'Disco Elysium' Is a Landmark RPG About the Politics of Our Broken World

Content Warnings: This review discusses depictions of alcohol abuse and suicide.
Spoiler Warnings: This review discusses some character arcs and discusses some specific story moments.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mbm47q/disco-elysium-is-a-landmark-rpg-about-the-politics-of-our-broken-world
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Good review, but I definitely, definitely think you should mark at the top that it contains significant spoilers for the game. Like, I feel revealing the main character’s real name could be a real bummer of a spoiler for folks who haven’t dug into this yet.

(Also, minor thing, but there are 24 skills, rather than 20. How could you forget about Half Light? :D)

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Wow this review has a bunch of spoilers in it, so uh, thanks for that.

I’m going to be super bummed if Ive missed helping the little girl go to school now that I know its possible. And I guess I know that the spooky stick bug is real now, that would have been cool to find out on my own.

I also can’t help but laugh that this game that Austin spent what felt like a good 20 mins dragging after playing for a few minutes turns out to be super good.

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Man, I haven’t played a PC game in ages, my laptop needs replacing for sure, but I guess this goes on the list.

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I think that after everything that needs to be said about game devs/publishers attempting to act like they don’t have politics somehow, perhaps just the fact that it handles the grim realities of our world without avoiding such practicality should be lauded. Particularly given the sheer quality of the writing and breadth of open-ended choices.

To me, panning it for its tone is like shoving games back into a “quit being darkly political, thats not what games are for” hole.

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The cynical tone of the game doesn’t really bother me, but I think that has a lot to do about where I live and the leftist circles I run in here. It’s easier to dismiss cynicism as being a signifier of the dirtbag left when you live in a place where politicians at least pretend to care about the human rights of the marginalized. I live in a place where the defacto religious oligarchy is currently striking down a widely popular bill to outlaw conversion therapy. Leftists here are good, compassionate, and constantly fighting for the marginalized, but we’re also deeply cynical. It can be hard to be optimistic when the boot isn’t a just a threat, but something you feel on your neck every day.

That’s also the vibe I’m getting from Disco Elysium. Yeah, the game is cynical about leftism and about what happens when leftism instantiates itself in the world, but there’s also a deep humanity to just about every character you meet. As the game has gone on, the cynicism is still there, but it has fallen farther and farther into the background as the humane character work steps into the spotlight. The karaoke side case is an excellent example of this. It starts off as ironic and jokey, but at least in my playthrough, ended in a touching and cathartic place.

Anyways, it’s a good game, and I’m enjoying it a lot!

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Yeah, I’ve been very impressed with how much humanity there is to the writing once you dig into it. The interaction where (early game spoilers) Kim helps you pay off your tab at the hotel, the quest-line involving Cuno’s father (including the bit about his relationship with the girl behind the fence), and talking to Sylvie about what made her quit; this game has a lot of moments of absolutely brilliant characterization and empathy. I’m even having a hard time disliking Joyce, who I should be predisposed to hate, because I feel like I get her on a fundamental level.

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Yeah, the game is cynical about leftism and about what happens when leftism instantiates itself in the world, but there’s also a deep humanity to just about every character you meet.

I mean that’s just the old and common eastern European cynicism about ‘Communism’ (read: stalinism). Hmm, I think that summaries the games attitude towards this topic quite well tbh.

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