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You know what you do a hell of a lot of in Disco Elysium, the multi-award-winning video game from British indie developers ZA/UM, set in a wonderfully detailed and aesthetically beautiful world of painterly otherness? Reading. You do loads, and loads, and loads, of reading. In a video game. There are, according to the game's French editor Jeremy Pavy, a million words in the game. That's a lot. And most of them matter.
And where, generally, might you read words? The real answer is everywhere, well done, slow clap from the back for that. Play along with me here. A book, right? You'd read words in a book. And you would usually hold a book fairly close to your face to read those words - a story, a diary, a biography, a journal, whatever. Paper or electronic reader of your choosing, it doesn't matter.
Watch the Nintendo Switch release date trailer for Disco Elysium: The Final Cut below...
That relationship then, between words and reader, is fairly intimate. It might be you have a favourite cosy place to do your reading - in bed, curled on a sofa under a blanket, or in some other kind of snug surrounds. But when you read something, you hold it close - and until very recently, Disco Elysium was a game, a story, a diary, a biography, a journal, and so much more, that couldn't be played, that couldn't be read, like it should be. Like a book: up close and personal, where it matters most.
Now, two whole years after its original version's debut on PC, Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is finally on Nintendo Switch - and it's perfect. Now, the game can be played close, be read close, no need to sit at a desk or across the room from your television. This feels like the way Disco Elysium was always meant to be played: hybrid touchscreen and button controls, and in a place, in a physical harmony between experience and user, where there are no other distractions in your peripheral vision. Just you, this world, these words, and what feels like infinite possibilities when play begins.
The Switch and Disco Elysium feel are beautiful bedfellows - literally, I guess, if like me you choose to play this in place of a bedtime book, lights low and imagination racing. (This might be why my dreams have been so odd, the last few nights.) The Final Cut is also available on PlayStation and Xbox consoles - we reviewed the PlayStation version here, awarding it an incredibly rare 10/10 - and what you get on Switch is the same as those options: expanded voice acting, additional quests and characters, a 'hardcore' mode that punishes your dumbest decisions with greater zeal. There's no 4K support here, because this is the Switch - but let me tell you about Disco Elysium on the Switch OLED (our review of that console, here), for just a paragraph.
The game sings on the OLED screen, It dances, it shines, it vibrates. From the title screen onwards, this is a symphony of colour and movement; of impeccably fine details etched into ugly faces, and the backgrounds bear scars of war worn like medals against a uniform of futile resistance. The hues are almost overwhelming, and whereas Switch ports of the past have certainly suffered texturally, Disco Elysium doesn't appear to, certainly not on the upgraded screen offered by the OLED. I've not put it side by side with the Steam copy of the original game that's on my MacBook - largely for fear that the poor old thing will finally overheat and explode - but the impression this game leaves, on this new platform in particular, is powerful enough without the need to count Ks.
And right now, that's mostly a first impression, comparative to the game's length - my three hours so far represent about ten percent of the average playtime for Disco Elysium, so says HLTB anyway. I bounced off my Mac playthrough because of the noise and the heat, the fear that my aging computer simply couldn't run this game properly and would expire in the attempt. I passed on the PlayStation Final Cut when it came out in March 2021, because I couldn't see how a game so weighty of words, so fine of prose, could really impact in the way it should from a 32" screen positioned several feet away from the slumped-down skinbag making it move.
But already, on Switch, on OLED, I am smitten, enraptured so as to be thinking about playing, being desperate to get back to the game, right now. By Revachol and its locked-away secrets; all of these leads for my booze-battered cop to pull on; by my straight-faced colleague Kim Katsuragi, who I'm sure is slowly warming to me; by the refrains of 'Whirling-In-Rags', which echo through my restless sleep. I'm not here to say that Disco Elysium runs entirely without fault on Switch - there's some stutter, some static, that sometimes cracks through. But it never breaks the spell. (Besides, why shouldn't the discovery of a bloated corpse hanging from a tree lead to some discombobulation?)
In October 2019, we called Disco Elysium the most original RPG in years, unlike anything that had come before, and richer for it. In early 2021, we went on the record as defining it as a masterpiece. This is no review because we've written those words about these words already, twice over indeed (so yeah, if you need more about what this game is, click to one of those pieces). And yet a fresh denouement is needed: Disco Elysium on Switch is everything we've already said it is, but more, because it finally feels like it's come home. Hold it close as you cross the wild Pale yonder.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is available now for Nintendo Switch, and also for other platforms. Game played using code provided by the publisher.
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