Disco Elysium The Final Cut lands on PS5 with a porting that is anything but flawless, which however does not alter the value of a masterpiece RPG too much.
A year and a half after the consecration of Disco Elysium as one of the most amazing RPGs of recent years, the ZA / UM masterpiece has finally made its debut also on consoles. Disco Elysium: The Final Cut represents the definitive version of a majestic and unique production, capable of reworking the typical canons of crpg to offer the public an experience of rare beauty. Praise that we can safely extend to the PS5 version of the title, although the porting developed by the Estonian studio is anything but flawless.
A man, a dead man and a legion of thoughts
On 12 December 1999, what many define – and with good reason – as the “magnum opus” of a Chris Avellone in a state of grace, at the height of his creative maturity. Underlying Planescape’s majestic narrative construct: Torment (by the way, our Planescape Torment Enhanced Edition review here) was a single, agonizing question, the mental gambit of the powerful night witch Ravel Puzzlewell: “what can change the nature of a man?”. A question that in the title of Black Isle Studios gave life to a complex interweaving of choices and consequences, which marked the dark epic of an immortal with no memory of the past, determined to put together the lost fragments of his identity. Exactly twenty years after the adventure of the Nameless, in 2019 the developer ZA / UM literally has overwhelmed the audience of digital “role players” with Disco Elysium, a production capable of bearing the weight of Torment’s avant-garde legacy without giving up, and of giving players an absolutely unique experience of its kind.
To be honest, the formula developed by the Estonian collective is even more radical and innovative than the one brought to the screen by its main source of inspiration, which at the time was however linked to the structural conventions of role-playing games set in the D&D universe. . Free from any constraints, ZA / UM’s work transforms Torment’s fundamental question into the main ingredient of his playful recipe, giving a whole new meaning to the very concept of “role play”.
After spending a few days soaking in an ocean of alcohol and chemical addictions, our alter ego wakes up in a room furnished in Motley Crue style (read “devastated as hell”), with no memory of himself and with a rich assortment of psychophysical ailments. Before anyone even sheds light on the miserable state of our neurons, the game introduces us to those who will be the user’s main interlocutors for the duration of the campaign: an army of incorporeal voices that represent the different facets of the protagonist’s identity. , the talkative manifestation of the most remote areas of his brain and the beliefs he will develop during the adventure. Yes, because the role-playing mechanics that underpin the gameplay are designed to allow players to constantly intervene on the characterization of the protagonist, supporting specific behavioral tendencies or internalizing the currents of thought of the characters encountered along the way.
The starting point of this journey of self-determination will be the skills chosen at the beginning of the campaign: in the character creation screen we will be able to define the basic attributes (both physical and mental) of our avatar, which will affect a wide range of skills capable of altering our chances of success in the various situations that we will face.
With a particularly developed “Intellect”, for example, we will be able to easily overcome logical challenges or tests of cunning, while the “Physical” statistic will be useful when circumstances require a more direct approach. It is worth pointing out that Disco Elysium, unlike most of the congeners, does not include real fights, since every interaction (both with ourselves and with the game world and its inhabitants) takes place through multiple choice dialogues interspersed with skill rolls.
In many cases these tests will take place “behind the scenes” in order not to interrupt the flow of a conversation (the interface will only confirm a possible success), but often we will still be called to roll the dice to test luck and skills of the character (with related modifiers).
In line with the dictates of ZA / UM’s creative vision, however, also the failures in which we will run into the campaign mesh they will help to determine the personality and fate of the protagonist, in a continuous succession of moments of extraordinary narrative depth. As you may have guessed by now, the main strength of Disco Elysium is the incredible quality of its writing, which moves easily between tragicomic sequences, socio-political and philosophical digressions, moments of great humor and very lucid considerations on human nature. All within the framework of a script full of surprising symbolism, which is not afraid to face decidedly “burning” issues head down without ever falling into banality, and which above all manifests a phenomenal plasticity in the face of the actions of the players, with well-constructed and meaningful cause-effect relationships.
We would like to specify that this endless network of choices and consequences extends a well-defined narrative path between the stages (there is a single “macro-final” with multiple variations), but studded with a sensational quantity of deviations and variables that express the exceptional freedom of approach granted to users. The central knot of the plot is a murder case that will soon prove to be much more complicated than expected, also thanks to the mnemonic gaps of the protagonist, or the inspector in charge of solving it.
