Upon its original release in 2019, Disco Elysium was met with almost universal acclaim from critics and gamers alike. In the 18 months since launch, it has become something of a cult classic, but Disco Elysium: The Final Cut aims to bring the game to an even wider audience.
Out now on PS5, PS4, and PC, with an Xbox Series X and Nintendo Switch port due out this summer, the RPG will soon be playable just about everywhere. This is certainly worth celebrating as Disco Elysium is a special game that manages to live up to the high expectations set by its glowing reputation.
It’s definitely not a title for everyone, however, and some players will be put off by the slow pace, nihilistic worldview and lack of a proper combat system, but few games are more immersive once Disco Elysium gets its hooks into you.
Read on for our full Disco Elysium: The Final Cut review to find out why this is a dark and brooding mystery-adventure you need to solve.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut review: Story
You wake up in a shabby motel room. You can’t remember where you are or even your own name. You walk outside to find a mutilated body hanging from a tree, and it’s your job to discover who’s responsible for this crime.
That’s the initial setup of Disco Elysium, and it’s a pretty intriguing one. The game is an RPG in the truest sense of the word; right from the start, you are given significant freedom to make your character your own.
After selecting one of three pre-configured character archetypes or building your own character from scratch, you are let loose in the game’s small but dense open world to interrogate townsfolk, find clues and get into mischief, if you seek it out.
Within my first 20 minutes, I had been bullied by an impolite street kid named Cuno, vomited twice thanks to a wicked hangover from the night before, and engaged in a philosophical debate with a motel owner about the concept of money in an attempt to get out of paying for my room.
It’s not just other humans you’ll be interacting with. The game also features regular interjection and interplay between your own psyche as parts of your personality clash or try to convince you to perform certain actions.
Early on, my brain attempted to convince me that I was a diehard communist and needed to spread the political ideology to the citizens of the town in a sequence that was equal parts bizarre and hilarious.
Yes, Disco Elysium can be very odd, but it’s remarkably thoughtful. The dialogue can be snarky, bleak, comedic or depressing, often all the same time. The central story, as well as numerous side plots, is among the best-written in all of gaming.
I don’t want to delve too deeply into the specifics, as the real joy of Disco Elysium is discovering things for yourself. But the core narrative unfolds at a pleasing pace and you’re given a pretty substantial amount of control as to how things all play out in the end.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut review: Gameplay
It’s a good job that Disco Elysium’s story, characters, and world are so remarkable, because that’s really all there is to the game.
As an RPG played from an isometric perspective, Disco Elysium’s closest comparison point would probably be Divinity: Original Sin 2, minus the combat. Instead of a turn-based battle system, Disco Elysium is all about warring with words.
You roam the game’s hauntingly beautiful locales and interact with characters, engaging them in lengthy dialogue sequences in order to learn something new or gain a new item. That in turn lets you open up new areas to explore and meet even more characters. This gameplay loop may be off-putting to some players, as it can feel closer to reading a choose-your-own-adventure book than actually playing a video game.
Along the way, you’ll also face skill checks by way of a dice roll. For example, if you want to throw a punch at a bouncer who won’t let you into a club, the success of your swing will be measured by a stat-weighted roll. It can be frustrating when you fail a skill check with the odds stacked in your favor, but similarly, the sense of jubilation when you roll a winner on a check with a single-digit chance of success is immense.
Disco Elysium feels very inspired by classic pen-and-paper tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, in which building your character sheet is the most important gameplay component and digging into the lore is your main reward for thorough play.
That’s not to say you aren’t given the opportunity to upgrade your character along the way. You do so via the “thoughts cabinet” where you can unlock new skills. Internalizing these “thoughts” grants useful stat increases and will allow you to bypass certain skill checks.
There are also more traditional ways of growing your character using skill points to increase your level in four unique metrics: intellect, psyche, physique and motorics. Overall, the progression system in Disco Elysium is largely just as quirky as the rest of the game.
What really lets Disco Elysium: The Final Cut down is the atrocious controller mapping. The game certainly seems designed with keyboard and mouse in mind, which isn’t surprising as it was released first on PC, but titles like Planet Coaster have proved that smoothly transferring a PC-centric control scheme to console controllers is possible.
Actually interacting with the world feels unbearably clunky on a controller. Just selecting an object or person to interact with requires you to essentially scroll through every interactable item in the vicinity, which is very cumbersome.
It doesn’t help that the interact button seems to only work about half the time. Prepare for a lot of double-pressing when your first input doesn’t register. It all leads to a pretty frustrating experience playing the game on console.
If you have the option to play Disco Elysium: The Final Cut on PC (and it’s not an especially graphically demanding game) then we suggest you do.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut review: Visuals and sound
From the gorgeous watercolor aesthetic to the heavily stylized menus, every aspect of Disco Elysium’s visual design feels meticulously crafted.
Small flourishes really impress, such as when the portrait of a character with whom you’re interacting appears next to their dialogue box. This really helps immerse you in the game’s world, and these little visual touches can be seen constantly.
One of the biggest additions to The Final Cut, as opposed to the original version of Disco Elysium, is the inclusion of full voice acting for every single character. It’s a pretty big deal considering that the game contains more than one million words of spoken text.
As you spend basically the entire game engaged in dialogue trees, having it all fully voiced is a pretty substantial improvement. I couldn’t imagine playing the game without it now.
The entire voice cast is up to snuff, but particular applause must go to Jullian Champenois who voices Kim Kitsuragi, a police lieutenant who accompanies you and is one of the game’s best characters. You’ll likely be completely enamored with him by the time your tale comes to an end.
Credit must also go to band British Sea Power who provide much of the game’s understated but appropriate soundtrack.
Unfortunately, while the PS5 version of the game claims 60 fps (and 4K resolution), the frame rate is far from stable and regularly dips well below the promised benchmark. This is particularly odd because even though Disco Elysium is certainly a looker, it’s hardly a graphically intensive title. More graphically demanding games such as Demon’s Souls or Hitman 3 both run at a stable 60 fps on Sony’s machine.
Developer ZA/UM has promised that patches are being worked on in order to fix the framerate problem, along with several bugged quests that are preventing some players from progressing.
At the time of this writing, no patches were available. However, the first series of fixes have since been released, and by all accounts the game is still in pretty rough shape on console with frame stuttering remaining a problem and plenty of bugs still halting player progression.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut review: Verdict
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut adds a few tweaks that make quite a substantial difference to the overall experience, but unfortunately, the transition from its PC platform origins to consoles hasn’t been as smooth as we’d have hoped.
Even with these faults, Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is a near-essential journey that everyone should take. The game’s remarkable story, characters and world shine so brightly that the frequent technical issues are for the most part easy to overlook.