Disco Elysium - Critique

Author: Simon Cardy
Date: 2020-07-30 21:57:57
Test translated from English by IGN France. For the game, however, no French version, and it is better to have a good level of English.

As with any good noir novel, what seems simple at first is far from being in Disco Elysium - and things tend to get incredibly weird, too. This title takes the ancestral mechanics of RPGs paper like Dungeons & Dragons, and articulates them in a strange way around a macabre intrigue mixing, poverty and society on the verge of collapse. Taking advantage of biting dialogue and taking place in an expertly crafted world, Disco Elysium incorporates unique gameplay mechanics - like the one allowing you to debate against 24 different sections of your brain - to create an experience that leaves a lasting mark on you. Somehow he manages to make the whole thing pleasant, and surprisingly often funny.

The premise of Disco Elysium is simple: A body has been discovered hanging from a tree in the backyard of an inn, and it's up to you to shed light on the matter in the 30 hours it takes to complete the adventure. But solving this mystery is far from straightforward, especially when a severe hangover left you with complete amnesia. You don't remember your name, much less that you are a cop on a murder case. Part of your consciousness, described as your old reptilian brain - which you literally strike up a conversation with - is trying to persuade you to give up on your quest, while your whiny limbic system staunchly opposes it. As you stumble around your ransacked room, it quickly becomes clear that this is not just a murder case, but a journey of resolving crises both on a personal and societal level. This magnificent RPG in isometric view constantly pushes you to think and benefits from a particularly stylized rendering.

Learn, Baby Learn

When you start Disco Elysium, the first decision you have to make comes down to what kind of detective you want to play: smart (Sherlock Holmes style), sensitive (like Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks) or rather fit inside (Marv way in Sin City). . Each of these personalities determines the base stats of your Nameless Detective, influences the decisions presented to you from the start, and is also an interesting and unique way to play. Starting the adventure with the first build allows you to instantly realize that you are in the city of Revachol thanks to your encyclopedic knowledge. By selecting the second category, this time you will have no idea where you are and will have to gather this information yourself. The beauty of Disco Elysium's skill system is that the choices you make always reward you in some way - a sensitive sleuth might not know where he is, but he has the possibility of questioning his tie in order to obtain clues. Yes, you read that right.

If these main categories don't seem varied enough, you also have the option of creating your own detective from scratch. The sheet defining the characteristics of your character consists of four distinct pillars: Intellect, Psyche, Physics and Motor skills. Knowing that each of them includes six wonderfully weird skills (like Encyclopedic Lore) that have their own bonuses. Want to earn the respect of a character? Spend your points in the authority stream. Intimidate a witness? Increase your physical level. Talking to that tie? Focus on this skill inspired by David Lynch's Inland Empire movie.

These skills aren't just passive ways of sending you down different paths - each one is like a distinct voice inside your detective's head, appearing in the dialogue window during conversations. If you favor empathy, this voice will likely advise you not to take interrogation of a victim too far, while if you choose chiaroscuro (a skill that allows you to question suspects in a more muscular way), your brain will probably encourage you to hit your interlocutor. This is as much welcome advice as it is a way to assess your progress: you get an extra skill point for every 100 XP points, by completing the objectives on your quest list or more simply by chatting with characters and discovering new information. You have to think carefully about how you want to use them, but never feel like you have to wait too long to get new ones.

This strong emphasis on skill management makes Disco Elysium a real video game UFO (the video game closest to it at the moment is in my opinion Divinity: Original Sin 2, imagining that turn-based combat turn be replaced by point and click scenario branches, worthy of the golden age of LucasArts). Solving puzzles goes hand in hand with controlling your skills, which boil down to interactions combining consideration of your statistics and dice rolls. The higher the number obtained for the required skill, the higher its percentage of success. Taking a central role, this mechanic is used to solve everything, whether it be dialogue choices, jumping over a chasm, or resorting to violence.

