both of which can guide you with rational thoughts and lead you down a wrong path. Eventually, the game will display a dialogue option or physical action that directly accesses one of your core skills. the likelihood of the option being successful depends on the levels of the characteristics. The game is pretty clear on how this works, and displays a percentage indicator that lets you know the likely outcome right away. Whether you choose to proceed with the choice or explore another possible path of thought is entirely up to you.
A good example of how this works comes pretty early. To get the hanged man down from the tree, you need to enlist the help of Measurehead, a huge, muscular, tattooed gentleman who looks out over the harbor. During your conversation with him, the game gives you the opportunity to give him a good wallop. Should your physical stats be too low it is likely to fail and leave you begging for mercy as Measurehead crushes your hand with its own giant fist. However, if you are successful, Measurehead will approve your request. All pretty standard, but still satisfactory.
In addition to the usual stats, you’ll also have equippable thoughts stored in the game’s inventory system known as the “Mind Cabinet”. You gain thoughts by talking to characters, and equipping the thoughts unlocks certain options that you can use to influence an NPC’s decision. For example, if you return to Measurehead, if you fail in a physical confrontation, for example, you can continue to talk to him and unlock a thought that you can then internalize in the thought cabinet. Then new dialog options are unlocked to convince Measurehead to help.
While the game expertly guides you into its many fascinating intricacies, we’d be lying if we said Disco Elysium is for everyone because it just isn’t. There is a Devil working through a lot of dialogues, and for some people this might be too much. That’s perfectly fine, although we’d encourage anyone with even a little interest in strong narrative and role-play elements to give it a try. When Disco Elysium is in full swing (which, to be honest, mostly is the case), then it’s a wild ride that will live in your head for a long time to come rent-free.
So what has changed with the ‘Final Cut’ version? Well, as mentioned earlier, the game has a ton of dialogue, and the new version introduces speech to pretty much everything. This is a ridiculous feat in itself, given the sheer amount of dialogue, but the acting is beautifully executed throughout. You’re supposed to love characters like Lieutenant Kim, just as you love characters like Measurehead and Cuno (man, us to hate Cuno …), and the voice acting does an incredible job of conveying this. In addition, the Final Cut also introduces new quests to improve the already considerable running time of 30-40 hours.
Especially for the Switch, Disco Elysium: The Final Cut unfortunately runs into some hurdles when it comes to overall performance. The game stutters slightly when walking around in larger areas; It’s not enough to completely break the immersion, but it’s there anyway. Likewise, the loading times are often a bit too long for our tastes, and even if the game saves automatically, the action pauses while it figures out what it is doing. None of these issues detracted from our gameplay too much, but they are there. Fortunately, developer ZA / UM is aware of the performance issues and is working on addressing them in upcoming patches.
Something that may not be addressed, however, is the small text, which isn’t that big of a problem in docked mode but can be annoying in handheld mode. The new OLED model Power tone this down a bit, but that’s not much of a comfort when playing on a Switch Lite.
One final note at the end. Disco Elysium is absolutely and clearly aimed at adults. Even with this in mind, issues are discussed that may cause some players discomfort, including conversations about race, drug use, cruelty, and violence. These topics are always handled well and come up in a way that ultimately serves to move the narrative forward, but it’s something to consider regardless.