If you're old like me, or possibly just into retrogaming, you will probably recall the Quest MS-DOS games from Sierra On-Line. There were several series of these—off the top of my head, I can remember King's Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest—and they all had the same basic play mechanics: you steered a character around a fixed background, looking for objects you could interact with. Often that interaction consisted of finding out that the thing you just clicked on was a thing that would kill you if you clicked on it, although the Space Quest games, at least, had a sense of humor about it.
(My personal favorite that I can still remember was the random vertical shaft you could fall to your death in aboard the space station in Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge, which prompted the system message, Boy, that artificial gravity really does the job, doesn't it? Load game? (y/n))
Anyway, Disco Elysium plays like a modern version of Police Quest, if Police Quest were set in a 1970s-themed alternate-history dystopia vaguely reminiscent of the setting of Transmetropolitan. You click to move instead of using the arrow keys, because it's 2020 (the old DOS Quest games were from long before mice were a common thing on home computers), but the hunt-the-pixel-and-hope-it-doesn't-kill-you vibe is very similar.
I loved those games when I was a kid, and haven't run across anything particularly like them in a long time—I figured the format was pretty much dead—so I've enjoyed the hour or so of Disco Elysium I've played quite a bit so far.
The basic premise: You play a police officer—at least, you're fairly sure you're a police officer, everyone seems to think you are, and who are you to argue?—trying to solve a murder in a rough part of town. This task is complicated slightly by the fact that, the night before the game began, you got so incredibly drunk and angry about something that you no longer remember anything. Like, anything. You don't know your name. You don't know you're a cop until the first person you run into tells you. You don't know where you are. You don't know why you're there. You don't know where your badge, your gun, or your right shoe are. You woke up in a bona fide "these are not the hoofprints of your normal God-fearing junkie" scene and now people expect you to solve a murder.
How hard can it be?
(As an aside, I always enjoy it when games do something special to justify the fact that you start that kind of game with an empty inventory, rudimentary skills, and no personal knowledge of the game setting. Like how in the beginning of Elder Scrolls games you've always just escaped from prison or the like. This one is especially elaborate, since it has to account for the fact that your character doesn't even know the name of the city he's in, or anything about the geopolitics of the world.)
It's a very silly game. Right from the outset, you have dialogue choices in which you can just baldly tell everyone you meet that you can't remember anything, or ones in which you can front big-time and pretend everything is perfectly fine (usually in ways that are not convincing to the other characters), which I think is where a lot of the Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas flavor I'm getting from it is coming from. And yet, well... you are there to solve a murder. It's a wacky game, but it's set in a pretty dark world, which is an interesting juxtaposition.
I'm not very far into it yet, but I'm digging it a lot so far. Perhaps more later.
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
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