The remarkable ambitions of ZA / UM, the studio’s tendency to continuously expand the narrative depth of the whole, do not affect in any way the effectiveness of what remains an engaging and articulated detective story, set in a fascinating world and masterfully sketched by an exceptional artistic direction. This net of the qualitative decline that can be seen in the third act of the campaign, but which in any case does not substantially affect the value of an indispensable experience for RPG enthusiasts.
An imperfect jewel
Based on what has been said so far, you can easily imagine with what joy we welcomed the news of the arrival of Disco Elysium: The Final Cut (the definitive version of the game by ZA / UM) also on consoles, even more so considering how much the expansion of the audience can do well to the productive future of the developer.
Having said that, however, we certainly cannot define ourselves as enthusiastic about the porting work carried out by the Estonian studio. While not considering the occasional frame rate drops on PlayStation 5 (as we have reported, in fact, Disco Elysium on PS5 suffers from some performance problems), largely solved with the latest update and in any case of little impact for the features of the title, the main hitches are found on the front of the control system, which proves to be poorly reactive and rather uncomfortable. By holding the DualSense we will be able to control the movements of the protagonist with the left stick, while the right will have to be tilted in the right direction to highlight the element of the scenario with which we want to interact. If this step is already somewhat cumbersome in itself, especially when we find ourselves in the presence of numerous points of interest (highlighted with the left spine), it often happens that pressing the X key does not immediately trigger the interaction, but only the movement of the character in the generic vicinity of the selected object. Sometimes this does not happen either, and it is necessary to press the button several times to make the game correctly execute the instructions dictated by the control system.
For its part, the developer has already stated that it is working on several corrective actions, but as things stand it is undeniable how experience is affected, even if only marginally. Moreover, thanks to the “pictorial” style of the production, sometimes it is not easy to understand exactly how to reach a certain point of the scenario, not being able to count on the automatic movement activated by the click of the mouse on the PC.
The lack of the mouse is also felt in the management of the interface, although navigability is still on good levels. Among the problems encountered with the PS5 version of the game are also unusually long loading times, sometimes longer than those recorded with the desktop counterpart, even with SSDs that are much slower than that of Sony’s flagship.
The list of flaws, however, is largely offset by a number of elements absent in the original release of the game, including a handful of additional missions that will allow you to delve into the different political doctrines of Revachol, the city that is the stage for adventure. The Political Vision Quests are four optional – and mutually exclusive – assignments that allow the player to fully indulge the political inclinations acquired by facing new narrative lines that involve new locations and characters. None of these have a direct impact on the title’s main storyline, but all contribute to enrich the characterization of the protagonist, to further define his role in the game world. Among the novelties there is also excellent dubbing in English, revised and expanded to enhance the peculiarities of the production. If at launch this was limited to only a few lines and characters, in the extended version of the title every single line of dialogue is accompanied by a concert of actor accents and flashes, which amplify the immersion of the experience and make it easier to digest the enormous amount of text always present on the screen.
In this regard, it is urgent to clarify that – now as then – the enjoyment of Disco Elysium is tied hand in glove to your familiarity with the English language, also given the widespread presence of neologisms, idiomatic phrases and rather complex syntactic constructs. On the same notes, we would like to offer you a further warning: if the idea of spending 20-30 hours immersed in reading dialogues and mental soliloquies does not appeal to you at all, it is likely that Disco Elysium is not for you. If not, we can only advise you to add the title to your library, to enjoy one of the best role-playing productions of recent years.
Disc ElysiumVersion Analyzed PlayStation 5A year and a half after the debut of Disco Elysium on PC, the work of ZA / UM finally lands on consoles with an imperfect but precious porting. While the PS5 version shows some lightness too much, especially as regards the control system, the sensational role-playing game of the studio basically keeps its strengths intact. Strengthened by a unique formula and an absolutely masterful writing, Disco Elysium: The Final Cut manages to compensate for most of its shortcomings with an assortment of additions that enhance the merits of the developer’s creative vision, making the title an indispensable purchase for the lovers of the genre.