What is Disco Elysium: The Final Cut?

What is Disco Elysium: The Final Cut?

What is Disco Elysium: The Final Cut?

Posted by CJ Wilson

14 Feb, 2022


It’s disco, baby.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Disco Elysium is an (arguably surrealist) 2019 role-playing game by Za/Um that puts you in the shoes of an amnesiac cop who wakes up in the middle of a murder case, with no memory of himself or the world he’s in. It’s a heavily branching narrative, with most of the gameplay taking place through dialogue options (including dialogue with inanimate objects, because your character is not doing okay) and “checks,” where you attempt something with a higher chance of success depending upon your stats and skills. Outside of that, you run around Revachol, talk to people, and try to unravel the mystery of the case, the world, and you.

The Final Cut is a rework of the original game, with extra quests, a refined world, and—most notably—full voice-acting for the overwhelming majority of the game’s script… clocking in at almost 1.2 million words. 

By themselves, these ideas aren’t necessarily novel. But in the hands of Za/Um, they’ve become something innovative and groundbreaking. When you combine that with the game’s absolutely top-tier writing and story, you have a must-play title for anyone interested in good narratives.

Let’s start with some reviews of the main game, before going on to the Final Cut.

A Nuanced Skill System

Creating a game whose world feels real has always been difficult, especially when crafting the interactions between the player and NPCs. When it comes down to it, games are programs. Any attempt at realism, nuance, and life relies on a developer being able to hide the input/output nature of game programming. Otherwise, players grok the machinery behind the ride and the illusion is broken.

Disco Elysium does that in an interesting way: it thinks through all the ways its abilities can be interpreted and breaks its own rules. 

Skills in the game are divided into four “attributes:” Intellect (raw calculating power, knowledge), Psyche (empathy, people skills), Physique (raw physical strength and endurance), and Motorics (mobility, athletics). Again, these aren’t uncommon groupings. But Disco Elysium uses them in uncommon ways. 

First off, they can appear unexpectedly. Physique stats can open up dialogue options because, as a fit person, you might notice that a person masquerading as a striker is built like a soldier or compliment them on their build. Or, your intellect can help you find another way through a door you thought you’d have to break down because you notice something up with the frame. Za/Um has gone to great lengths to ensure that your skills aren’t one-dimensional. 

Likewise, higher skills aren’t always better. A key part of the game’s narrative are passive skill-checks, where your skills will “chime in” in the middle of dialogue to give you hints. Your “electrochemistry” (famialiarity with drugs) can tell you someone you’re talking to is high, for example. But there is too much of a good thing. For instance, if your “half-light” skill (think of it as aggression) is high, it can suggest starting a fight even when the other person isn’t being aggressive, or will handily beat you.

In fact, there are whole dialogue chains focused on the fact that your skills have been compromised by someone good at manipulating you.

It’s hard to do something like this without the game breaking down. But Za/Um pulled it off, and the result is a game with real nuance.

Story, Writing, and Characters

There isn’t much to say, here, but all of it is good. Every character in Disco Elysium feels like a fleshed-out person who could support a game, by themselves. Part of this is due to the writing: everyone on the writing team is “published author” quality. The story is phenomenal, and every turn drags you deeper into this surreal tale. The world, too, is novel and unique… but the inspirations it pulls from our real world and history serve to give the game real-world import and meaning and, as you learn more about the world of the game, serves to provide a familiarity that makes the unfamiliar parts all the more intriguing.

Voice Acting

One of the biggest additions to The Final Cut was voice-acting. And damn is it a strong part of the appeal. So far, all of the voice-acting I’ve seen in Disco Elysium has been phenomenal. Not just because of their delivery, but because of the way some of the voices—especially those inside your character’s head—add to the horror and confusion of the game… or make a joke land with a hilarious flourish. Seriously… from the voice-acting for the murder victim, to hearing your tie yell at you in a mixed bag of accents, I can’t imagine this game without voice-acting.

Interface and Movement

If I were to give one real criticism of this game, it would be this. While much of the gameplay is done through dialogue, you do roam around the city, which is presented in an isometric view. The city is gorgeously drawn and helps to evoke the mood the developers were going for… but can also be confusing. There are times where you’ll get blocked by janky character movement and the difficulty of navigating through a tight alley with strange controls. 

Likewise, highlighting and “clicking” interactable objects with the switch controller takes some getting used to. Worse, when you do click something and need to walk to it, the pathing can be agonizingly slow and awkward. You get used to it, eventually, but it does need work.

System Crashes and Load Time

There still seem to be a few glitches in the Final Cut on Switch. In probably 20-ish hours of gameplay, I experienced three different system crashes. Luckily, I save often. But, if someone didn’t, there would be a real possibility of losing hours of progress. This is something that needs fixing.

Finally, the game really takes its sweet time to load, even when accessing small rooms. 


Technical problems aside, Disco Elysium: The Final Cut has quickly become one of my favorite games. The story and world are unique, the writing brilliant and hilarious, the characters fantastic. But it is a game that won’t be up everyone’s alley. It knows its audience. If you aren’t it, there’s no helping it. 

If you are, though, it’ll probably become one of your favorites, too.


About Author

CJ Wilson

CJ Wilson is a freelance writer and novelist specializing in game writing, journalism, and non-profit work. His writing expertise includes gaming, law, nature/environmental writing, literature, and travel. As a novelist, he specializes in character-focused fantasy and sci-fi.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments