About 2 and a half years ago, I wrote in my personal column an article regarding how the very pressing nature of writing reviews ends up "burning out" some RPGs, making the writer not want to return to them in the foreseeable future after dealing with them in the context of writing their reviews. Fortunately, however, it turns out that there are exceptions, and that the above is not true 100% of the time. I couldn't help but ponder the above conclusion as I watched the end-game credits roll in upon completing my most recent playthrough for Disco Elysium, which I returned to a few days ago in order to check out the features introduced by the Final Cut version. Officially this version is released today the 30th as a free update for all owners of the title (and future purchasers, obviously), but reviewers have their lucky breaks sometimes so I was lucky enough to "squeeze in" a few days early.
Disco Elysium as a release has already been praised many times by your favorite semi-dead site, both in its original day-one review back in October 2019 (ahhh 2019, good years, carefree, no pandemics or lockdowns) and in later articles and discussions in our forum. If you haven't done so already, it is recommended to read the original review for a more extensive presentation of the game's features. With this prior knowledge in mind, this article will serve solely as an "expansion" of the original review (one could say that this is the... Final Cut version of the Disco Elysium review - the meta element has reached unimaginable heights!), focusing mainly on the brief presentation of the new features introduced with the Final Cut version, along with various other ramblings and scattered thoughts that came up during my new involvement with it.
The Final Cut's main new feature is the massive introduction of voice-over in the game - in ALL of the game, except for the little descriptive phrases that pop-up when you click on an orb around the world. I recall that in the original version of the game most NPCs had mostly disjointed VO, and the "narrator" was mute. Now, both the "narrator" and all of the NPCs' text and the "thoughts/skills" interjected during dialogue have their own voice that further colors our endeavors. The fact that they all become voiced gives the game an almost AAA quality, or at least production values more akin to higher budget productions than a small indie project.
The quality of the VO is generally judged to be excellent and of a very high standard. The voice actors seem to have gotten well into the skin of the role they are playing, and I noticed to my satisfaction that they perfectly capture all the peculiarities that characterize each scene, following the "script" (the existing written dialogues, that is) with great fidelity. E.g. they make dramatic pauses, raise the tone of their voice when they get angry, emphasize certain words when this is emphasized by the text, etc.
The only asterisk I would place on the above is perhaps the (otherwise excellent) narrator, as the same actor gives his voice to all the "thoughts" of our protagonist, and this somewhat spoils the imaginary picture I had in my mind for each "thought". For example, when "Drama's" voice is inserted, I had in my mind something completely flamboyant and theatrically exaggerated based on the text (I recall, for example, that "Drama" has a tendency to address us each time as "Sire!" and other such Shakespearean expressions), but in the end the narrator just reads the text of the "thoughts" in the same voice. Of course, this matters little in the grand scheme of things, and the game does provide the option of not enabling VO for the "thoughts", but I had to point that out anyway.
In addition to Voice-Over, the Final Cut also introduces 4 new Quests that correspond to the 4 separate political orientations the player can take (Communist, Fascist, Ultraliberal, Moralist). These quests involve both existing and completely new characters, as well as new locations that further enrich the motley mosaic that is the Martinaise district. During my playthrough I followed a path towards Communism so I was presented with the corresponding ideological quest, which was admittedly deep and extremely well-written, to the extent that it made me philosophize and even contemplate aspects of our own political reality. Which of course might have been true anyway even in the base version of this great game.
Along with the new Quests, several other minor modifications/additions are introduced, such as new art and animations that enrich existing scenes, and new songs by British Sea Power. Finally, it's worth mentioning something that was negatively characterized by many on the original release and that I probably should have pointed out from the beginning: the Final Cut introduces Quicktravel capability to Disco Elysium. No more relentless clicking around in order to walk from one end of the map to the other. While exploring Martinaise, we unlock three Quicktravel points that allow us to travel directly to three main locations that characterize the district (namely, the Whirling-in-Rags guesthouse, the fishing village on the opposite bank, and the Church).
With this final addition, coupled with the improvements that it had already received, I think Disco Elysium: the Final Cut reaches what we would describe as a complete state. Its few bugs have been fixed, its content has been enriched and upgraded to the highest possible point, the small but significant Quality of Life additions ensure that the experience is as user-friendly as possible without being overly "hand-holding" or spoiling the game's challenge and special character. Combined with the praise the game has already received since the initial review, we can finally talk about a project that perfectly achieves all of its goals, one by one.
I recently had a discussion on a Discord server about "the last game you completed, and finishing it and not being able to play more of it made you sad". The general consensus was that the vast majority of such games are old games, played mostly in our youth, before the industry degenerated and started releasing games/clones that appeal to the masses for the sake of super profit, but also before we ourselves became cynical adults with obligations, studies, jobs, love frustrations, hair loss and arthritis. Coming back to Disco Elysium a year and a half after its initial release, and seeing how the feelings it evoked in me back then have not only not subsided but intensified even more, I'm now confident that it can officially be included in that category of games which you complete and the say... too bad it ended, I wish there was more of it.
Although in reality it might be... more than just a game. Its gripping writing, its brilliant humour, its exploration of the psyche of the wounded protagonist who "fell from grace" and the unimaginable depth of the political and social events of the game world, lead to a climax that could even be identified with the concept of "Catharsis" of Ancient Greek Tragedy. Dedication to the playthrough of Disco Elysium can literally make the player a better person in the end. And I don't think I can say that about any other game in my nearly thirty years of involvement with the medium.
All of the above allows me to finally correct a historical injustice done during the initial review, which is none other than its final rating. Which, even in its "revised" form, seems too low to characterize this masterpiece of a game. If this were a movie, the title's end-game credits would be accompanied by a standing ovation. As it stands, though, let's just feel lucky to have experienced it, and wait for ZA/UM's next releases.