Yeah, it’s kind of weird how the game implies you should use a 5/4/2/1 stat distribution when two different stats (physique and psyche) contain skills that are pretty much just your health bars. Ignoring signature skills and stuff, putting a 1 in either stat gives you pretty good odds of immediately losing in the first hour, depending on what you do. At least you can take a healing item if you click it fast enough.
Personally, I think I overvalued volition. As tempting as it is to try to make a goody-two-shoes Dale Cooper type, it doesn’t really work here: Disco’s protagonist is already too much of a loser, and Cooper is too much of an infallible superman to be rendered with the kind of flaws this system requires.
I do particularly enjoy the extradiegetic insights that esprit de corps provides, though.
I’ll just quote the write-up I made for my old forums earlier today:
Disco Elysium is a funnier Planescape: Torment in a near-Earth setting with all the busywork combat removed.
Character creation uses a four stat system that governs success in 24 skills, and how you build your version of your forgetful detective determines precisely which combination of tropes on the noir cop/gonzo gop spectrum you’re going to inhabit for this playthrough. Sure, there are plenty of working-man stats like Endurance for health, Volition for morale, Perception to notice things, but then there’s stuff like Visual Calculus to make sense of crime scenes, Authority to detect and project power, Inland Empire for creativity and the sort of self-constructed intuitive leaps that Dale Cooper relied so heavily upon, Esprit de Corps for extranarrative interjections in which you learn what’s going on with your partner and precinct, Electrochemistry to know about (and be compelled to use) drugs–and for how esoteric these skills get, they become relevant with surprising frequency. Even the more physical stats play a huge role in dialogue and non-combat encounters: the devs pointed out that Conan the Barbarian has no interesting interiority, and so they spent a lot of effort to ensure that even the most meatheaded, socially stunted characters have surprising options and choices during your interpersonal interactions.
More importantly, every skill is a voice in your head, suggesting or demanding you indulge relevant desires. Failing skill checks can sometimes be more beneficial than succeeding. Having a good score can help you solve problems, but having a great score will introduce new ones. Too much Logic makes you arrogant; too much Rhetoric makes you an insufferable ideologue.
Ideology brings us to the game’s most obvious design flaw, which is that we’re very much in “every system will fail, punch in every direction” territory. Some of the ideologies at work in Revachol are necessarily worse than others, but the game is willing to let you try to adopt any of them, right up to and including being a flag-waving fascist or a eugenics-supporting racial supremacist. I think they intended this to be a joke, since your protagonist’s past already necessitates that he’s something of an awful loser and so any undertaking he embarks on should also be colored by that context. It’s hard to take these options lightly, considering how often media intended to satirize or criticize an idea is subsequently lauded as a celebration of that idea. There’s just a little too much for racists, sexists, homophobes, and fascists to get excited about here.
But yeah, this is rapidly moving toward the top of my list of problematic faves. I like the Dirk Gently approach to chaotic loserdom; I like trying to push back against the extremists. I love trying to navigate the investigation while my level-headed buddy cop is low-key questioning how much of my brain damage is a liability, and how much can actually help us solve the case. I hope I can make the money I need without leaning too hard on his generosity.
I’m picking a nit, but for me it’s really less about the ideologies available and more about the haste with which the script veers toward like early-eminem-grade slurs when it wants to portray an unpleasant person or give the protagonist the opportunity to act unpleasant.
the former is a really strongly cultural thing to some extent – I know a lot of russians and poles and every single one of them would regard it as intellectually dishonest to make a game that involves a labour dispute and ethnic tensions and a lot of shady characters and not present the opportunity to say, “well, there’s your ideology, what do you think?” and while that can be really tiresome, I don’t really think it’s bullshitting on their part either.
the dialogue sucks too often though! just like, why they gotta be like that. literally make up another word or elide it or anything, they have the space to do that in the world they’ve created and they don’t and they can clearly write and it’s a shame. it’s not keeping me away but it’s pretty close to being at the level where it’d keep me from recommending it to some people and you will remember me from previous defensible positions such as “just don’t play as the mortal kombat character voiced by the terf” so I don’t even think my bar is all that high compared to others’.
So, I pirated this because I was really looking forward to trying it…
It was everything I was expecting/fearing and much more, having skimmed some of their dev blogs and whatnot.
I literally loled at the tryhard writing you get from minute zero, where a voice taken from a Warren Ellis Netflix adaptation in the role of your “reptile brain” speaks to you.
I kinda love the exhuberance of the game, though. All the little checks and skills. It boggles my mind a little bit to think how crazy their pipeline must have been to implement all the paths and special, reactive cases. The game is full of things that smarter designers would have just avoided implementing at all. I’m glad we get to see them realized like this. I can understand the comparisons to Pathologic, at least conceptually.
And some of the supra-natural skills are legitimately cool. I really liked the first interaction you get with Shivers, for example.
The game is heavily politicized, with pretty obvious stand-ins for real nations and ethnicities. It kinda threw me off that they are seemingly trying to represent the core of each ideology for what it is, rather than falling into mouthpiece vs strawman, so kudos for that I guess.
However, the way they do it can feel a bit hamfisted? (look, here’s a stereotypical western racist, but don’t worry! in a few minutes we’ll show you a black racist as well!)
I didn’t know the devs were slavic. In the few hours I played I was having trouble pinpointing where it was written. Like, you can see very obvious memes from american leftism in their influences, but the core feels genuinely european. It left me a bit confused but I guess them being Chapo fanboys explains a lot of that weird mixture.
I was honestly expecting the writing to be much more insufferable than it actually is!
When it’s not going for an edgy comicbook tone it’s pretty solid. The character vignettes feel natural and the humorous parts are pretty good for the most part.
Also, in addition to four possible cop personalities, the game literally tracks your “alignment” in four political axes (communist, fascist, ultraliberal and moralist) which you can check once you unlock your stats panel when you find your case notes and it seems there may be quests associated with them (my Rhetoric kicked in asking if I wanted to restart communism)
Thinking about it more, I’m pretty sure the optimal way to play is to pick two skills you want to focus on associated with different abilities, and assign a 5/5/1/1 score distribution appropriately. You can just chug healing items if that results in one or both health pools being low.
I tried to slip away from paying my tab but failed the roll and my character took off running and turned around and raised both middle fingers to the bartender while diving backwards and crashed into the woman in the wheelchair
I started with the “Sensitive” template to try out the game, even though I normally don’t like playing low-INT characters. However, since it’s implied that you’re kind of a shitty person it works really well. It’s been pretty fun seeing this douchebag cop bumble through the case as his inner neuroses interrupt him at every opportunity.
I did punch the kid though, which earned me his respect.
I also suceeded at an Empathy roll and understood his inner conflicts
This was a great game. so good it temporarily cured my depression. not only was it a detective story with no combat that takes place in a small area like I’ve always wanted, but because of the infinity engine look of the thing it also had a sierra game type bonus feeling of one type of genre being forced into an engine designed for a different one