The Time magazine has declared the Estonian video game, Disco Elysium, as one of the best of the decade.
“Released just months before the start of the 2020s, Disco Elysium is the perfect punctuation mark on a decade of excellent games,” the magazine says. “It’s a video game that’s steeped in the past but looking towards the future. It’s the kind of video game that only comes at the turn of the decade, that special time when something ends and something new is born.”
It’s important to note that the magazine is wrong in declaring the game was released “just months before the start of the 2020s” as the new decade does not start with the year 2020, but 2021 (take a tape measure and see whether the first twenty ends with 19 or 20!).
According to the Estonian news portal, Delfi, the game was produced by the Estonian studio, ZA/UM, led by the authors, Kaur Kender and Robert Kurvitz. The news portal says the game is mostly based on Kurvitz’s novel, “The Holy and Horrible Scent”, and it took five years to develop the game.
Looks and plays like a game from 1999
“In this very dense role-playing game, players wake up with a killer hangover in a grungy hotel room and quickly realize they’re a police officer in the hotel to solve a crime. But that’s all they remember. The details of the crime – and their personal life – are gone and it’s up to the player to fill in the blanks,” the Time magazine says about the game.
According to the magazine, Disco Elysium is a game that looks and plays like a game from 1999, a 2D isometric throwback with fully rendered backgrounds and point and click navigation.
“The storytelling and mechanics, however, feel like they come from the future. Players put points into stats like “Esprit De Corps” which allows them to understand what cops are thinking, or “Shivers” which allows the city’s streets to speak to you. Leveling up involves pondering strange ideas that alter your skills and change the way your detective sees the world. It’s a game that breathes new life into the old RPG format.”
Highlights how all video games are art
“Disco Elysium is proof of what video game fans have known for years: that the medium has special strengths and can tell unique stories you won’t see on TV or read in a book. It’s a game that highlights how all video games are art,” Time asserts.
The Estonian game recently won four prizes at the Game Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, CA. The game was awarded in the best narrative, the best role playing, the best independent game and the fresh indie game categories.
Other games in the Time magazine’s “The 10 Best Video Games of the 2010s” list are: Grand Theft Auto V (2013); The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017); Fortnite (2017); Dark Souls (2011); League of Legends (2009); Pokémon Go (2016); Minecraft (2009); The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011); and Portal 2 (2011).
Cover: A screenshot from Disco Elysium. Images courtesy of ZA/UM.