Disco Elysium is a Role-Playing Dream Come True

Disco Elysium is a Role-Playing Dream Come True


– [Ancient Reptilian Brain]
The song of death is sweet and endless. But what is this? Somewhere in the sore, bloated, man-meat around you, a sensation. – [Ragnar] I gotta admit
that I did not expect… this. I’ve been following the
development of Disco Elysium since it was first announced;
back when it was still called “No Truce With The Furies”. What got me hooked by it back
then was its elevator pitch. I’ve always been a fan of Black Isle’s Infinity Engine games. Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and of course the unusurped
king, Planescape: Torment, and by extension the genre
of RPGs that evolved from it, while admittedly always
having been not-so-fond of its brand of pausable-realtime combat and its heavy emphasis on
it as a central challenge. That, of course, always
comes down to taste: if this blend of table-top
inspired roleplaying and realtime combat is what
you’re in the mood for, then these games are the bee’s knees, but I personally always
dreamed of having a game in which not nearly every quest
would eventually culminate in a RealTimeStrategy-encounter
somewhere down the line. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I’ve always felt that the default reliance on this design pattern hamstrings the writing
in these games in a way, since it bottlenecks quests and storylines onto a predetermined goal with only so much narrative wiggle-room. Regardless of setting, story
and general quest-design, it has to evoke a casus belli, a justification to regularly steer the players into violent confrontations. This default reliance on
combat as a central gameplay challenge inevitably renders even outstanding writing
predictable in some ways. What I’ve always wanted was
an RPG, that’s at heart, clearly cut from the
Infinity Engine cloth, but that completely
omits combat altogether. A game where it’s not
one of the central tenets of narrative design
that you play as someone who constantly ends up
murdering people in battle. And No Truce With The
Furies, while it was still in development, promised
to deliver exactly that: A traditional, open-world
Role Playing Game inspired by Infinity classics,
without simulated combat as a central gameplay element,
but a true role playing game that instead, focuses
entirely on storytelling. And the thing is, this premise
was already more than enough for me to want this game, bad. So my expectations and
hopes for the final game were generous and I
approached it with an easy to please mindset, if Disco Elysium would
have solely delivered this, with a solid, but in no
way mind-blowing story, characters and overall
execution, it would already have made an entry in my
evergreens, simply for doing that. But what Disco Elysium
ended up delivering, was lightyears beyond
my wildest expectations. Not even for a second did I
anticipate loving this game as much as I do now, after
finally getting my hands on it and spending dozens of hours with it. Ever since the first half-hour already, it’s been hard for me to stop thinking or even shutting up about it. So here I am, realizing that I simply have to make a video on it,
for at least two reasons. First, I don’t want
anyone to miss out on it, because it’s a fantastic and
absolutely charming title made by a small, passionate team of indie developers in Estonia, and they just deserve all
the support in the world. Secondly, this is also a bit
of a cathartic exercise for me, as I can finally get all my
overflowing thoughts and musings on this astounding roleplaying
masterpiece out of my system. Now, in this video, I’m going
to try to avoid spoilers as much as I can, this is
not a story-dissection, but an examination on many of the reasons why I believe that this game
is absolutely outstanding in pretty much every way, and
why people should play it, That said, I will show some
in-game examples here and there to better illustrate my points. So, if you want to play this
game completely spoiler-free, then you should stop here and
trust me that it is, in fact, an absolute masterpiece,
that is 100% worth your time, play it, and then come back once you’ve experienced it for yourself! Whenever you see people discuss
the best cRPGs ever made, there’s a certain inner circle of titles that will invariably be mentioned. These games, often don’t
even mechanically adhere to the same set of rules, yet what makes them so universally beloved when it comes to video game
RPGs is that their worlds feel arguably the most
alive and believable, their characters and branching narratives are the most reactive
and they give the player the most freedom to
express their own character in as many ways as possible. In short: those are the games
that are generally considered to come the closest to what makes playing a tabletop RPG so engaging. Yet, there is this general consensus that it is virtually
impossible to make a video game that truly feels like
playing a tabletop RPG; simply because a storyteller,
or dungeon master, we’ll just say DM from now on,
has the ability to improvise the story on the fly to
create situations, characters, and locations as it unfolds. If a video game were to
accurately emulate that, it would either have to
develop an incredibly advanced artificial intelligence, or, the designers would have to write every single possible
contingency, every little choice the players could come up with
in advance, wouldn’t they? And that’s of course,
practically impossible. Yet, Disco Elysium is a
game that doesn’t just feel like something that’s inspired by the limitless freedom of tabletop RPGs. It’s the first video game
that to me truly feels like there’s an actual DM
leading you through the story. Disco Elysium, while playing
like an Infinity Engine game, makes me feel like I’m playing
a tabletop RPG right now. And it achieves this in
several different ways. It does, as far as it can, try to go the latter of the two routes I just mentioned; Disco Elysium’s
world feels several times more densely written and jampacked than any RPG I’ve ever played before. In reality, I don’t even
think that the common idea that “to emulate the feeling “of a table-top RPG in a video game, “you’d have to preemptively write “every possible narrative contingency, “therefore it is virtually impossible.” holds a lot of truth to it. Experienced DMs know that,
while players will be assholes and wander freely and have the tendency to constantly do exactly the opposite of your masterfully
plotted, grand, epic plan, a good DM needs to be able to: a, gently steer the players towards the grand narrative while b, making them feel like they’re doing it all on their own accord and c, like they’re having
all the freedom imaginable. Disco Elysium lives by
these principle, for one, it fills its world with
so many interactions and possibilities that
players will constantly feel like they’re doing all the leg-work. While in actuality, it’s all
carefully laid out for them. One of the core ways by which
it manages to fool players into getting that DM-feeling,
is its unparalleled attentive and responsiveness to
the players’ behavior. If you’re a serious type of player, who shies away from sillier choices and approaches the game
rather methodically, encounters and conversations
end up much less chaotic than when you play a character
who decides to go haywire with playful, daring or just
outright ludicrous choices. That’s generally how the mood
of the play naturally evolves, during a campaign. The setting itself gives an indication, but depending on how silly or
earnestly players interact, the DM, if they’re not throwing a tantrum because it doesn’t go
the way they envisioned, will ideally roll with it and tailor the narrative and
the experience around it. Disco Elysium does just
that, it indulges your mood, you can play the cold
and methodical detective and the game will still be chaotic, true, but not nearly as much as when you choose to fully embrace its chaos. There’s this moment where
you and your partner look at a wall full of bullet
holes and your partner nods. To which you can nod back. Which your partner replies
to with nodding again. And if you’re feeling cocky and silly, you can keep nodding harder and harder until you eventually break
your neck from nodding. Yes, you can die from trying to out-nod your partner in this game. But most people probably won’t. Nodding like this is a strand of the branching narrative
where the DM plays along with more tongue-in-cheek behavior. I know 100% that if I were leading a Vampire the Masquerade
campaign and two of the players were having a good time
nodding back and forth harder and harder, I would
eventually let them roll Composure + Athletics and gradually up the difficulty level
if they keep nodding. And we’d have a good laugh. I rarely see things
like this in other RPGs, simply because they feel
so far out of the range of possibilities you’d expect
implemented in a video game. When you find something
like this in most games, it’s the exception, and often
one that people highlight for years as one of the
coolest moments in gaming. In Disco Elysium it’s not the exception, this is how a vast majority of encounters and dialogues
are designed, by default. Which brings me to the skill checks. I’ve never seen roleplaying skill checks pulled off better in a video game. Most RPGs include skill checks, not unlike their tabletop
siblings, but in most cases, the dieroll is completely automated and hidden from the player. You sometimes have
something like a console where you might read up on past rolls and how they were calculated,
but the checks are designed in such a way that the players don’t have to care for them at all. It all runs in the background. I do understand this decision
for optimization of flow but there is a certain
satisfactory element to knowing which number
you have to surpass, accumulating your skill points
and then casting the dice to see the result unfold before your eyes. Most games take this simple
gamble element completely out of the equation, and
skill checks in dialogues are in many cases often
completely reduced to do you have enough points,
or a certain ability, then it becomes available,
otherwise it’s not. – Oh well, it’s a little
different but entirely possible. – [Ragnar] Disco Elysium does the opposite and relishes the skill check with so much playfulness and creativity. Regularly, you will find
yourself in situations where you’ll have to roll
for one of your many skills and the outcome of the encounter changes whether you succeed or fail. And the beautiful part is: Disco Elysium, is finally a game that fully embraces the joy of a bad roll. I’ve said that numerous
times in the past videos, that a good DM knows how
to make even bad rolls, or, often the bad rolls
specifically, so interesting that you don’t shy away from
trying an impossible check. From getting a little
playful with your character. Embracing some chaos and
creativity in your choices, instead of always just
min-maxing for the best outcome. And most video game RPGs simply don’t embrace this possibility
fully, not even close to the degree Disco Elysium does. Even in my favorite RPGs of all time, I still largely play with the mentality that I want to mostly
avoid failure when I can, because at the end of the day, it will lead to a net penalty. Disco Elysium on the otherhand
is the first game that, within the first half hour or so, strongly makes it clear
that failed skill checks will lead to incredibly fun
and interesting situations. It only took a good 10 minutes
for me to get to the point where my character, just woken up with a severe hangover that he’s forgotten literally everything,
gets asked for his name, which is when he realizes
that is the ideal chance to come up with a really
darn cool name for himself. So you have the option, I say the option, because you can be a
square and just be honest about having forgotten your name, you get the option to roll
a conceptualization check to come up with a really awesome name. And what can I say, I do
not regret in the slightest to have critically failed that check, because when my sense
of conceptualization, full of determination,
came back with the name Raphael Ambrosius Costeau, it was the second time that
the game had me in stitches. Another thing that strongly
adds to the feeling of having an actual storyteller lead you through the
campaign is that the narrator guiding you through the
conversations and encounters doesn’t feel dry and
neutral like in most games, but like an actual person. You will spend a vast majority
of the game in the right side of the screen where the action
the reading takes place. And a sidenote, it’s also worth mentioning
how great of a UI-design choice it is to render
the text in this narrow, vertically laid-out format
in a text-heavy cRPG, compared to the traditional
wide-panel style we’re used to, this narrow fast read
five to nine words layout makes long stretches of
text feel similar to read as tabloid newspapers, since it’s much easier, and
especially faster and therefore far more comfortable to read
over long stretches of time. And, the content you’re
reading is, start to finish, so vivid and reliably
enthrallingly written that it never gets boring. And yes, you’ve seen that right,
in the example from before, your sense of Conceptualization actually did directly talk with to you. This is one of those absolute strokes of genius in this
game, that all your skills, are all actual personas. They’re characters in your mind that have actual conversations
with you in your head. And they quite often come
in conflict with each other. Your sense of empathy
might not necessarily agree with the opinion of
your sense of authority, and they will let each other know! It’s amazing how much this
adds to the characterization of the game’s protagonist, who is, no matter how you twist and
turn it, the absolute definition of a truly chaotic character,
in D&D alignment Matrix terms. Your choices will mostly affect what kind of chaotic character he
turns out to be in the end. But this never feels like a restriction. Yeah, you probably won’t be
playing the much despised Lawful Good Paladin type, nor
