Welcome to Revachol!

When middle class people talk about foreign places, they like to talk about “contrasts”. Travel magazines, financial journals, regional reports on the news… it’s all about those contrasts.

And what they mean by “contrasts” is that most people are pornographically poor while a few are obscenely wealthy. That’s what they mean by contrasts. East of the river, monetary organizations promote regional stability, west of the river cops collect tare for cash and junkies shake so hard their bones come loose from their sockets.

There is no city in the world with more contrasts than Revachol. The broken, magnificent, disgraced former capital of the world. A great sky on fire, reflecting off broken glass. Revachol the Suzerain, Revachol the Commune, Revachol the Administrative Region where all forms of government have failed. Revachol the Resolver, the answer to the great burning questions of history. How should we live? Will the horror ever end?

Revachol sits on a fertile island in the middle of the Insulindian Ocean, the world’s largest body of water; in the eye of a great archipelago called Face-A-La-Mer. To be from Revachol is to be Revacholian. To be deserted, destroyed. A drug addict with an immunodeficiency disorder. A joke and a clown and a loser baby.

It’s like the hanged man behind the hostel cafeteria said: there’s nothing funny about jokes.

There’s nothing funny about you either. Your swollen face in the mirror. A past you don’t recognize, a world you can’t bear to remember. The river Esperance flows from north to south, splitting the city in two. In its delta, great ghosts rise to the sky – the financial district. To the east: Le Jardin. Houses with gardens rise along the mountainside, up to Saint-Batiste where two of the world’s five largest companies keep their headquarters. But you don’t wake up there – you wake up west of the river.

West of the river, it’s funky-baby holocaust time all day every day. In East-Jamrock, wild animals roam the valley at night – giraffes that escaped from the Royal Zoo 50 years ago. Giraffes – even-toed ungulates from the savannah. The local kiosque chain Frittte (sic) employs a private army of 2000 men to guard its properties in Jamrock and Faubourg. That’s how bad the crime rate is – you need a private army to run a kiosque chain. And deregulation? They built a citizen-funded primitive nuclear reactor on the river. And it immediately entered core meltdown. That’s pretty deregulated if you ask me. Below Precinct 41 there’s a kebab merchant called Kuklov who makes kebabs that make you immortal if you can eat three and survive. In Villalobos an entire street is walled off and turned into a poppy field by a deified gangster called The Mazda, while his mortal enemy La Puta Madre exclusively employs former narcotics officers to farm his own fields. Through underground tunnels, kids descend into Le Royaume, the resting place of three centuries’ worth of the royal dead, to bring up rat tails and the pearl-encrusted teeth of civil servants. Child labour dungeoneering is a cottage industry. Someone came up with a synthetic opiate called the hunch that has a high lasting for two seconds. You only feel it while you’re injecting it.

Contrasts upon contrasts! So many juxtapositions of the old and the new. Dark shades and brilliant highlights. A city of opposites. A real mother fucking dialogue.

Loyalists (a euphemism for “fascists”) say it’s all because of the failed Revolution, 50 years ago. If good, kind king Guillaume were still around, he’d drive the moneylenders and the homo-sexuals back into the ocean! Once we were an octopus that straddled the world, sucking up natural and human resources from Iilmaraa to South-East Seol. The city state that screwed the whole world. Then deranged commies pushed the king under a street car and lost the civil war to foreign intervention, damning us to financial servitude. The communists don’t respond with anything – they’re all dead. Okay, one is still alive and teaches cultural theory at the Ecole Normale de Revachol, east of the river. And there’s talk of two more employed by a failed radio-game studio. But the rest are all dead, bulldozed into mass graves after the Coalition Army retook Revachol in ’08.

In the ‘20s, the city was divided into zones de contrôle under foreign nations: the Mesque Zone, the Occident-Graad zone, and the International zone. The International Zone is west of the river. International means: no one gives a shit. It’s no one’s business.

Except yours. You’ve spent your entire life in the International Zone. As a police detective. In the Revachol Citizen’s Militia, a citizen-funded police force as safe (and well-funded) as that nuclear reactor.

It has not been an easy life. Things have not gone well for you. That love thing didn’t work out. Radio networks criss-cross the air, spewing meaningless, feverish political rhetoric. Beyond the curve of the horizon, where the ocean ends, there is an unknowable anti-reality mass called the pale. It has been there for as long as human beings have written down history. And it’s advancing.

The year is ’52. It’s the 5th of March and you’re lying on the floor of the Whirling-In-Rags hostel cafeteria. In Martinaise, North Jamrock. The sound of Lieutenant Kitsuragi’s motor carriage arriving on the scene interrupts what can only be described as an act of self-annulment through alcohol and amphetamine use. Your bell bottom pants make your ass look fat and, dear god, you think you’ve lost your badge.

It’s up to you – and you alone – to save the whole world. To untie the great knot. To crack the case. To resolve reality. You are the last Revacholian hero. The Revacholian hero has nothing, but he must conquer everything. If he doesn’t care, no one does. All of it will slowly roll into the heavens under the advancing pale, or it will contract into a singular miracle only the Revacholian hero can deliver.

All you have to help you in this – the last and the greatest of the cases undertaken by man on Earth, in the sheer face of death and history – is Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi from Precinct 57.

That’s it.

There’s a dead body in the tree. There are battle lines in the streets. 4 days remain until the district explodes in violence; 28 years remain until the end of the world. Every day, every second, every beat of your ailing heart matters

You can get Disco Elysium on October 15th for 39.99 USD / 39.99 EUR / 34.99 GBP respectively.

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Introducing The Thought Cabinet

The time has come to talk about the Thought Cabinet, Disco Elysium’s illustrious “inventory for thoughts.” Let me start by presenting an image. A rather detailed image. Of all the icons of all the thoughts you can get in Disco Elysium, woven into a single tapestry. The Thought Cabinet art is made by Anton Vill, a concept artist known for, among other things, his work on the film Mad Max: Fury Road.

The full-resolution version of this image takes 10 minutes to load, so we’re hoping to include it in the deluxe edition of the game. Here’s the web version:

Each little composition on that image is one “Thought”. It’s impossible to get them all in one play-through, or even two. Each Thought comes into play face down. Only its name and some initial info are known to you. It takes in-game time to reveal its true identity by “internalizing” it. To truly uncover the mysteries of all these bad boys takes years of hard-core roleplaying. There are a total of 53 thoughts in the game. On average, a single character discovers and internalizes 16 of them in one playthrough.

And that, in a nutshell, is THC – how we’re abbreviating Thought Cabinet 🙂 This mega-feature has gone through multiple iterations. It’s a unifying element that ties all the game’s systems together. Thoughts are like Fallout’s “traits” (back in the 14th century when Fallout had traits) crossed with Civ’s “world wonders”. They’re loot for your mind that you collect from the world by talking to people. They function as traits, perks, reputations and alignments.

You store Thoughts in your Thought Cabinet – your mind-lab, where you cook up new ideas and obsessions. Conduct research into futuristic armour, become a free market evangelist by thinking about indirect taxes, or just contemplate suicide. All with the power of your mind.

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 gotten it quite nifty, to be honest.

You can get Disco Elysium on October 15th for 39.99 USD / 39.99 EUR  / 34.99 GBP  respectively.

– Robert