Failure is not (always) the end
Disco Elysium it opens with you on the floor. Your character, whoever he is or what may be left of him, is face down in a nondescript hotel room. You’re surfacing, breaking the plane between emptiness and living it only to find yourself harboring the granddaddy of all hangovers.
This is the introduction to the character you will inhabit. Disco Elysium. There are many things, and they can become even more: calculating, feeling, thinking, judging, determined or regretful. But right now, you are at a low, possibly the lowest of the lows.
Moments later, you may die trying to remove your ceiling fan tie. The headline reads “Cop Suffers Final Heart Attack” and, wow, does the word “final” do a lot of work?
Some people might be picking up Disco Elysium for the first time right now, since you just received your Final cut upgrade and made its way to consoles. For some, that moment can be quite frustrating – going through the entire character creation process, only to die of a heart attack while trying to retrieve an item of clothing. But I’m here to tell you: embrace those moments.
There are many ways that you can die Disco Elysium. Very few of them are noble or worthy. You can die kicking a mailbox, getting into a fight you have no right to start, or even just suffer severe mental damage from seeing your own face in the mirror.
Disco ElysiumThe moments of failure are not all terminal either. Right at the beginning, if you’ve managed to resist the challenge of waking up and putting on some clothes, you can regain your composure and go out, only to be face to face with a beautiful woman. With intense and potentially undeserved confidence, you could try flirting with her. And the words that are spilled can be eloquent “I want to fuck with you”.
In other games, failure can feel really bad. Getting that big FAILED marker in uppercase means that some of the content may have been blocked. Disco Elysium however, it is okay with failure. It is written to embrace failure. And you really should do the same.
Take the example of flirting: after your detective has mustered the will to speak and still failed, the woman — Klaasje — laughs. He even asks you to say it again. It’s a humanizing moment that can even lead your character down the path of defining himself, as someone who is repentant and always saying things that he regrets.
At this time, you have learned more about one of Disco Elysiumkey characters, while potentially establishing an identity for your own character. After all, your cop has just come out for the air of a cataclysmic party animal; Maybe they apologize for all their wrong decisions, or at least they should be. Those thoughts can rot until, finally, you’re the sorry cop.
This route opens up through failure and you can continue to inform the dialogue throughout the game, because that’s the kind of story. Disco Elysium tissues. Failure can be a game about status, potentially, but trying to play it in some “perfect” way means you can miss out on so much of this world.
Failures fuel the configuration of your narrative, because let’s face it, your cop isn’t Sherlock Holmes. With enough points, they could muster visual calculation and logic to imagine crime scenes in real time, discern the size of boots from footprints in the mud, and then calculate the number of people present when a murder occurred. Oh, it’s true, a murder happened; Apparently your character is in the Martinaise district to find out why there is a body hanging in the courtyard behind the hotel.
However, often you can fail to complete a task that a theoretically good inspector could do. It is a struggle even to move the body, a task that becomes the crux of the initial game. Each attempt can result in your character simply passing out, unable to cope with the task. Your failures aren’t just fatal mailboxes and word mistakes, but as you learn, your character has been in Martinaise for some time. Your ubiquitous partner, Lt. Kim Kitsuragi, is here not only to help you, but to ensure that the task at hand is finished, because you are likely no longer up for the job.
It can feel bad to fail a check and watch the health meter flow, or just face humiliation. It could make you lose some crucial cash early in the game, or it could make the way forward a bit more difficult. But if you are playing Disco Elysium For the first time, I can’t stress this enough: embrace those moments.
Failures can end up defining your cop, and you by extension, and make your game feel more like yours. Losing an option makes the next opportunity to progress even more dire; I didn’t like having to literally beg corporate negotiator Joyce for money just to get a bed for one more night, but I had to, because there was no source of income left. In a brief moment, I had to put my morale aside just to stay warm one more night, because I had failed so catastrophically during the day, and so many times before.
It’s not just your character either; many of the people in Martinaise have their own shortcomings. They may have a hard time understanding each other, or be in debt to their old lives, or just be bad people. One of my favorite moments sees Kim Kitsuragi, a brilliant flash of a human being, say the wrong thing during a brainstorming session and instantly picks up on it. As you see this internalized realization and correction, colliding with the anxiety of admitting the mistake out loud and letting it record, you can allow that moment to reflect and correct.
It is a small miscalculation with no critical narrative consequences, but it is a small goodness that you can bestow, as someone whose errors run much deeper than mere inaccuracy. As the guy Kim is trying to pull out of the abyss, it’s the least you can do.
Disco Elysium it is shaped by those flaws, so I seriously urge you to accept them. I’m just as guilty of spitting out saves as anyone else, but the writing of Disco Elysium feel that you reward those who are not afraid to fail. Each missed check adds more to your character as much as it takes away from it, and makes his own situation feel like yours. Sure, yeah, you died trying to tie up a ceiling fan, but you, the player, were also the one urging your character to keep trying.
Failure can end up creating some of the most memorable moments of your time with Disco Elysium. It may mean you end up playing the saddest excuse for a detective to wash up in Martinaise, but at least that’s rarely a boring person.