Disco Elysium is a hardboiled detective RPG that's made some very positive impressions around here over the past couple of years. At the start of 2018 we included it (as No Truce With the Furies, its original title) in our list of the indie games we were most excited about, and for 2019 we put it in our list of RPGs we were most looking forward to. It's "unconventional," as Fraser described it when the release date was announced last week, and leans heavily into its tabletop roots.
It's very indie, in other words, and indie games, thanks to small development teams and tight budgets, are often relatively small, short affairs. But Disco Elysium, designer Robert Kurvitz wrote in an update posted at zaumstudio.com, is "colossal."
"Disco Elysium is, in every sense of the word, a huge game," Kurvitz said. "It takes 60+ hours of continuous playtime to finish Disco Elysium if you’re a reasonably completionist player, as I am. It takes 90 hours if you’re absolutely savoring every detail. And 30 hours if you’re rushing it. Back-of-the-box, I would put playtime at: 60+ hours."
The game takes place in a single district in the city of Revachol, but it's divided into five distinct areas: A dilapidated central cityscape, an industrial harbor, an abandoned, ruined coastline, multiple interconnected underground areas, and a fifth locale that's still a secret. In total, the game world is about the size of Planescape: Torment, but Kurvitz estimated that the level of detail and content density is five times greater than any RPG he's played previously.
"Disco Elysium is a detective game and thus you have to be able to put it under a magnifying glass," he wrote. "Any part of it. Every apartment, hallway, street corner, lamp, or even trashcan needs story, writing, details and interactivity that, to me, exceeds even the most detail-oriented adventure games."
On top of that, there are multiple weather states and distinct times of day, which "combine to make an unpredictable, moody city where time moves in a very realistic manner." Players will have about 100 tasks to complete over the course of the game, ranging from "minor to-do's" to full-day side adventures, and roughly 100 inventory items to work with, including clothes, tools, and weapons. There are 24 skills to choose from (and thousands of skill checks to get through), and even "thoughts" that you'll literally carry around inside your head.
"They’re a kind of special item that evolves over time, giving you all manner of perk-like effects and role playing options," Kurvitz explained. "So—you’re playing physical and mental dress-up, draping your detective in ceramic armor, disco duds or tracksuit trousers—all the while filling your head with notions like: poetry, technology, para-natural nonsense, or trying to remember how old you are."
The word count is sky-high too: Kurvitz said Disco Elysium is "one million words long," and you're going to have to play through the game three times just to see most of it.
"It’s honestly inconceivable how we managed to do this. I guess time is the answer. Disco Elysium took 5 years to produce. We only managed to make it so fast because we had a head start with worldbuilding. A whopping 13 years worth of D&D style pen and paper games in the Elysium setting beforehand," he wrote.
"All of this shit is for you. We’re beyond excited to see how you’ll react to it. To a game that’s just… new. A new type of game—of which there’s suddenly a metric shit tons of. On your hard drive—to approach in your own way, order, and style."