Best Concept: Disco Elysium
Your memory is lost to a miasma of drugs and alcohol. Your necktie talks to you. You say questionable things to everyone around you. Despite it all, you have a job to do. ZA/UM’s Disco Elysium is an investigative murder mystery so thoroughly wrapped in RPG trappings that you’d swear it WAS one. Start playing, however, and you’ll see that it straddles the fine line between adventure and role-playing more seamlessly than perhaps any game before it. Interview people, fill your inventory with evidence, check off tasks in your journal, distribute points across a handful of stats and skills, and along the way make the choices that define you both as a person and an officer of the law. Since there's no combat, just relax and let this text-heavy mystery penetrate your brain with heady ideas affecting wide-ranging emotions from sorrow to humorous relief. Rather than half-adventure, half-RPG, Disco Elysium feels like 100% both, and for that it easily cops our award for Best Concept.
Readers’ Choice: Disco Elysium
Last year, Call of Cthulhu and The Council shared our Best Concept award for cleverly integrating role-playing elements into a non-combat adventure experience. This year, Disco Elysium says to those pioneers: “Hold my beer.” Unlike previous RPG/adventure hybrids like Quest for Glory, there is no fighting to worry about (unless you want to get tough), no grinding to be done to build up your character’s abilities. Instead, stat-building, personality traits, skill trees, character customization and more are all weaved into a compelling detective mystery within a rich open world to approach as you see fit. Everything you say and do matters – the choices are wide open and totally yours to decide. For blending the two genres together so brilliantly as to be unable to tell them apart, ZA/UM’s utterly unique debut offering is a unanimous Aggie choice for 2019.
Whispers of a Machine
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Next up: Best Setting... the envelope, please!