will you end up roleplaying your protagonist into a perfectly neutral automaton or something like that; but which RPG really gives you that range? The range that Disco Elysium
allows players to define their own version of Harry, I
mean Raphael Ambrosius Costeau is nothing short of astounding. And it strongly speaks for
the game’s excellent writing and sense of character
development that this protagonist is someone I probably would
never have assembled for myself, nor chosen to play if I had to select him from a cast of possible choices. It’s just too far off
from my usual flavor. But the fact that, only
after about an hour or two into the game, I felt like
I knew not just this guy, but even his Ancient Reptilian
Brain and his Limbic System far better than I know
either the protagonist or any of the party members
in Pillars of Eternity, which I think is a great
game, for the record, after 50 hours of play. I find myself incurably
infected by his chaotic energy, relishing to regularly go for
the most zany dialogue choices and getting all bubbly and
excited when I face a skill check that looks like it’s extremely
unlikely for me to win. And then surprisingly end up
rolling a critical success and getting an unexpectedly
great outcome nonetheless. You can die and you can
fail checks in this game, but no matter how bad you roll
or how low your skills are, you won’t avoid interesting, fun and outright hilarious
situations and outcomes. One thing that you’ll immediately notice while playing Disco Elysium is
that the branching narrative in this game is unbelievably
complex and wide-reaching. That is often true for even single, self-contained dialogues,
where dozens of different clauses and deviations
from the dialogue-tree occur depending on the quality
of your skills, your choices, and potential interludes
of your character traits. As an example, let’s say
you’re talking with a person who is hiding something from you. Depending on your drama skill, you might or might not pick up on it, which will influence the dialogue options you have available. There are singular dialogue encounters that are so complex and multilayered that I imagine the flow-charts must look like a neural
scan of brain synapses. And we haven’t even taken into account how the game reacts to everything. Well, it’s of course not
possible that it literally reacts to everything, but man, it is mind-blowing how many things Disco Elysium
keeps track of and notices, no matter where or when
you are in the game. You remember my terrible
name-roll from earlier, right? Raphael Ambrosius Costeau. This is one possible outcome
of the Whatsyername-encounter, but yet the game, if I want
to, let’s me introduce myself as Monsieur Costeau pretty much through the entire rest of the game. In dozens of conversations,
it gives me this option to remain steadfast
about my invented name. But hey, I am Raphael Ambrosius Costeau, no one can tell me I’m
not, it’s my choice! And that’s honestly just a comparably simple and straightforward example. Anywhere in dialogues,
external influences like tiny, seemingly unimportant choices you made, often in completely
unrelated dialogues before, as well as for instance
clothes you’re wearing, thoughts you’re having,
more on that later, or items you’re carrying, the
game regularly picks up on it. And this reactivity never
feels tokenized, like, as if the game just wants to impress you with how much it picks up on. It pretty much always
makes sense in the context and adds something
meaningful to the situation. Like at some point my character was still wearing garden
gloves for instance because I needed a boost
on my interfacing skill during a check a few minutes before, so I ended up forgetting to take them off even though it looked,
admittedly, ridiculous. Then, in a conversation where
I pondered with my partner about our careers as police officers, I was contemplating a hobby
that would add some color to my life, when he notices
the garden gloves on my hands and suggests gardening as a hobby. And he meant it. This bit of conversation
wasn’t remotely close to when I got the garden gloves
or related to the situation where I needed them for that
interfacing skill-check. It’s an interjection that, probably, 80% or more of players will not get, but that type of reactivity
permeates the entire game. Your character, and those you talk with, react to things like your
ideological leanings, oh yeah, this game is highly political. Are you a giant communist? – We have a right to work! Guys, we’re not that different. – [Ragnar] Or do you walk
the dark path of fascism? But you know, you’re of
course not just a racist, you’ve read books. Or maybe you are dios mio, a liberal! It’s up to you, but seriously, this is a game written with
so many incredibly sharp, witty and intelligent
lines with such a frequency that it’s next to
impossible to even keep up. It’s that game where a character,
just en passant remarks how Capital has the ability to subsume all critiques into itself, so
that even those who critique it end up reinforcing it
instead and then just continues with the dialogue, and the
interjection is not shoehorned; it perfectly fits the moment
and hits the nail on the head. There’s many different ideologies
clashing in Disco Elysium and exploring this, while
contributing to it, yourself, Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis, is a big part of what
makes it so captivating. Another truly fascinating aspect to me is that this incredible density and reactivity originates
in the game’s necessity to establish the
alternative core engagement to the ubiquitous combat-challenge RPGs usually employ as a means of friction. (whispering) Phew, what a sentence… This goes so far that when an RPG delivers a non-combat option, it
usually wants immediate pats on the shoulders, while Disco
Elysium goes much further and handles it all with
meaningful and interesting roleplaying challenges
within its dialogue trees to create compelling
interactions and challenges. Like, when you’re
talking to Evrart Claire, the Union Boss, you’ll
face an adversary, or ally? Who’s incredibly strong at subterfuge and verbal intimidation, every other game would have somehow muddled
him into a boss fight, but Disco Elysium turns
conversations with him into a Branching Narrative confrontation, yeah puzzle even, that
makes you directly feel his verbal superiority over you. Not through stats, but
through the way he’s written and leads you through the conversation. Like, he insists that you take a seat on a ridiculously uncomfortable
chair in front of him, with an intimidating persistence
that you’re only able to resist if you pass a pretty difficult volition-skill check. Sitting on this chair then
makes you gradually lose health during the conversation
while this well-informed man uses intimidating
information on you gathered from his many sources to make
you seriously uncomfortable. You’re gonna fall apart and
see your sanity just melt away right in front of him. It’s okay to cry, just let it all out man. This is a boss-encounter but
without chopping each other to bits in a real time strategy
