Disco Elysium: Final Cut Review

Dan Webb

When I sat down to lay the framework for this Disco Elysium - The Final Cut review towards the back-end of last week, the narrative was very different. I was once again ready to go to town on another broken game. A game that we spent months and months clamouring for after the PC release, only to realise that the PlayStation version of the enormously well-received title was nigh-on broken. Frame rates were trash, game-breaking quest bugs were littered throughout, and the overall experience was about as stable as a house of cards on Brighton Palace Pier. What a difference a week and a patch makes, eh? Quite why developer ZA/UM couldn’t delay Disco Elysium and sidestep putting consumers through a few weeks of suffering and annoyances, I’ll never know. But that’s another story for a different day.

That mess of a human? That's you, that is.

Regardless, Disco Elysium in an intriguing affair that sees you slipping into the shoes of an unknown detective, sent to the rundown district of Martinaise (in Revachol, the former capital of the world), to solve a murder. I say unknown detective, because a big part of ZA/UM's game lies in discovering the roots of the gumshoe protagonist: who he is, what he’s done, his past, why he is like he is – details that are all missing after one hell of a bender leaves him with temporary amnesia. That’s the beauty of Disco Elysium: the mystery at its centre. Not just the mystery of who hung the poor sod out the back of the Whirling-In-Rags cafeteria, but more who our dishevelled detective actually is, and what it is that defines and motivates him. Of course, the murder itself plays a massive part in the game, and the mystery surrounding it is equally as elusive and alluring, but, for me, piecing together the detective’s past plays just as pivotal a role as the murder he's tasked with solving.

The thing is, who our washed-up detective actually ends up being is pretty much up to you. Disco Elysium is, in essence a point-and-click adventure, combined with pen-and-paper, dice-rolling RPG mechanics; although that’s too simple a characterisation for what is an incredibly deep role-playing game. Choosing who Harry is, how he grows, what he says to people, how he reacts – it's all dictated by the decisions you make. Want to play a big dumb brute who acts before he speaks? You can. Want to be a people person who can charm the pants off the inhabitants of Revachol? You can do that too. Or, like us, you can opt for a smart, but fairly wimpy super detective, which allowed us to use our wits and knowledge to get through any given situation. Well, most situations.

On top of that you can even choose your detective’s political alignment, what he wears, the thoughts he explores, and, consequently, the ideologies he adopts. All of this can further benefit – or hamper – your character, so if choice and consequence is your bag, then Disco Elysium is the game for you. Just be prepared to get your hands dirty along the way, it’s almost impossible not to.

Aside from a stunning watercolour-esque art style and fantastically-realised voice performances, what makes Disco Elysium so damn good is its writing. The quests, the characters, the town, its history, the dialogue - it’s safe to say that Disco Elysium’s writing is second to none. Everywhere you turn in town there’s a zany new local with whom you can dispense niceties and enjoy distractions galore, all to keep you amused while pursuing the captivating murder mystery intertwined throughout: one that has more twists and turns than Monaco’s prestigious race circuit.

Don’t for a second think that Disco Elysium is a nice point-and-click jaunt, though - it's dark, brutal, and incredibly unforgiving (much like life itself). You’ll not only have to battle the protagonist’s disturbing thoughts, his dark past and the myriad harrowing and contrasting voices of his psyche, depending on the type of character you fashion, but you’ll have to exist in a world that's incredibly fragmented with a cast of characters that have clearly suffered. It’s dark. Very, very dark… and ridiculously complex. In fact, the world is so incredibly complex that it can be a touch confusing and daunting at times, as you spend your time balancing the many factions, religious entities, countries and organisations that are referenced so readily it’s almost like referring to the real world. There is a lot to take in and absorb, so be warned.

As previously alluded to, Disco Elysium is built on what is effectively a dice-rolling-RPG; a system that effectively creates what is a core part of the journey and revels in unpredictability. And with that unpredictability comes chaos. With red check (one-time only) and white check (ones you can reattempt down the road) dice rolls, shit more often than not ends up hitting the fan, and it can come out of nowhere. Thanks to the secret – behind-the-scenes – checks as well, you’re sometimes not even given a fair crack of the whip, which can be incredibly frustrating or deceptively exciting, depending on your stance, although we're unsure of the weight the secret checks system plays in proceedings – I’m either the unluckiest man alive, or the deck is stacked against you at times. Disco Elysium is the point-and-click equivalent of missing a 95% point-blank shot in XCOM. I even put it to the test and reloaded a save before a check that had 42% chance to pass. I failed it nine times in a row before it was finally successful… 42%... 10%... po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.

Shit's about to go down…

When it comes to Disco Elysium’s controls, well, they aren’t exactly intuitive, feeling like more of an afterthought to implement, as opposed to actually being created for the controller experience. Everything about it screams 'rush job', like the time I tried to navigate the pawn shop menu, only to use a load of consumables that I didn’t want to use (because they were mapped to the same button) and the many, many bugs that still exist. Even post patch, Disco Elysium on consoles is… well, it’s awkward. There are lines of audio missing, the controls still ignore some of your button presses (it was awful a week ago compared to now, so we still have hope that will only get better), it still crashes, there are pathing issues, navigating different elevations can be a touch annoying, and the game still has some juddery frame rates at times.

Disco Elysium isn’t a fantastic port, truth be told. The controls on the pad are just straight up clunky and something from a bygone era, and there are still a smattering of bugs littered throughout, although it is infinitely better than it was a week ago, giving us some hope for the future. Despite all of that, Disco Elysium is an absolute beast of a game. A game that you truly can’t miss. One that is chockfull of fantastic writing, sublime visuals, a hauntingly beautiful score and some stellar voice acting. It’s an experience like no other, one that sends you on a dark journey into the inner psyche of what can only be described as a human train wreck, and for those reasons alone, I can’t recommend it enough. Simply put, Disco Elysium – The Final Cut is a pure, unadulterated chaotic masterpiece. One that is slightly flawed on consoles, but still brilliant, nonetheless.

Disco Elysium: Final Cut

Despite the bugs, the wonky controls and obvious issues, Disco Elysium – The Final Cut still manages to be an utterly brilliant video game. One that is dark, twisted, enigmatic, enthralling and an absolute pleasure to lose yourself in. It could have just used a couple more months in the oven.

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You know what they say about a good composition, right? It complements the experience. An excellent score, though, it brings a town, its stories and its characters to life, and that’s what Disco Elysium’s soundtrack does: exactly that.


It’s a watercolour painting come to life. Like, almost literally. The art-direction, the dilapidated district of Martinaise, the characters... everything about it is something to be celebrated.


It’s not a great port, truth be told. The controls are archaic and definitely not as intuitive as they could be, and there are a lot of bugs and issues that hamper your progress - it's a damn shame. It’s not unplayable by any stretch of the imagination, but its issue absolutely put a dampener on things.


The bugs and what-not shouldn’t take away from the fact that Disco Elysium is a stunning game, not just from a mechanics point of view, but from a writing, dialogue, world-building, story and creative endeavour standpoint. It’s quite simply brilliant.


With so much choice and consequence under the hood, it’s never going to be a straightforward trophy list, and Disco Elysium’s is anything but. This is a list that will have you shaping your character in various ways through dialogue, going after more of the tucked away side quests, and wringing every bit of life that the game has to offer. Which is a great thing.

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