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ZA/UM Studio's intriguing role-playing project Disco Elysium was presented at this year's PAX West, and as a result we can check out a number of hands-on previews that cover the game's unique setting, its systems, and its highly non-linear skill-based nature.
Ars Technica lists Disco Elysium as one of the best new games they saw at the expo:
Every major gameplay face-off, from full-blown melee to staring matches against yourself in a mirror, hinges on dialogue-tree options. The kicker is that, in many cases, failing is so delightful, so darkly humorous, that you just have to go for it—and the story often keeps going, as opposed to halting and punishing you for failed rolls. An example: in one run-through, I decided to attempt a "stealth" getaway while chatting with a hotel clerk, in spite of my stealth stat being the pits. The result of my failed roll was that I bounded away while loudly cackling and giving the clerk two highly raised middle fingers—and the action on screen unfolded in kind, with my cel-shaded polygonal character bounding over high-res, hand-drawn artwork of the hotel lobby in question. And the game just... kept going.
That's not to say there's no incentive for playing to your character's strengths, especially as you focus on specific stats, and you'll need to do so to unlock what the developers estimate is over 70 hours of dialogue-driven gameplay. (You'll need roughly three playthroughs to find the diverging paths that add up to that total, they point out.) No release date is yet set for this ambitious beast of a game, but I'm already prepared to buy on day one.
Destructoid offers a detailed preview:
There's a deep system of interrelated mechanics associated with every skill check in the game, from dialogue challenges to physical feats. Your stats play into these, and you earn skill points by exploring and talking to people. There are many places to spend your stat points, and the three main trees that define your character are Intellect, Psyche, and "Fysique," your strength and endurance.
Your character may have poor impulse control based on the stats you choose, and one of the games' unique features is a certain amount of punishment for overspecialization. If your Adrenaline stat is too high for example, you may not be able to keep yourself from hauling off and punching someone during a tense negotiation. If your Intellect is too high, you may awkwardly blurt out useless information and preemptively lower people's opinions of you before you realize it.
Skill checks take these stats into account, and also add or subtract modifiers based on actions you've taken before making the attempt. Trying to persuade someone to let you in the back room of their shop will be a little harder if you've dismissed their child-rearing capabilities in an earlier conversation. On the other hand, you can try to break the door down, and might get a bonus if you brought along a crowbar. Each check lets you know your chances for success before you make the attempt, so you can back out to try and tweak your odds if you need to. When you commit, the game rolls 2D6 and adds your modifiers against the required skill threshold. It's a lot like playing D&D, and failures can be just as entertaining as successes.
And COGconnected's preview provides a general idea of where the game currently is development-wise:
Right now that game is missing some voice lines and needs some polishing, but it’s in its last ten percent of development, and it’s clear that they’re close to the finish line. The story is where the devs promised me that they’re using their last months with the game to push the content, and I look forward to seeing some of the rough edges smoothed out. I played about forty-five minutes of the demo, and the entire situation with the strange voice in the protagonist’s head that talked a lot about primal feelings and wanting to sleep (me too, I tell the lizard-voice: I also want to sleep), as well as the connection to disco powers, were unexplained. Once the game is released, however, that connection will likely come along along. My mustachioed protagonist and I had only scratched the tip of the surface by the time I finished the demo, leaving behind a union on strike and kids throwing rocks at a corpse.