fight with spells and shit, but in a conversation. It feels so refreshing
as an RPG challenge. It’s what made something
like the final encounter in Fallout 1 for instance
so memorable and genius. – [Evrart] Mr. Bu Bois, are you okay? Can I get you a glass
of water or something? Are you having some kind
of medical emergency? – [Ragnar] Now, just as you
would expect, in Disco Elysium you also gain XP over time and can increase your skills
gradually, and, as I said, buff yourself with clothes that support and also often negatively
impact certain skills but another stroke of genius,
storytelling wise, is that, yes, every skill gets nominally better the more points you put into it. But every single skill can
also become too strong. With a high level of empathy for instance, most games would exclusively
give the player advantages based on their deeper
compassion for people. However, in Disco Elysium,
you can become so empathetic that other people’s suffering
makes you cry their tears and punch hole in the walls because you make their anger your own. And potentially even make you
lose sanity in the process. Or health, if the wall turns out to be harder than your knuckles. This creates so many fascinating
storytelling opportunities and, you might have noticed, extends the already
ridiculously far-reaching branching narrative, even
further across the game. This approach solves
this age-old RPG problem that especially Elder
Scrolls games are known for, namely that players eventually
become Swiss-Army-Knives that can literally do everything
without any trade-offs, making the already empty
shell of a protagonist feel even more like a complete
cardboard power fantasy. That can be, um, fun to play, sure, but storytelling wise,
it’s just really boring. To top it all off, Disco
Elysium also brings the THOUGHTS system, an
additional passive progression system that fits the tone
and direction of the game like a glove. Basically, you have several slots that you can assign thoughts
“in the back of your mind” to that your character
passively ponders upon while time passes. You know that effect, when
you have a certain something on the tip of your tongue, but
the harder you think on it, the more it evades your grasp,
yet after a couple of hours, you’ll suddenly yell the word, but completely out of context and people will give you confused looks. No? Is that just me? It’s basically that, but
with thoughts and musings about all kinds of stuff, from
“Where do I actually live?”, to “Where does this
Inexplicable Feminist Agenda “in my mind come from?” to
the truly riveting questions, such as “How do I get my shit together?” Oh yeah, you can potentially
also ponder about what it means to be Detective Raphael Ambrosius Costeau if you remain persistent that
that is, in fact, your name. But only if you failed the
What’syername Conceptualization check in the beginning. After several ingame-hours,
then you will have resolved a thought and can keep
them in your mind-map, which will lead to certain, often times interesting
stat bonuses and alterations and also can influence dialogue strongly, like Getting Your Shit
Together will make you finally be able to inspect that
corpse you’re supposed to without repeatedly vomiting on your shoes and the Mazovian Socio Economics, the game universe’s equivalent to Marxism, will make all left-wing dialogue
options reward you with XP – Critical Theory Overdrive! – [Ragnar] But, you’ll also lose some authority for being a
downtrodden Inva-Communist and your visual calculus skill suffers because you see reaction,
reaction everywhere! As I just mentioned, Disco
Elysium plays in an alternate history setting in an era that is, if you compare it with our timeline, often times a little anachronistic. Parts of Revachol and
Martainaise feel like you’re some time in an
equivalent of our 70s or 80s while other parts feel distinctly older. The worldbuilding of the
game’s setting comes along with a surprisingly deep and
fleshed out world geography, history and geopolitical constellation, and this grand setting makes
the world you’re playing in feel considerably larger
than it actually, physically is. And yes, the game is an open world, and I say that with the
fondest inclination possible. I’ve made it repeatedly clear
in the past that I’m skeptical about many of the common trends in modern video game open world design. The Ubisoft-approach that has branched out from Assassin’s Creed and influenced so much of what we understand
when we hear open world, is to me, in big parts a
collection of lazy filler content. The way these worlds are crafted, despite looking lavish and
gorgeous on the surface, often tend to feel like a
shallow theme park experience to me, and not in a good way, designed to primarily
put players in a state of constant flow, neither
over nor under challenging. An abundance of categorized items pointing to categorized activities,
categorized mission types, categorized generic side
activities, and, of course, categorized meaningless loot, collectibles and unlockables everywhere. Mass-produced, highly streamlined content meant to cost-effectively stretch
out the playtime of a game but even with genuinely
great examples of the genre like Assassin’s Creed: Origins or heck, the 97 Metascore wonder
Red Dead Redemption 2, I keep growing so frustrated
and impatient over time, towards being knowingly compelled to finish all this meaningless excess, in order for my brain to
achieve this conditioned feeling of getting to a reward this design pattern makes me seek out. I think this type of open
world design is garbage and the fact that it’s so
common makes an open world like the one in Disco Elysium feel so much more rewarding
and refreshing to explore. Now, if you compare its plain dimensions with a big budget AAA action adventure alla Red Dead Redemption 2, you’ll find that Disco
Elysium is comparably tiny. But this game populates its
world with a peerless density of diverse and reliably
interesting content that it took me a good 12
hours of playtime or so to even realize that the world itself is not that big in the first place. – Everything’s still cool here officer. – [Ragnar] Like for the
first two ingame days, which takes quite a bit of time, I never even reached the
boundaries of the overworld if you can call it that and that’s not because it’s
freakishly massive or anything, I tried it out, if you run from the northern
most tip of the peninsular all the way down across
the waterlock and up along the dock until Joyce Messier’s boat, you’ll cover the longest
distance across the overworld map in about two minutes or so. But of course you have to
take dozens of lavishly rendered locations but you
can enter into account, and altogether this encompasses
an estimated 50 to 100 rooms all in all. So I’d rather describe the
game’s open world as intricate rather than massive in dimensions. There was so much
interesting stuff to discover and interact with that kept me engaged that I spent hours upon hours in dialogue and investigation trees, just with that small area that, my mind initially felt intimidated by how huge this open world must be. Meaning: before I decided to just walk from border to border, I kept thinking that Disco