Let's be clear: there are no fights in Disco Elysium, at least not in the traditional sense. Swinging a punch depends on your detective's propensity to resort to violence, and the consequences of that action are usually verbal rather than physical. Most of the time, you are armed with your tongue (sometimes hanging tight) and your dice rolls. Your dialogue choices are often crucial to problem solving, not only when you interact with other characters, but also with the many voices that occupy your mind. This is a really fun way to take in challenging situations and a welcome breath of fresh air compared to more action-oriented RPGs. I even found progressing through dialogue and building my character sheet in Disco Elysium much more interesting than the monotonous approach of slaying enemies using yet another +2 blade.

Like Bethesda's RPGs, your attire also affects your skills, positively or negatively. By wearing a replica hat of Dick Mullen (a fictional detective), you can increase your encyclopedic knowledge by one point. A quick costume change can also come in handy when you need to make a seemingly complicated dice roll. So I happened to come across a strange graffiti in a particularly seedy part of town, requiring a substantial amount of "Thrills" - an ability that gives you goosebumps and allows you to "scan" the city. in order to decipher your immediate environment. My character originally had a low Chill rating, but putting on a pair of sunglasses and putting on another jacket, my die roll hit percentage reached 72%. Once the sequence was successful, I quickly put on my favorite clothes.

During these passages, a little additional thought is necessary in order to adapt your character's statistics according to the items you have in your inventory. You can also improve your skills (like speed) by using alcohol or drugs. These substances temporarily bolster one of the four pillars of your character sheet (one hour in game scale), but this comes at the cost of your health or morale, however. I never really felt like it was a risky business, and ended up using narcotics on a regular basis in order to get a nice little boost. In truth, while I would have liked to have had more opportunities to do so, I never really had to juggle the items in my inventory. I used the same outfit for a large part of the adventure, and would appreciate having to change more regularly. Fortunately, Disco Elysium has such a strong central plot that I never really suffered from this (relative) lack of difficulty.

In addition to improving your skills, you also have the opportunity to spend points in your Thought Cabinet, a unique mechanic that transforms abstract concepts like communism, memories of your favorite flavors, or thinking (wrongly) that you're a rockstar in a sort of mental inventory. An aspect that skilfully plays on the fact that half the battle in Disco Elysium takes place within your mind. By internalizing an unlocked thought during your wanderings, you can get a host of rewards related to it. While these can come in the form of stat boosts, XP, or unique attributes, they can also induce major negative effects, but part of the fun is just not knowing what benefits will come from your ruminations (which could for example concern a certain “volumetric excrement compactor”) according to their maturation time.

To give you an idea, after seven hours of maturation, the thought called "Wompty-Dompty-Dom Center" allowed me to get 10 XP points each time I successfully used my encyclopedic knowledge during a conversation. , but also decreased my suggestion capacity by two points because my brain felt that I was a "pretentious lazy". It is a wonderfully strange system, characterized by the appearance of a new, delightfully grotesque illustrative painting filling your screen (loaded with disturbing images reflecting a grim view of humanity and invariably reminiscent of the "Black Paintings" period of the painter Francisco Goya) each you "complete" a thought.

On the beat

The concept of society seems to have ceased for a long time in the streets of Revachol, once proud capital of the world in which you wake up. Martinaise, the district where you will spend most of your time, is a district plagued by anger and discontent, but also a captivating place. At first glance, no one seems happy here except a few power hungry individuals. This is a sumptuous representation of a decidedly ugly place, which will allow you to instantly get an idea of the world in which you will be brought to evolve for 30 hours. Snow falls gently on abandoned vehicles, dilapidated and neglected architecture haunts the streets, and shattered statues commemorating a long and legendary war tell us a little more about the place's busy past.

To discover the stories the city has to tell you (especially many), you will need to be thorough, using all of your character's detective skills, as they come to her. Small colored orbs are scattered throughout the environments, and clicking on each one allows you to learn a little more about this complex world. While the distilled information won't necessarily advance your investigation, it always turns out to be interesting. With Disco Elysium, the ZA / UM studio has created a truly fascinating universe - rarely will a video game setting have fascinated me as much as that of the city of Revachol. I rank it on par with The Colorful Continent of The Witcher 3 or the Wild West of Red Dead Redemption 2, despite the fact that it spans a much smaller area. & Lt; br / & gt; If the A game's world density can seem overwhelming at times, with maps filled with icons and vast expanses of land inviting exploration, this is never the case with Disco Elysium however. There is certainly a lot to do, but it encourages you to take your time and digest the information being offered to you at your own pace. As a detective, the thorny task of separating the true from the false is yours.

