Following a nearly three-and-a-half-year development cycle, the team over at ZA/UM Studio finally treated us to their RPG Disco Elysium last month. Since then, we've been spending a lot of time with the game, and have etched our thoughts on what it brings to the genre into this four-page review. A sampling:
Assisting your skill system is the Thought Cabinet. If you stumble onto a particularly puzzling idea you can go into your Thought Cabinet and mull it over, which then will give you an internalized thought. Once internalized, a thought becomes a part of your being and starts providing you with passive bonuses and additional dialogue options. Unfortunately, with some exceptions, these bonuses tend to be fairly lackluster and at times the cabinet feels like a bit of an afterthought. Still, while not amazing mechanically, the role-playing possibilities it opens up allow you to better define your character. Plus, if you don't want to spend your skill points on, well skills, you can also use them to unlock additional thought slots or to forget the ones you have internalized.
Coming into the game with a healthy dose of skepticism I was amazed to find out that it all works. At times things can get a bit wobbly, some skills tend to be underrepresented, the game's world isn't nearly as big or open as advertised, and some of the evidence you get by passing tough checks early, you can simply stumble onto later. But it works.