In the lead-up to our Best of 2019 ceremony on March 7, OnlySP will be running through each of our Best Game nominees to discuss why each title deserves to win the highly coveted award. Today, Amy Davidson discusses why ZA/UM deserves to win for its incredible work on Disco Elysium.
Disco Elysium is a revolutionary take on the isometric RPG. Playing as a detective struck with amnesia after a heavy night of drinking, the protagonist slowly regains pieces of his memory as he investigates a murder case. Rather than endless rounds of combat progressing the story, as is the norm for the CRPG genre, leads are found instead by smooth talking the world’s many inhabitants. Subjects of discussion are determined by which aspects of the protagonist’s psyche have been levelled up, with a dramatic character build able to spin a tale about a ghost hiding in the attic of a shop, or an intellectual one impressing others with encyclopedic knowledge of machinery. Each skill is a voice within the protagonist’s head, becoming more prominent and demanding as the related abilities are used. This chorus of impulses brings the city of Revachol to life, describing how each item feels to the touch, what it invokes in the memory, and the protagonist’s gut reaction to the world around him. The high level of complexity makes it feel as though the player has a personal Game Master reacting to their every move, a knowing smirk hidden just behind the cardboard screen.
The storyline of Disco Elysium is short but dense, a 20-hour adventure that will have the player ride a wave of emotions. The game addresses some dark themes with brutal honesty, leaving one feeling as bare and exposed as the detective himself awakening in a hotel room with no clothes and no memory. The pace is balanced perfectly, however, with little moments of brightness preventing the experience from becoming unbearably bleak. The protagonist is impulsive, and will pick up just about any quest, whether it is finding out which cockatoo is his spirit animal or helping a group of teenagers turn an abandoned church into a nightclub. The calm presence of the detective’s partner, Kim Kitsuragi, anchors the sillier moments in the tale, and also provides a supportive shoulder when everything comes tumbling down.
Disco Elysium is a new kind of role-playing game, one where story reigns supreme and the blank slate character is far from bland. The immaculate writing draws the player in from the very first moment and does not let go. This approach is a revolutionary step forward, and is why Disco Elysium is a strong contender for OnlySP’s Best Game of 2019.
Check out the other nominees for Best Game here:
- Children of Morta
- Close to the Sun
- Death Stranding
- Katana Zero
- Resident Evil 2
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- The Outer Worlds
- Untitled Goose Game
And don’t forget to tune in to OnlySP’s Best of 2019 Awards ceremony at 3pm EST on March 7, 2020! Check out the full list of nominees here.
Which game are you hoping will win our award for Best Game? Let us know in the comments below, or make your case in our community Discord server with other fans of single-player games.