Things I wish I knew before playing Disco Elysium

Tips to get the most out of this superb new detective RPG.

Disco Elysium is an incredibly deep RPG and there’s no right way to play. But there are a few things that might be useful to know when you first hit the mean streets of Martinaise, whether it’s making some extra cash, figuring out how the in-game clock works, or escaping your partner’s prying eyes.

Collect bottles

Look out for a yellow plastic bag. With this equipped you can pick up bottles, either from the ground or by rooting around in garbage cans. You can then exchange these in the Frittte convenience store for money. You won’t make a fortune this way, but it might help you afford a bed for the night.

Always be tabbing

Similar to games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment, holding the tab key highlights objects in the world that can be interacted with, containers, and NPCs. This is especially useful for finding hard-to-spot bottles. If it feels cheaty, just imagine it’s your detective’s finely honed senses.

Time passes as you talk

Time in Disco Elysium is not real-time. Rather, it’s advanced primarily by talking to people. So whenever you’re in a conversation, the clock will be ticking, moving the day forward. You can also make time pass by sitting on benches or reading, which is handy for objectives that are limited to a certain time.

Watch your tongue

It’s tempting to exhaust every conversation option when talking to people in Disco Elysium, but this can sometimes be a bad idea. Think carefully before you press a tricky topic, because in this game it’s possible to let something slip that can bite you in the ass later, or get someone else in hot water.

Run, stop, run

If you double click somewhere in the world your character will sprint there instead of his usual stroll. Well, it’s more of a wheezy jog than a sprint, but it’s reasonably fast. And if you want to stop moving suddenly, perhaps to click on point of interest that has just been revealed, slam the spacebar.

Breaking locks

Occasionally you’ll encounter a container, or something in the environment like a sewer grate, with a grey outline. This usually means it can’t be accessed with your bare hands, which is where the tools found in Lt. Kitsuragi’s car come in handy. Equip the correct tool, try again, and the loot is yours.

Play dress up

Disco Elysium has an incredible selection of clothing to deck your detective out with, but they’re more than just for making you look cool. Every piece of clothing comes with positive and negative stat modifiers, so if you’re having trouble with a skill check, throwing on a hat might give you the edge.

Go with the flow

A game this heavy with skill checks means you’ll be tempted to save scum. And while this is a perfectly valid way to play the game, because it’s your life and you can do what you want, it’s worth nothing that failing a skill check in Disco Elysium can often lead to something interesting or unexpected.

Ditch your partner

I love Lt. Kitsuragi, but sometimes you need to be alone to complete certain tasks. To lose him, wait till nightfall then head towards whichever bed you happen to be crashing on that night. He’ll wish you goodnight and turn in himself, leaving you free to wander back back into town solo.

Stay healthy

Occasionally an interaction will seriously damage your health or morale. You’ll know this is happening by the health critical or morale critical message that flashes on the screen. In these situations a meter will start to drain and unless you quickly use a restorative item (pray you have one) it’s game over.

Learn more about the world

If you love lore and world-building, stick some points into the Encyclopedia skill. This will give you little nuggets of information about pretty much everything that crops up in a conversation, from the complex history and politics of Disco Elysium’s world to the nerdy specifics of weapons and vehicles.

Listen to your brain

Your broken brain is one of the chattiest characters in Disco Elysium, frequently piping up to remark on things, sabotage your thoughts, or otherwise mess with you. But sometimes these lines of dialogue give you subtle hints about the right thing to say in a conversation to get what you want.

By Andy Kelly

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