I am back, with a sort of additional review after my first blog about Disco Elysium. This is mostly to gather some more concrete thoughts on the game after playing it for a second time, trying to experience numerous things I missed.
I knew for a fact there was stuff I didn't do, or didn't succeed at but it was more than I realized. I went into this second playthrough purely with the goal of doing everything I didn't do/hesitated to do. Because this game is long I decided to cheese my way through this profile, I mean, why not? Its a pretty long game and I do understand why some folk may say it doesn't have much replay value-- its a LOT of text to want to go through all over again, and its not the most entertaining to do all the steps you did before. So I used a mod that allowed me to boost my skills, and give some extra fast travel locations. Heres some of the things I missed/didn't do that I have enjoyed seeing a lot:
Talking to Cuno more - I found him to be funny but annoying in my first play through and I was more focused on the story so I didn't think about visiting him for more conversation. But I was pleasantly surprised and touched by the development Cuno has if you decide to try and help him out. I didn't even find his shack on my first playthrough because I for some reason became stupidly blind to the covered door after seeing it on day 1.
Talking to the Cryptozoologists more – While I talked to Lena during my first playthrough and went to find her husband, In my head I just didn't consider the phasmid as important and didn't actually press for more dialogue. When I got to the end, the sighting of the phasmid was a huge twist for me, because I just didn't expect it to actually be relevant! While I don't think I majorly missed out by not talking to them further, it did make me at least want to find out more about the phasmid from the zoologists just to see what came up.
Other routes – I am still in the middle of this playthrough, but I have been trying to seek out alternate routes for things I did before... one of those being finding Cuno's shack and jumping into the docks instead of talking to Measurehead. I had no idea that was possible until then. Additionally explored the Doomed Commercial area very early on (I was super late to doing so in my first run). Another I plan to seek out is the ladder to get into the Feld building instead of the sewer (while I know the ladder is more if you can't detect the sewer, I still want to see this dialogue).
Klaasje – did the opposite and arrested Klaasje this time, until my first run where I felt bad for her. Not my favorite thing to have done but, I wanted to try everything so...
The Middle class working lady – So, I was aware of this character but again skipped past her during my first playthrough... I talked to her a bit but was doing it while Kim was away and denied the task to seek out her 'missing' husband because I thought I would come back to it when Kim returned. But I moved on...until I reached the boardwalk with the dead body- and suddenly it came together. In my first run, I had the body sent off to someone else instead of dealing with it. This time I dealt with it myself.... I was quite surprised by the game suddenly tying these two points together! With the woman even referencing how I would look for her 'missing cockatoo' instead before I stopped trying to help her. Goddamn. That was an unexpected feelsy moment.
Misc things – some tasks I didn't do or failed to do. Going on a walk with Lilienne, singing karaoke, shaving, painting the wall... small bits of stuff but still nice to have done.
Missed red checks & extra thoughts – As I said I upped my skills to max so I could breeze through this “do everything” run. This meant I could pass every red check (there is also a setting in the mod to toggle passes or fails) and I was looking forward to doing all the things I didn't. While most added some extra info, I was quite surprised by all the information I missed by not pulling the bullet out of the body's mouth.... I think I missed it due to not meeting a check? Or that I felt pressured to send the body off ASAP. I got so much more evidence about the murder before I even talked to Titus, it was amazing to realize how you could play that all so differently... Another I missed was the dance check in the church. I had heard the “I love you, be vigilant” line before out of context and did not realize that came from Harry dancing so hard her passes out and hears the city talk to him. Wild. I also got the piss/fuck jackets respectively, and that whole exchange was a lot more funny than I expected.
Oops! - I got some results I did not intend to get, ones I planned to fail on a different playthrough (on a Bad End run).... even with all my maxed stats from the mods, I managed a critical failure saving Kim, on an otherwise perfect tribunal. So I played with Cuno until the end, which was cool to see. But I still went back and played with Kim so I could get the phasmid picture and all.
So, before playing the game once more I had seen some comments about the game stating the game didnt have a lot of replay value. I thought this was odd, since I knew after playing there were definitely think I hadn't done so of *course* I wanted to play again... how is it not replayable, with all those missed opportunities?
Well, after doing so... I guess I can see why. Or more so, I can see the game being replayable, but the gameplay itself not being that... enticing a second time around. The game is loads of text and talking, so you probably aren't in the mood to hear 70% of that text all over again, and I felt that way for sure. Some moments I enjoyed again but much of the misc narration, I skipped past. My goal was to do two different playthroughs, one being “do everything pretty much” and “be terrible/get a bad end”. For the “do everything” one, I installed a mod that allowed me to cheese all my skills (other parts of the mod was broken though) and it certainly made the run a lot swifter. Cheating the skill was a good thing too for new content, as having my skills utterly maxed out meant that I got pretty much *every* bit of commentary from the skills while I played since I passed passive checks that were legendary or impossible. And there was SO much more of it than I expected, some scenes resulted in quite a long wall of skill commentary.
Only issue I had playing was triggering the political quests... I think because I rushed much of the dialogue choices, I wasn't paying attention to the choices that would have spawned those quests... So I will have to play again just for those quests (I plan to do a fascist run with my 'bad end' run), and after hearing a little more about the Moralist quest, I am eager to do that one too.
In the end, I would say the game is certainly worth multiple playthroughs if you really care about the story and the world (like I did), but if youd rather just get everything in one go its not a bad idea to seek out some cheat mods.
I aimed to play the game picking all the horrible mean choices. In my previous 'do everything' run, I didnt do *everything* because it wouldve been contradictory to well.. be nice and mean. I left all the meanness out. But I still wanted to see it, since I knew I would struggle to chose those routes in the game. So I started a profile to be horrible- planned to drink a lot, do stupid red checks, be suicidal, be racist, sexist, fascist, etc. Only a few hours in, and I realized just how hard it was to will myself to do these things. On day one the goal was to talk around-- agree with Measurehead, agree with the lorry driver, pressure Slyvie too much, and punch Cuno in the face. Oh it was so damn hard. The Sylvie conversation was painful as it is the first moment you get a hint Kim didn't like your actions (Esprit de Corps tells you more) and it sure didn't feel good screeching into a phone about how youre a god or whatever and she should listen (...and I did this after trying to flirt with Alice before she switches you to the call for Sylvie too. And then tried to ask Sylvie out too).
On my first day, I talked to Measurehead and took his thoughts to internalize- then swiftly after I got the facist thoughts too. Kim didn't say too much during the Measurehead talk, but after I went and agree with the racist lorry driver I was surprised to find Kim immediately wanted to talk after. I knew some dialogue occurred regarding your racism but didn't know it was a standalone talk. Kim in “normal” runs where you arent shitty, barely ever has stand alone conversations (one where you see a pop up on his icon to indicate it). So I talked to him, and you get a chance to apologize for your actions too and say it was just to get him on your side.
As horribly awkward as I felt continuing the racism, I did. Kim quickly shuts Harry down when he tries to come up with why it is valid to be racist. Again-- this is right after talking to the racist that Kim went on to berate for his remarks. Its interesting but makes sense that the player is immediately faced with Kim being unhappy for your words and I find it amusing there are people who played this game and thought it was annoying and forced. Kim is an oppressed racial minority in this world so, it makes sense you'd get a reaction from the man you're going to be spending the next week with solving a case... Kim is never implied to not be the type to do that. It is a very easy interaction to see Kim defend himself against the lorry driver, so its blatant for a player to decide to choose to be racist after all that.
Later on, day two, I went to go and threaten Titus with a gun in order to “establish authority” but this route only happens if you fail the check and try to correct it. If you ask Kim for his gun, you can go down this branch. After it turning towards Harry threatening suicide, you can back off and not do it... but afterwards, Kim again want to talk about this. You have choices to apologize for your drastic measures, but if you don't (which I did) he doesn't like you for it.
Witnessing yet another instance where Kim confronts you about something notably bad, surprised me. So much dialogue and encounters I had missed because I didn't do the bad things. Its interesting to see that Kim actively confronts Harry when he does shitty things like this and it makes the “Bad” route even more painful because you are actively ignoring someone reaching out to Harry. It puts a spin on his character that is a lot more hopeless.
At the moment of writing this article I haven't completed the fascist quest line, and I still need to work my way through the rest of the game... I don't think its worth going over an entire third playthrough in this article as I just described a second, but may come back to add onto this article if I witness anything suirprising or interesting. I have plans to write a video about the suicidal ideation within the game, which will certainly come up while I play this route too! So perhaps keep an eye out for that.
I would encourage doing a “Bad” run if you haven't because its likely you missed loads of interesting dialogue if you were nervous about being mean. It is also incredibly interesting to see the conflict between Harry's Volition trying to convince him to do good, while his physical skills act much more on impulse and want to encourage the thoughts of suicide and drinking. I will leave out the rest of my playthrough due to the length of the game and how much is different, since I encourage playing it yourself, but I may edit this article if I witness something super interesting.
After playing more and having many thoughts, I had seen while running around the internet that some folk had mixed feelings on the ending. Not all, but I saw it mentioned enough, people trying to figure out if they were satisfied. It had me thinking too- because I do feel the sense of the ending get “abrupt”, but... I think it only feels that way because its hard to not want to know what Harry is like past the case we solved. He'd been reunited with his presinct after a horrible week and of course... you wan to see what happens. Will he keep being an alcoholic? Will he get better? They are questions left open by the ending.
Now I don't know if Zaum will ever make a sequel to our existing story of DE, but regardless I thought hard about my feelings on the ending and whether or not it felt “good”. I think its hard to feel like the game concluded itself if you get hung up on existing relationships- like Jean still not taking Harry very seriously, accusing him of still being a shit drunk, etc. It purposefully makes you feel bad, and if you think too hard about it, it makes the ending feel “pointless”. You just went through all these hours of gameplay and he still doesnt think youre better? You didnt drink! You solved the case! You did good. But, I felt like that was kind of the point. While you can sway Jean in the end of the game just a bit, to me it felt like a realistic struggle of proving yourself to people who have lost all faith in you. Its nice that Kim can be a fresh set of eyes on Harry and defend him, but Kim only knew Harry for a week. As much as he can make Harry feel like he did good, it doesn't undo the years or shit Harry put everyone else through.
So, the ending in my eyes, achieved what it needed to. We get a look into the life of a man who has a week to potentially turn his shit around after losing his memory. But even so, you're knocked back down to remembering that even a week of change doesnt fix everything else. And of course, that just makes me ache even more for the ending to not be the end but... its hard to not want more out of any game as incredible as Disco Elysium.