Great moments in PC Gaming: Performing an autopsy in Disco Elysium

(Image credit: Zaum)

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium's cover art

(Image credit: Zaum)

Year: 2019
Developer: Zaum

Disco Elysium makes you feel incompetent. Especially at the start, when you've just woken up with a hangover of apocalyptic intensity after a binge of drugs and misery. You might try to skip out without paying your hotel bill, and fail. You might try to intimidate a child, and fail. I failed at my job, which is pretty important, because I'm supposed to be a detective. There's a murder victim hanging from a tree in his underpants and boots, but I can't examine him because I vomit when I try to get close.

Fortunately, my far more competent partner Lt. Kim Kitsuragi has a solution: I should get my shit together. Which I do by equipping a thought called Volumetric Shit Compressor, because Disco Elysium is a game that lets you equip thoughts and has skills that talk to you. (One of them keeps telling me to take some speed. It isn't helping.)

Finally, I approach the corpse. I won't be able to get him down until I endure a whole other embarrassing trial, however, but let's gloss over that. In the meantime, I experience a single shining moment of competency. I've put points into Perception and Visual Calculus to make myself a Sherlock Holmes-style observer, which pays off when I spot footprints around the tree. The world shifts and reshades and I can count how many people trod this dirt, can tell their shoe sizes and approximate their weight. Kim is impressed. For the first time he sees why the drug-humped lump before him was ever allowed to be a detective. His approval is delicious and I want more of it.

When the body's finally down we perform a field autopsy. There's a form for this, which makes it easier. I just fill it out while Kim analyzes. Meanwhile, the voices in my head continue to feed me bad ideas. Stroke the corpse's hair, they say, touch his genitals, steal his boots. But then the Perception skill pipes up. There's something wrong, it says. Something you missed. 

When we come to the end of the form I tell Kim I can't tick the final box just yet. I put my hand inside the corpse I wasn't even able to walk up to not long ago, and I rummage. I rummage until I find something hidden in the meat that turns this whole case upside down. The reward is another hit of Kim's approval, a drug so potent it makes me decide on the spot to chase more of it instead of listening to the voices and taking that speed.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.