Elysium’s world is immense. And I still think this is true, simply because there is
so much more to a cohesive and enthralling open
world than square footage. As we’ve said, it’s next to
impossible to fully emulate a real DM by pre-writing
every possible scenario even the most silly player
characters would come up with, but Disco Elysium comes
so unbelievably close to filling every inch of
its beautiful locations with so much interaction potential, that you’ll never even
think of the boundaries. There’s always something to do. This is a game where you
can visit a bookstore and you can damn well be sure
that you’ll find an abundance of books to buy, read,
skim through, interact with and spend deep inner-monologue branching narrative excursions in. And hey, while we’re in the bookstore, of course it has a board-game section, in which you can buy a
family friendly tabletop game where you build a civilization
and then go on to brutally colonize and repress other civilizations. And of course you can buy the
game, and read the package, unwrap it, read the manual,
inspect the cards and pieces and then go on and play it. It’s completely optional, but as with all the
side-activities in this game, it ends up being a thoroughly
enjoyable interaction with your partner, while
delivering a contextually fitting, sharp critique of common
problematic board-game tropes. Oh, and of course, there’s
also an in-universe tabletop RPG, why wouldn’t there be? I’ll say it again, this game is so jam-packed
with interesting, brilliantly written content
that I can guarantee it’s well worth your time. And you’re gonna spend
a lot of time in it. Nothing in this game, even
once felt like mass-produced filler content, but it’s
packed to the brim with unique, fresh and enticing bits
of interactive narrative that I’m seriously running out of words to properly praise it for that. – [Narrator] And now, the conclusion. – [Ragnar] Now, have I
deceived you, clickbaited you with the bold claim on the
thumbnail of this video that Disco Elysium is
the literally best cRPG? Mmm, no. I haven’t, I stand by this, I stan, how the youths say these days. Admittedly I’ve been wrestling
with myself for quite a while when I was playing the game because I kept having this desire to say, “This is seriously the
best RPG I’ve ever played!” but I didn’t quite dare to speak it out because it’s such a bold claim, you know, but the more I thought about
it the more I felt that, yes, in a literal sense, in the
original semantic meaning of the term RPG, role playing game, that harks back to the tabletop, there is not a single game
that made me feel more like I’m feeling during
a tabletop campaign. And this is not an average,
bog-standard campaign, this is a good campaign. – This is a good– – [Ragnar] Campaign. – A good–
– campaign. – A good–
– campaign. – This is a good– – [Ragnar] Campaign. (laughing) – This is a good– – [Ragnar] Campaign. Yes, as a role playing
game, to me personally, it surpasses even all those greats that I can never shut up about: Planescape, New Vegas,
Bloodlines, Arcanum, Mask of the Betrayer, so
that I can say that yup, Disco Elysium is, to me, in fact, literally the best cRPG I’ve ever played. And I’m convinced that people
will still talk about it in a decade from now and longer, and I’m also sure I’ll come
back to it time and again because there’s so many different ways in which the story unfolds. This story will really go down
a completely different path if you play the game differently. What a year, honestly, not one, but two amazing titles by
small developer that ended up being decidedly in my list of the best video games I’ve ever played. Buy Pathologic 2. But aside from that, what’s the conclusion
here, what’s the lesson? The way I see it, Disco
Elysium is yet another example of a game that greatly benefits from rejecting long-established,
rigid genre conventions, namely the use of traditional combat as the central vessel for challenge, and instead charting a different path to answer the question of
how else to engage the player in meaningful and captivating ways. And by daring to take a path that’s, compared to the beaten
one, much less explored, it benefits from such a tremendous pool of untapped possibilities and ideas. And it excessively scoops from that pool. When you tend to follow the beaten path, you also tend to become
rigid and close ourselves off to the possibilities of truly
groundbreaking innovation in favor of imitating
what’s already there. It’s the law of the instrument. If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail. Disco Elysium, by both rejecting combat and realizing this
decision with an open-mind for experimentation and a stubborn will to deliver something equally,
if not even more compelling than what we’ve grown accustomed to, it’s the model recipe for
unexpected brilliance. But what I truly want is
this to be an inspiration, I don’t want it to make ripples, but waves across the video game RPG genre. I want Disco Elysium to be a
beacon that brightly signals to designers out there that making an RPG that feels like you’re
playing a tabletop is, despite years of arguing
for its impossibility, in fact very achievable. The game is critically
highly acclaimed and so far, I’ve honestly read almost
nothing but glowing praise from press and fans alike,
which makes me hopeful that it ends up turning some heads. I want this game’s bold and
daring design and writing philosophy to upheave and
transform how we think about RPGs. I want Disco Elysium to be the game that instigates the long
overdue semantic RPG Revolution. I want this game to be the
example that people bring up to argue that the term Role Playing Game, in the context of video games, should not anymore refer to
progression systems and XP-bars shoehorned into genres that have nothing to do
with the origin of the word. I want it to reclaim the
term RPG to, once again, describe video games in
which you actually roleplay. (Anodic Dance Music) – [Ragnar] Hey! Thanks for watching
and sticking with me all the way! Uuuh, so, the videos that I make
are for the biggest part funded by my supporters over on Patreon
–and I love them for it! Crowdfunding has been what
enabled me to do this for years now and I’m thankful for that! So if you feel like helping me out as well to make sure the boat doesn’t sink to the depths YouTube’s
algorithm ocean, you can follow the link that just
popped up in the top right or the one in the description
to pitch in as well. And you’ll have my gratitude for it! You also get access to my monthly,
in-depth, production blog and my Patreon-only Discord server, get to see videos one-to-several days
before release, you can get access to my scripts
while in the middle of I’m writing them and, you can get your name
in the credits of each video as a thank you for your contribution. And this month, a special thanks goes
out to my biggest communism builders: www.patreon.com/RagnarRoxShow/ Until next time… ta ta!

