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ZA/UM Studio's detective RPG Disco Elysium features a fairly unique alignment system that revolves around four oftentimes conflicting political ideologies. And in order to let us know what this system is all about and how it works in the game, the developers bring us this detailed blog post that also contains a tiny voice-acting sample. Let's start with that:
And here are the text parts:
(If you’d like to learn more about how Chapo Trap House came to do voice over work for Disco Elysium, we spoke to USgamer about it!)
Did you know Disco Elysium also has an alignment system? Mmmhm. Ours is a modernist setting, so our alignments are ideologies. More precisely, political ideologies: communism, fascism, moralism and ultraliberalism. Today we take a look at how the Big Four are used in the game. Expect tips, clarifications and encyclopedic tidbits. I will also list the Thought Cabinet projects associated with each, and even expose the characters who best represent these ideologies in the game. So you know who to get chummy with.
1. Ideologies are developed over the course of the game, not picked at character creation. Disco Elysium is, in many ways, a personality test. There are always little integers in the background, counting everything you say. Hit a certain threshold and one of your skills pops up, suggesting you make it official. Mark yourself. This marking is done by gaining a thought for your Thought Cabinet. We call these pop-ups “initiation dialogues”. For political initiations, it is always possible to course-correct by saying: no. You have misunderstood. I do not wish to build communism. Go away.
2. Four is the threshold you need to reach, if you want to get initiated. Say four communist things and your Encyclopedia skill will fire up the Big Communism Builder. Same goes for “the strong stuff”, “the weak stuff” and “the grind-hustler” (more on those later). In dialogues, the opportunity to espouse your agenda usually comes in the form of “political forks”, that is: dialogue choices usually consisting of four political options. Try to remain impartial and you will drift toward moralism (Elysium’s centrism).
3. You are not limited by your choice of ideology. There are sub-ideologies, conflicting beliefs and countless personality quirks to develop in Disco Elysium. The Big Four are only four of the game’s 52 thoughts. They have some pretty nice content, but they are by no means all there is. They are, however, nearly unavoidable. The air is criss-crossed by radio stations spewing divisive, feverish political rhetoric. For the poor people of Revachol, ideology is a blood sport. Everyone must suffer.
4. You can mix and match ideologies. You can be a purebred “traditionalist” and never once taint the “strongness” of your “stuff” with hysterics; or you can mix in some communism too, for that Unholy Union vibe. Or maybe you’re a moralist? Why not just admit it – you don’t only believe in nothing, you also believe in money. You’re a hustler. All these incendiary mixes are yours to dabble in. I’ve even seen one player who had all four. The game knows you’re doing this too. You might even get called out for it.
5. Your political beliefs have mechanical implications. They’re not just for role playing. As said, each is a thought, which you can develop in your Thought Cabinet, revealing some rather dramatic effects. Ultraliberals earn money by saying that stuff. “Traditionalists” get double the bonus from the most traditional drug of all: alcohol. Thus, ideologies strongly affect the way you play the game.
Let’s take a look.
Thought Cabinet project: Mazovian Socio-Economics
Supporting projects: The Suicide of Kras Mazov
Representatives: Cindy the Skull, Evrart Claire, The Gardener, The D******* (spoiler redacted)
Organizations: The Commune of Revachol, The Insulindian Citizen’s Militia
Symbol: inverted star wreathed by antlers.
No one wants to be associated with communism by the time you get there. The party is over. They’d rather call themselves socialists and social democrats. No wonder – commies got their asses handed to them 50 years ago. Their little commune got wiped off the face of the Earth. Even worse, the civil war gave foreign powers a casus belli to invade Revachol and now look at the shit we’re in. Also, Kras Mazov, the father of scientific communism killed himself.
Don’t pick this ideology. It’s a swamp of melancholy and would-have-beens. Also, they, like, killed a lot of people. There’s a smart centrist man who once calculated that communism has killed 100 billion people in total.
Thought Cabinet project: Revacholian Nationhood
Supporting projects: Advanced Race Theory
Representatives: Rene Arnaux, Racist Lorry Driver, Measurehead, Gary the Cryptofascist
Organizations: Revachol the Suzerain
Colour: brown? I’m gonna go with brown.
Symbol: sticks of wood tied together with an axe. Something dumb like that.
This is the baddest of all the ideologies, so no one admits they’re a fascist. Rather, they’re “traditionalists”. Or “nationalists”, a term they get really angry if you associate with fascism. (No one wants leprosy on their brand.)
The emotional draw here is, of course, that pretty girl who didn’t want to sleep with you. The other ideologies don’t explain why that happened. Fascism does. Because the commies pushed the king under a street car and now nothing in the world is holy or beautiful. During your stay in Revachol plenty of women will tell you no, so, naturally, most people will pick this one. I mean, who doesn’t want “absolutely giant fascist” in their Steam achievements? Also, it goes really well with alcoholism.
Thought Cabinet project: Kingdom of Conscience
Supporting projects: Opioid Receptor Antagonist
Representatives: Kim Kitsuragi, The Sunday Friend, Trant Heidelstam
Organizations: The Moralintern, Revacholian Citizen’s Militia, EPIS, ICP
Colour: signal blue
Symbol: a forget-me-not
Finally! Something normal. Enough of those ramblings – in this world there is also a sensible ideology for people who simply want to do good by everyone. How? By looking at the options on the table and saying: no. I don’t want any of those associated with me. I just want to play a regular, inconsequential, doesn’t-really-believe-in-anything type of detective.
Well, you’re in luck! After the commies and the fascas tag teamed Revachol, sensible foreign nations with moderately deadly artillery came and levelled the city, put all the commies against a neutral wall and turned Revachol into a debt colony / financial buffer zone / whatever the hell they want it to be. They rule the world. And also the RCM, the law enforcement agency you’re part of, so really – it’s a no brainer.
Take this one, it would be weird to take any of the others.
Thought Cabinet project: Indirect Modes of Taxation
Supporting projects: The 15th Indotribe; Bankruptcy Sequence
Representatives: Joyce Messier, Siileng, Mega Rich Light Bending Guy
Organizations: The Wild Pines Group, Frittte, Coupris, FALN
Colour: yellow / gold
Symbol: the Franconigerian sun crown
Do you “grind” and “hustle?” Sure you do. You’re a money engineer. A money scientist. You move money on a level inconceivable to the ordinary citizen. What is money, anyway? Money is trust.
There is no ideology being an ultra doesn’t compliment. Fascist moneyman? Sehr logisch. Money-commie? Vie sexy! Money and moralism? Peanut butter und jelly! Money’s not jealous. Money’s like light, love and friendship. It plays well with everything. During the Revolution the ultras banded up with the commies to dispose of the king. Then they made a deal with the moralists to profit from the ensuing occupation.
Also, this literally gives you money in the game. With money you can buy books, which have content! Board games too! Clothes, which cost real money to model. Without money you might end up as some kind of impoverished hobocop.
And that’s that.
Until the next time.
Bobby and the Zaumonauts.
DISCO ELYSIUM IS OUT NOW.