Disco Elysium: The Final Cut (PS5)

An actual role-playing game. That's one way to describe Disco Elysium. You could also call it a visual novel or choose-your-own-adventure book. It's all perfectly valid. For better or worse, Disco Elysium has very few game mechanics. It has more in common with solo RPGs like Thousand Year Old Vampire.

You are an out-of-your-mind drunk detective waking up from one hell of a bender that has managed to turn you into that loveable RPG trope: the amnesiac. From there on out you try to catch your bearings and talk to others as you attempt to figure out what the hell is going on.

It is a trope, but never since Planescape: Torment has the trope been used to such great effect. Every little piece of information you manage to snatch from the world at-large feels like a revelation. Every item you get hold of, a treasure. And then there are the voices.

The voices...

One giant plus this version of Disco Elysium - The Final Cut - brings to the table, is that everything is fully voiced. That includes the voices in your head. In a neat tabletop-RPG inspired twist, every skill you possess produces an internal voice and will more often than not butt in where (in)appropriate.

Visual Calculus might coolly describe the ballistics of a firefight, while Savoir Faire might notice the cover used. Talk to a witness and Authority might cut in and demand answers, even though Encyclopedia is obsessed with the political statement their clothing harbour, and Composure is without a clue.

It's a strange form of guided free association and it's where the role-playing rubber hits the game road. Will you follow the cues of the voices in your head or not? Even when you think there are skills that can only be a positive to your character, they can be blunt tools in the wrong environment.

The responses and results of skill use are almost always worth the effort or the failure. There are genuine laugh-out-loud moments, the likes of which I've only seen around tabletops covered with books, papers, pencils, and dice. Here is a game that within 10 minutes of starting it, has you thinking about replaying it with a completely different character build, just to see what happens.

That said, its role-playing roots are most definitely felt in what you do, or rather what response you choose. If you're used to the aforementioned Planescape: Torment, this will not offer you "combat". Even Monkey Island had more of a conflict state with its cow-like sword fights. This is for all intents and purposes a text based game.

The voice acting, the design, and the sheer audacity of the game's setting more than make up for it and it's never not satisfying, but be warned: this is a hardcore role-playing game. So hardcore in fact, that the one time I did engage in "combat", I was completely caught off guard as a tsunami of emotions washed over me. I left the game untouched for a few minutes - leaving it hanging on the Continue command - as I came to terms with what the hell I was doing and why this was a thing.

It has multiple of these moments, where the reality of the game bends so far backwards, its surface becomes a mirror. The game might not have you grinding for XP, but it will pick every nook and cranny of your brain, resulting in an almost cathartic personality test. It's an incredible achievement and like the best of its ilk, the game will linger in your mind long after the credits roll, as you marvel at what you experienced and wonder about what you did not.

If only you could forget everything and start anew...