100 Comments on "Disco Elysium is a Role-Playing Dream Come True"


  1. Only played a bit, but I found the…anti-choices, I guess they'd be called, as interesting as the choices.

    You are a specific person who existed in the world before you took control of him. He has a defined gender, appearance, and name (although you can adopt a new one). "Harrier" is not conventionally attractive and is not a woman (I wouldn't be surprised if there's a way to transition I haven't discovered yet, but please don't spoil it). By the game's design, he will tend to have the devil's luck, failing various skill checks repeatedly and still bumbling towards progress.

    Reply

  2. This is the kind of game we need to start seeing more of. I want more games to focus on smaller worlds with more intricate, believable detail.

    Reply

  3. Just finished it today. The ending left me feeling a bit…jarred. It kind of just ended. But I can never take away the innovations it brought to the genre. Overall i AM happy i played it, but i did leave the game feeling a bit soured.

    Reply

  4. 6:53 This is where the game failed, for me. The most important skill check in the game is rigged from the start. You cannot beat it, even if you make a build tailored for that one encounter. I had the unfortunate experience to play the game with that very build on my first playthrough, and that one moment dispelled the notion that the game offered unparalleled c&c.

    I will concede that the writing is superb, but it is very much at the front and centre of the whole experience, and there are little to no mechanics that lie outside of the attributes/speech system. There is lots of reactivity in dialogue, but not nearly as much of it in any major events.

    Reply

  5. I told my fiance all I want for Xmas is this game. Once I get done playing it I will finish watching this video 🙂

    Reply

  6. I've been looking forward to this one, especially after being disappointed in The Outer Worlds. After watching this, probably the fourth absolutely stellar review I've seen, I grabbed it on GOG.

    Reply

  7. what i want to know is why so many of these isometric rpgs based on dungeons and dragons ended up with real time combat.

    Reply

  8. Playing the role of your actual life is still unmatched by video games (although video games provide an occasional desired break from thinking so much about the serious sides to your real life).

    Reply

  9. Fantastic video. This is exactly what I thought of the game, it is truly exemplary of what I want out of an rpg. When I started writing notes for a video on it ( I’ll likely do another playthrough before I start on it in earnest though) I felt conflicted because I had called my VtMB video “the epitome of the rpg”… but Disco Elysium just does role playing so well. Better than any other game I’ve played.

    Reply

  10. Another great rpg type story is the Sunless Skies/Sunless Seas series. I have only played Sunless Skies (which I guess is the second or third game, but other than some additional lore you don't have to play the other games from what I hear) and haven't gotten too far, but its the only game I have ever played that game me an important main quest item right off the bat and was like "you can examine it, blow it up, or you can just sell it. Do whatever."

    I never felt like the main quest was really MY choice before then, and it was a really cool feel to have that choice. ^^

    Reply

  11. Yet again, another game I will not be able to get into due to its style and the design of its main character!

    Reply

  12. Ahhh, nothing like an isometric, tabletop-derivative, western rpg with beautiful environments . . . and no combat? This may be something I always wanted but never knew it 🙂

    Highly doubt this would ever show up on consoles tho, even digitally :/

    Reply

  13. This video expresses my thoughts on this game on a much better way I could ever have expressed them.

    It's such a game changer it's crazy. This game turns nostalgia into innovation in so many ways… I really hope other devs take a look at this and use some of the ideas here in their projects. I'm really glad I played this masterpiece.

    Also it coming so close after the.outer worlds only serves to exaggerate the differences. TOW suffers from many of the problems and tropes expressed in this video.

    Reply

  14. I just want to comment on Torment: Tides of Numenera's combat… I feel it was bland, but it does have diverse encounters. Sometimes you are on even ground, sometimes you need to sneak in the room, sometimes you have to escape or protect someone, etc.
    And to be frank, I think that by the end of the game you SHOULD be an unstopable fighting force someway or another… because the antagonist is not something you can fight, whatever you are a wimp or a god.

    Anyways, I friking sad my computer can't handle this game 🙁

    Reply

  15. Somehow, I knew you would love it 😉 It's a beautiful game, not just in the visual sense, but in concept and execution. It's made with such care, and it dares to be inventive, clever, treating the player with respect. I hope it gets all the success, and revitalises the slightly mouldy crpg formula, and perhaps inspires other devs from baltic and eastern european regions of europe, who i think have a distinctive voice from their western counterparts and it's a voice I'd love to hear more of 😉

    Reply

  16. See, I was shying away from this game because, mostly because it sounded like the only option you had to play as a big dumb cartoon character, a complete loony. You're telling me that you can actually play as a competent no-nonsense person, and it won't actually just reject that outright?

    Reply

  17. @18:19 Kitsuragi mentions the gloves whether or not you are wearing them. You just need in them in your inventory

    Reply

  18. I agree on most points, though I disagree that you will end up with wildly different outcomes for playing the game differently, and I really wish you'd snuck in a line about it in the video to prepare folks. The final act of the game has very little variation regardless of decisions made up to that point, decisions made during major events, or your character build. I don't mind it so much as I'm a Torment man for life, and that game only has the one 'ending' in it, but I'd be careful setting up the audience's expectations for reactivity when it all falls away towards the end. This seems to be a real sticking point for a lot of the audience who attempt multiple playthroughs and find themselves 'disenchanted' with the let-down, and I think that disappointment could be mitigated if people understood there was some 'scripting' of events at the end of the game.

    Reply

  19. Man, this is one of those games that we’re only gonna see once in a decade, huh?

    Oh look its 20% off!

    Reply

  20. It pains me truly that this will never be enjoyed by the wider audience. Although the magic of Disco Elysium would probably be lost on a AAA scale, I still selfishly wish that I could get a sequel with a better mileage, more of that beautiful aggresively intelectual dense writing and more of Hobocop Du Bois. I fear that this might be a one time gem the likes of which we will not see again for quite some time.

    Reply

  21. I remember telling a friend about Vampyr saying, “I wish this game was just about being a vampiric doctor during the Spanish Flue outbreak struggling with his desire for blood, and just completely did away with the fucking mind numbing combat in between each story location.”

    Disco Elysium delivered this.

    Reply

  22. I think the environments being so detailed and gorgeously rendered also helps with making the locations seem bigger than they are.

    Reply

  23. I have to be honest, I wasn't aware of this game at all, until very recently. I discovered this game because of The Game Of The Year Nomination video by Laymen Gaming and gave it a try and it really is fricking awesome and now after seeing this video it made appreciate the game even more. Hopefully it will gain even more exposure so that people appreciate how amazing this game truly is. 😃🙌

    Reply

  24. I’m only on day 2 but after the first half hour I went on a two hour monologue to my gf talking about how innovative and incredible the role playing system is in this game. The way how dialogue MATTERS, what you say and what you DON’T say. How the skills talk to you and emphasize roleplaying. The way different skills open up new options and insights in dialogues, how skills open up the world to you, how they’re all two-sided swords. And we’re not even talking about the world, the characters and the story yet. What a masterpiece in design.

    Reply

  25. You have completely sold me on this one. There are so many genres that I would love to see combat not being the default method for establishing drama and challenge, looks like they really nailed it here.

    Reply

  26. Price is ridiculous though, its a paragraph book or point and click adventure or visual novel. Those usually price at 10$ or less. I disagree with paying so much money just cause someone did their job right. What about games like sword of the stars the pit, shadow warrior 2, hollow knight, tomb rider, risen 3, payday 2 or salt&sanctuary? Those cost 5-8$ All good games. I hate it when devs keep you hostage: pay our price out of the hat or screw you.

    Also they compete in price with games like code vein or monster hunter world – guaranteed dozens of hours of proper dark souls gameplay. I clocked 400 hours in ds3 and nioh and 1000 hours in ds 2. Code vein is likely to be similar. How long is this one?

    Reply

  27. The ending/once you approach the island part of the game made all the things in the game that were amazing and made me ramble constantly about how amazing it was… kind of go away. No matter what happens the mysteries in the game are ultimately meaningless feeling, and it hurt pretty bad to be streamlined to the end as soon as resolving the mystery. Sure everything prior was great, but then you get shoved into a pretty terrible conclusion.

    Reply

  28. This game is a masterpiece, i played it through in pretty much one sitting cause i couldnt stop.
    I miss games like this and i hope they do a sequel

    Reply

  29. A lot of what you said about this game makes me think of Divinity: Original Sin 2. I don't have a gaming PC so I will have to wait for the console version to come out, but your video has me anticipating this one.

    Reply

  30. Just 2 minutes into the video and i have to say it is rather difficult to listen to due to the background music

    Reply

  31. It boggles my mind that you got me interested in a game like this. But according to your description, it might scratch the itch that I've been longing for for years

    Reply

  32. @ description: its not it's.
    don't meant to take away from the video, it just caught my attention and I'm a grammar nazi.
    I definitely have my eye on this game.

    Reply

  33. 20 minutes into the video and I bought the game on steam. Your passion for this game is as plain as day within the script and your enthusiasm narrating the video. When people create games like these I am reminded that games are an art form, from the illustration to the gameplay this game is something that we see once a decade if that.

    Reply

  34. YouTube ate my more detailed comment I tried to write…

    Summarized: Disco Elysium is amazing… except that the main story railroads the player hard. The game closes in as the story progresses, until finally there is only one path to follow. It’s baffling how little the player’s choices matter to some key parts of the story.

