Zubby Newsletter #39: Disco Dystopia

Over the weekend I finished playing through Disco Elysium, a twisted story-driven game in the style of King’s Quest or Maniac Mansion that uses RPG character exploration a bit like Planescape: Torment.

Disco Elysium is about a murder investigation in a seaside port town.

  • It’s also an absurdist character study of a cliché down-on-his-luck detective with amnesia.
  • And a tragic noir story about economic and moral decay.
  • And a cynical parody of political extremism framed through a complex web of manipulators, burnouts, and the ignorant.
  • And a sarcastic send-up of escapist fiction and role-playing games.
  • And a dystopian parallel existence with confident worldbuilding that feels intensely grounded in familiar-yet-strange customs and cultures.

It’s a lot of surreal trippy stuff jammed together and I quite enjoyed it, sometimes despite itself.

Like many old school point-and-click adventures, there is a rambling narrative and strange leaps of logic as you start to explore Revachol, the crumbling city at the heart of the story, but over time the seemingly nonsensical bits of back story and intense history lessons you receive from NPCs weave together into an oddly-convincing fictional tapestry – one that feels decisively misanthropic and bleak even as it’s punctuated with genuinely amusing and thought-provoking moments amidst the gloom.

If you’re looking for a tight whodunit plot you can solve ahead of the big reveal, you won’t find that here, but there’s a surprising amount of humanity in this swirling stew of characters and calamity.

I bought it during a Steam sale back in 2020 (and it’s on sale again right now at a ridiculously good price) but bounced off it back then because it felt too pessimistic during the pandemic. I’m glad I pushed through this time because it’s well worth exploring and some parts will definitely stick with me.

The fact that the creators of Disco Elysium are now caught up in their own whirlwind of legal troubles, personal problems, creative theft, and shareholder revolt, is darkly ironic given the game they produced. Even if a sequel does come about at some point, it seems unlikely it’ll have the same spark as this one.

Tom Gauld’s Kierkegaard comic strip from last year is amazing and feels quite appropriate alongside my Disco Elysium thoughts above.

A Cursed Blade, Concluded

Over on my Patreon, I posted the full script for Conan the Barbarian #18 from 2020, the second part of the “Curse of the Nighstar” story that acts as a bridge between “Into the Crucible” and “Land of the Lotus”.

Learn how comics are created for the price of a fancy coffee. Hard for me to believe, but there are now over 300 scripts in my Patreon archive!

Links and Other Things

Have a great week!

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