You'll also feel the urge to click on every item on the screen, as any item you can interact with can be highlighted by holding down the Tab key (which should rekindle some memories among veterans of the adventure genre). While it sometimes turns out to be deliberately obtuse in its dialogue or the way certain things are worded, Disco Elysium never conceals what you are supposed to do. The tasks are clearly listed in the menu and complemented with a generous amount of hints about the goals you are aiming for: an incredibly dense experience with a to-do list growing rapidly, but one in which I never felt lost. .

At the center of it all is the diversity of the characters in Disco Elysium and the way their stories intertwine with yours and that of the world they live in. Each new face is accompanied by a splendid portrait on canvas appearing to have been painted by a Francis Bacon in a daze. The characters are fleshed out and a quick glance at their faces or at the sentences they speak enlightens you on their life journey. We find for example Cuno, a rude kid (and a beautiful rot) who takes pleasure in throwing stones at the suspended corpse constituting the object of your investigation or even Evrart Claire, fat union leader seemingly cut in the same fabric as Jabba the Hutt. It is rare to cross paths with a caring person in Revachol, which makes bonding and nurturing a conversion bordering on politeness all the more special ...

The main one of these links remains the one that you will forge with your partner, Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi, who came from another police station to help you shed light on this affair. Initially, he is cold and rather suspicious of your methods. But I enjoyed watching our ties grow closer as the stakes rose. Kitsuragi's caustic humor and analytical mind shine through in his voice, and give him a reassuring tone during times of tension. But the same is not true for the entire cast of Disco Elysium. The vocal performances are a real roller-coaster ride: some turn out to be very accurate and fit perfectly into the game world, while others seem quite rigid and robotic, which has the effect of pulling you out of a different universe. very well built.

Regardless of their interpretation, the dialogues themselves turn out to be carefully written (we do regret some notable spelling mistakes, but this defect remains anecdotal when we know that the script contains more than a million words). Pungent and at times very funny, the lines regularly refer to the fog you find yourself in and never fail to call you to order when you've made a stupid mistake. The script doesn't shy away from tackling much darker and more serious themes with a cynical tone, given that many people in Revachol have racist and fascist beliefs and make no secret of them. The characters will thus pass from a revolutionary prose calling for the fall of the bourgeoisie to Kafkaesque psychoanalytic ramblings. These topics help broaden and enrich your mind, and cause you to question your character's place in the world as well as your own. Disco Elysium is as much a tribute to the noir novel as it is an assessment of your own socio-political inclinations.

The plot of Disco Elysium falls into two main parts: solving the murder for which you were sent to Revachol, and a more personal quest to try to piece together your past and find out who you really are, which intertwine here with societal issues. Telling you more about the plot would likely spoil the mystery - and I strongly urge you to experience the story for yourself. With so many twists and forks, there's a good chance you'll end up with a different conclusion than mine. A handful of throws of the keys did not allow me to obtain the desired result, and I look forward to retrying these sequences, in order to know their impact on the unfolding of the story. Although I left a bit more of the mess behind than I wanted, I was overall happy with the conclusion I got. If it is still difficult to conclude such a dense plot, Disco Elysium manages it handily (even if I was secretly hoping for a final revelation, another twist).

During those 30 hours of play, I read a lot in order to learn more about the world I found myself in and the poor souls that inhabit it. If it all seems a little too overwhelming, there is always an option to give up. Fifteen minutes after starting the adventure, I had my first game over after having cracked and given in to the whispers of my reptilian brain. Disco Elysium is a really weird game, which offers a rather dark, but incredibly stimulating experience that I can't wait to relive.