    I think the more moment to moment writing is fantastic, and the skills system is brilliant. But for me, Disco Elysium is a very disappointing 8/10. It feels like it should be a 10/10. But I just can’t bring myself to call it a 10/10.

    Reply

  35. The diffuse sense of multiplicity, this might be a better portrayal of DID than any explicilt representation ive ever seen

    Reply

  36. The lack of combat kind of killed this game for me, however other than the the game is truly amazing, the level of story telling is very impressive.

    Reply

  37. I read this was coming to PS4. I'll be buying it the first chance I get. Telling everyone I can about it,

    Reply

  38. 17:45 the one time, the ONLY time that the reactivity lied to me, was when Kim complains about you running everywhere at the end of the first day. My first playthrough I was, indeed running everywhere, and though "Nice, game keeps track of that, cool", and in my second playthrough specifically did not run even once and he still complained.
    Also, describing the setting as alternate history at 25:44 is a bit… misleading. It's not on Earth, for one thing.

    Reply

  39. people on Twitter, Discord, Facebook and now YouTube hsve all suggested I play this. Guess I ought to check it out lol

    Reply

  40. One of the only games that made me cry. Not at nessessarly the story but what the story revealed in myself. My ugly side, my introspective side, my political side, and the inherent finality of my existence.

    Reply

  41. I'm only 2 hours in, but the best moment I had yet, was when my character tried to flirt with a woman, but because my check failed, he could only pronounce: "I want to have fuck with you!"
    I also love how the font and color scheme of the dialogue window is a clear nod to planescape:torment 🙂

    Reply

  42. Bought it but haven't played much of it (really like 10 minutes) but I need to get into it (after I finish lis2 I guess)… but they really need to translate it though.

    Reply

  43. Damnit for some reason I thought this was about Outer Worlds when I clicked it and was gonna refute so hard.

    But nah. I"m down with 100% of this. Disco Elysium is a modern classic.

    Reply

  44. yea but when what you people dont consider is, we want to play first person role playing games…you guys disingenuously compare games to skyrim that are completely different structures of RPGs…..it took till the outerworlds till a game decided to try and be a good create your own character first person RPG again….you can shit on skyrim all you want but that just makes its competition a dumpster fire in comparison

    Reply

  45. I've been calling Skyrim a trash RPG for years and trying to explain why it sucks to people and this video very clearly articulates things that I've said and expands on them. Thank you very much.

    Reply

  46. Is this game on switch? I swear I saw it on the shop or am I losing my mind? I just went on the Nintendo site and couldn’t find it

    Reply

  47. I can't wait to get a chance to dig into this. I love the idea that if some of your stats are TOO high then things can get wacky in your head real quick. You can really make yourself a total nutbar.

    Reply

  48. I bought the game on mostly your recommendation (and one or two things I heard somewhere) and I must say… You slightly overhyped this. You hyped it so much I was/am actually disappointed with some stuff, and it's a really good game (so far). So here's my take on some stuff you mentioned (spoiler free, unless you consider things that can happen 5 minutes into game a spoiler). Full disclaimer, I only played for one in-game day so far:

    1. This game is not the holy example of turning tabletop rpg freedom into pc game. I may have not played P:T and VtM:B for quite a while but I don't think it gives you more dialog options. It's just that it has really good writing. There is significant difference between dialog options in tabletop form and a game. In real life you the npc says something and you have to think what to say or do. In games, all options appear at once. So naturally before thinking what I would do (unless it's one of those dialogs when I come up with an idea durring npc talking turn) I actually read what I CAN do. And the game's writing is so good and clever you'll usually pick a choice and be happy about the outcome. The game steers you towards not noticing you would probably say/do something else.

    2. Branching. While I didn't play that much so I can't really say enough I can comment on the name and identity situation. I tried to play it differently, as in play it dumb. I didn't admit to anyone I don't know things or myself. Then I find the company negotiator and right in the beginning Kim is like "my colleague here suffered a medical condition". Then she asks for our badges. I don't have one so I try to use my "medical condition" as a reason for loosing it. The games forces me to reveal I forgot literally everything, Kim is unfazed. Since then I didn't bother avoiding the topic. Later on I find my police ledger and Kim asks surprised how could I've done that. That's what disappointed me the most about this game.

    3. Checks. You say failling checks isn't bad in this game. I say it's only true for some them. There are two type of checks. White – that you can repeat provided you level up connected skill (or fulfil some secret condition like talking to specific person). And red – that are gone. I can safely say that most white checks are simple event/info/exp gates. If you fail you get nothing, not even a funny comment. There are some white checks that at least give you a comment (usually tied to physical skills) and some that make you seem insane (like trying to take off your clothes in order to explain something, those are usually tied to conversations). Red checks are better at this but there are still some that will get your fingers twitching for that f9. And at least so far everything is check dependant even if you max out a skill you can fail the simpliest things and if you put none you can succeed in hardest. I'd prefer some options to be there only if you put enough base+skill points in a skill.

    One thing that I really dislike is that you need skill points to remove you inner thoughts after you complete them (and you don't know final bonuses you'll get from completion).

    But that's enough complaining. It's still a great game (so far), well worth full price. Hell, if it'll get better it might even beat P:T and VtM:B in my personal ranking. It's definitely first since very long time that actually has a shot at that. Just don't sell it as a second coming of Christ 😛

    Reply

  49. A cRPG is a point-and-click adventure game with 3 novels worth of text and a character sheet that you slap some enemies with a few times

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *