If you are a fan of computer role playing games, chances are you are really hyped for Disco Elysium, ZA/UM‘s upcoming detective RPG (at least I know I am). Aside from the release date (which was confirmed to be October 15th two weeks ago), the other non-gameplay related question that was still unanswered was the game’s price, and today we can also scratch that one off the list, as the developers have just revealed that Disco Elysium will cost US$39.99 (or your regional equivalent).
Oh, and speaking about gameplay related questions, we also got a look at Disco Elysium‘s “Thought Cabinet”, a quite complex system that acts as both the game’s reputation system and also its perk system.
Here’s what the developers have to say about the Thought Cabinet (or THC):
THC is the game’s reputation system.
In Disco Elysium there are tags you can acquire that make people think of you in a certain way. Say something stupid and they will remember it, help someone and they’ll remember that too. So far, so routine. But Disco Elysium also has an internal reputation system. Your skills – your faculties that talk to you in your head – develop notions about you too. Have you said three artsy things in the last hour? Been telling people you want your name to be Raphael? Trying to recall a lost memory, or your home address? Your skills can turn these into full blown Thoughts: “Actual Art Degree”, “Detective R.A. Costeau”, “The 15th Indotribe” and “Lonesome Long Way Home”. You can turn yourself into a deranged “Torque Dork”, constantly thinking about auto-mechanical trivia. Or torture yourself with the “White Mourning” – the shadow of someone you used to love. This adds a new layer of role playing options I like to call soul customization.
THC is also the game’s perk system.
In addition to producing dialogue options and story events, thoughts have mechanical implications. Once processed, they can provide bonuses and – more often – diabolical side effects. Each is a riddle, posing a question for you to answer. The bonus (or penalty) is the Aesop at the end of that story. Thinking of love lost corrodes your soul, but it also gives you an expanded perspective: Your maximum zoom-out range is increased, letting you take in breath-taking vistas. Recalling that memory can lead to drugs being more powerful for you. When the Art Cop uses his Conceptualization skill they gain XP for every criticism. There’s even a thought that (temporarily) makes you fail all your skill checks, turning you into a walking disaster, which in turn, can lead to new thoughts.
Thoughts evolve over time.
You need to “internalize” most Thoughts for them to reach their full potential. For this, your Thought Cabinet has slots to put them into. Prior to this, you only have a vague idea of what a Thought might do. You have a set-up. A picture on a closed box.
Each Thought has an internalization period. This can range from 30 in-world minutes to 3 in-world days. Some mental projects are massive, others fleeting. When the process is complete you get an animation — not unlike finishing a world wonder in Civ. This is where you open the box, read the punchline. Face whatever wondrous and terrifying mechanical effects this revelation has on your character.
If you don’t like the conclusion you’ve reached, you can always “forget” the thought by spending one “skill point”, the currency commonly used to improve your skills. If all your internalization slots are full, you can spend a skill point to open up a new slot. Since there is a finite number of slots in your Thought Cabinet you need to curate your thoughts carefully. Players start forgetting old thoughts to make room for new ones, as they mature and reach their final form: The Soul Reaver.
(Note: Disco Elysium doesn’t actually feature soul reaving, I just made it up to sex up the paragraph.)
Some (very special) thoughts open up big things in the story.
You can finish a thought, then read its description and see that it tells you to go and ask a specific person in the world a specific question. This creates a rhythm where you talk to someone, mull it over, then return to them with a new (often revelatory) topic. Personally, I adore this part of the Thought Cabinet so I just wanted to point it out.
Finally, Thoughts are also how Disco Elysium handles classes and alignments.
Not all Thoughts are created equal. Some have a larger effect on your character than others. None more than the four Ideologies and four Copotypes. Ideologies are as close as Disco Elysium gets to an alignment system. Copotypes are how you view yourself as a police detective. Combine these two and you can be a socialist Superstar Cop. Or a centrist Sorry Cop who apologizes profusely. You can also dual-Copotype, or even mix and match ideologies. This, combined with the choices made in character creation – and the rest of the Thoughts – makes for hundreds of different builds.
So, as you can see: THC does a lot of things. I think we’ve honestly gotten it quite nifty.