Disco Elysium: The Final Cut Is as Good as Ever, but Not a Different Game

An experience so engrossing you might have already explored most of it the first time.

Everything Steven wrote in their original Disco Elysium review for Fanbyte holds true in its newly updated Final Cut. You’re still a drunk, amnesiac cop who wakes up in the run-down, capitalist world left behind after a failed communist revolution. That world is still abrasive on its surface but layered underneath with humor and beauty. And your partner, Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi, is still one of the best characters ever written.

Ultimately, not much has changed in the snowy, crumbling streets of Revachol since the last time I visited a year ago. The biggest addition is that everyone has a voice actor now; the city chatters in a dozen accents. This is an incredible undertaking for a script that is reportedly over a million words long, and works to bring out the humanity that’s always underpinned the best parts of the detective RPG. Like Kim. He was always sarcastic, supportive, and funny at turns but being able to hear that out loud  adds an extra layer of endearment.

Studio ZA/UM also say that the upgrade brings things like new clothes, characters, and quests, but these are trickier to pick out from within the game’s inherent density. The seams of the new are obscured by the fact that there was always a lot you’d simply never see in a single playthrough of Disco Elysium.

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Many people I know chose to replay the game immediately to get a look at what happened with different choices or failed, digital dice rolls that make up the core of your game time. I never got around to that, but when The Final Cut was announced, it seemed like the perfect excuse. My replay hasn’t been quite what I expected. There are a lot of ways to play your protagonist, thanks to his amnesia, but I still don’t feel especially drawn to making him a bigot or a general asshole — which the game allows but does not reward. That limits just how different my detective can be. He’s definitely more confident this time around, and more communist, but it’s not enough of a change to feel like I’m playing a totally different cop.

Worse, nothing different really seems to have happened to him. My first playthrough was around 20 hours, 10 shorter than ZA/UM’s prediction, so I assumed that I had missed at least enough to shake things up for a second go. But as far as I can tell I did hit all the major beats — both main and side quests, even with the additions. And, while I thought my knowledge of how the story unfolds and some lucky early rolls might let me shake up the investigation, it was impossible to avoid certain deliberately written speed bumps in the pacing. It felt more like being weighed down by destiny than becoming a superstar cop. That, too, may very well be deliberate, but it still made my experience essentially the same thing over again.

As I said, a lot of people did enjoy replaying Disco Elysium even before The Final Cut, but if you were hoping for fresh content to make the story feel entirely new, this isn’t that. The good news is that, if you’re not sure whether it’s worthwhile, it’s a free update! Existing PC players don’t have a lot to lose.

It’s not like post-release patches are a new phenomenon. But The Final Cut finds itself in a somewhat strange position thanks to games like No Man’s Sky and Final Fantasy XIV that have tried to reinvent themselves after release. These reinventions even come in the form of director’s cuts for indie games, in the recent case of Sea of Solitude, which changed much of its script and some gameplay.

The Final Cut didn’t promise to be one of these total revelations. It doesn’t need to, given Disco Elysium’s broadly excellent reception. But it does style itself as something new and definitive. Whereas its true value is in subtly improving the wonderful foundations that were already there. And that’s great — I’m glad new players (perhaps those coming to it on consoles) will be able to experience it this way. Particularly with voice acting and the limited fast travel system that cuts down on the worst of the wandering back and forth.

But it also makes me terribly curious about what Studio ZA/UM learned from working on Disco Elysium, both the first release and The Final Cut. I want to know how it will put that to work in something new — not just tinkering with the foundations of what came before.