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ZA/UM Studio’s detective RPG Disco Elysium allows you to fail at pretty much everything. And even though some mistakes are harder to come back from than others, most of the game’s scenarios allow you to fail forward as a way of shaping your character. And if you’d like to learn more about Disco Elysium’s novel approach to failure, you should check out this recent PC Gamer article. An excerpt:
Failing the odds in Disco Elysium is the most refreshing change of RPG design I've experienced in years. Instead of relying on a karma system to dictate whether or not I’m doing something wrong, mistakes are sporadic and, frankly, expected. They're not dead-ends. In both of these cases early in the game, failure at the hands of RNG ended up taking me down more interesting story paths. Even when I know the odds are on my side, there’s still a chance of being surprised by the outcome, consequences and absurdity lingering in my mind long after I stop playing.
These moments present challenges to overcome that are unique to each playthrough. Not having control over the most mundane actions is exactly what shapes the character. There’s never a simple solution, and while failing often is a given, it makes victories feel much more meaningful. Besides the successful skill check, a flash of green across my screen, it feels like my character has learned from past mistakes, growing in the process.
I still think about my bold move with the woman in the corridor, and I worry about messing up around every obstacle that I stumble upon. But mistakes are bound to happen no matter what, even if it's uncontrollable RNG that makes me throw up three times in a row on the same day. I’m sorry, Kim. Let’s give it another try tomorrow.