ZA/UM’s Best of 2018

We’re almost at the end of the year, which means many folks have been sharing their favourite things about 2018. Since Disco Elysium is a game influenced by many kinds of mediums, we thought it would be fun to share the many kinds of works that have kept us inspired as we’ve worked. We hope you enjoy this collection of recommendations from the team at ZA/UM!

Jaagup Irve, Developer
Favourite Game of 2018: Helldivers
Looking at Steam history I only bought Frostpunk, Cultist Simulator and Obra Dinn, but those aren’t my Game of the Year. I discovered Helldivers and it works just so well on a couch with a controller and those friends who enjoy being accidentally hit by friendly fire that there’s no contender for my Game of the Year. Some alcohol might have been involved.

Favourite anything of 2018: Ziggy, our studio dog.
I have been a cat person all my life, but Ziggy made me reconsider my evil ways. Whilst I’m not running to buy myself a bucketful of corgies I’m slowly becoming a dog and cat person due to those cute muddy paws of hers.

Siim-Kosmos Sinamäe, Line Producer
Favourite Game of 2018: Tiny Tanks 
I’ve yet to meet a cook who, after a long day working the kitchen, goes home to prepare themselves a restaurant class meal. Usually they fry some eggs and have a slice of bread to go with it. I suffer from the same syndrome – rarely do I sit down to play video games, creating the best game in the world seems to make it irrelevant. Yet whenever it happens, I enjoy it quite a lot – at MAG Erfurt this year, I played a game called Tiny Tanks, created by some funky people at the booth next to us. It’s a physics based party game with very cool mechanics and I had a blast playing it.

Favourite Movie of 2018: Cronofobia by Francesco Rizzi
Obsessive grief and guilt converge in this rather unconventional love story, if I even dare call it that. I hopped into the cinema without knowing anything about this movie and it kept me on the edge of my seat for the whole of it. As I originate from a small-town in the local midlands, I am allowed to cry once a year, and I spent that allowance on this movie.

Yuan Zhang, Chinese Community Manager
Favourite Game of 2018: Root
A board game.. it’s fantastic

Favourite Manga of 2018: Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma
I feel a bit shame to say I like them a lot out loud but look at those fooooods man

Ott Madis Ozolit, Technical Producer
Favourite Game of 2018: Mass Effect: Andromeda 
Even though it was released in 2017 and I played it on release, I still re-played it again fully in 2018 just because of the impression the game left me with. Art direction issues notwithstanding, for me it’s the best Mass Effect game to date. The story was gripping enough for me to latch on and the gameplay was the best in the series. Even though there were a lot of new releases in 2018 which I was looking forward to, I only really found time for Andromeda, aside from my usual preferences, just to get the full experience of the game again.

Favourite Album of 2018: Snow Patrol’s Wildness
After waiting for nearly seven years, Snow Patrol’s spanking new collection Wildness is something to behold. As with every new release, they experiment heavily and it really works. Honorable mention to Florence + the Machine’s opus High as Hope.

Kaur Kender, Executive Producer

Liisi Laasik, Programmer
Favourite Game of 2018: Rimworld
I was addicted to Dwarf Fortress, although I wasn’t a hardcore enough fan to fully appreciate the minimalist graphics and lack of statistics data. Rimworld took the brilliant game mechanics and improved upon them with a solid UI and nice visuals. Also, being a Firefly fan, I totally love the space-country music.

Favourite Movie of 2018: Hotel Artemis
This was a totally random movie selection and I had no previous knowledge nor expectations towards it. The setting, characters and plot progression however were all extremely stylish and cool. My best surprise movie of 2018.

Kaspar Tamsalu, Concept Artist
Favourite Game of 2018: Hollow Knight
It got its final update some time in the spring and since then I’ve been grinding away at it in my free time. HK has enjoyable gameplay beautifully balanced with great aesthetics and sound in an original little (under)world.
Currently I’m in my first playthrough of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. I’m not sold on the story yet, but I’m intrigued by the way this game handles exploration, stealth and combat.

Favourite TV Show of 2018: Sharp Objects
I was glued to the screen during the run on HBO. I’m not sure which one I dig more – Rectify or this. They’re both so beautifully depressing.

Stein Andrian Lindmäe, Animation Programmer
Favourite Game of 2018: Overwatch

Favourite Other Thing of 2018: Unity 2018.3

Siim Raidma, Technical Artist and Graphics Programming
Favourite Game of 2018: Epic Games Store
It’s not a game and it crashed several times before starting up but there’s no denying Steam has been in dire need of competition. As much as I love, I am also aware that my little relatives live and breathe Fortnite and it’s a brilliant chance to serve them some indie titles on the side.

Favourite Book of 2018: “Tears and Tantrums: What to Do When Babies and Children Cry” by Aletha Jauch Solter
My current bedside read, picked it up to understand the little one but ended up learning about control patterns I use when processing my own stress and emotions as well. Thanks, book!

Markus Rondo, Developer
Favourite Game of 2018: Mario Tennis Aces
So basically concering games I’ve been living in 2017. This year I’ve played and really enjoyed Battle Brothers, Battle Chef Brigade, Hollow Knight and several others. But the three games I’ve played from this year have all been good experiences also. The best one being Mario Tennis Aces. The Jackbox Party Pack 5 and Quarantine Circular get honorable mentions because they all come from completely different genres.

Favourite Movie of 2018: Bad Poems

Arks, Writer
Favourite Game of 2018: Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
It came out in 1998 if I remember correctly – it has been my best gaming experience this year… and most years before that.

Favourite TV Show of 2018: The Terror

Danielle Woodford, UK Community Manager
Favourite Game of 2018: Slay the Spire
The game I have played most this year would have to be this. Although it’s been in Early Access for over a year the team have been updating the game every 2 weeks and the game has an overwhelmingly positive rating on Steam. I enjoy the fact that each run can be completely different and there are lots of ways to change up your decks. If you enjoy roguelikes and are also a fan of Hearthstone like myself, check it out!

Favourite Movie of 2018: Searching
I won’t say too much because I think it’s best experienced without any prior knowledge but it’s the film that surprised me the most. I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much.

EMiSpicer, US Producer
Favourite Game of 2018: Florence
Like many others, I was taken in by its wonderful illustrative style, its beautiful soundtrack, along with its ability to convey emotion and experience through its thoughtfully designed mechanics. Being the short story equivalent of a game also worked to its advantage for me; I prefer compact, focused experiences in the games I play and Florence absolutely delivered that.

Favourite Album of 2018: Kero Kero Bonito’s Time ‘n’ Place
This is a completely solid music release, and one I can’t seem to stop mentioning. I’ve been following the band since an early point in their career, and I’m so impressed by the growth this record shows. It can be easy to stay comfortable in a style of sound, especially when you’ve achieved the popularity that KKB has, so the fact that they’ve chosen to evolve further is that much more impressive. I love how they were able to retain some of the pop stylings that lead to their initial success while incorporating more chaotic elements into their instrumentation. I was also lucky enough to catch one of their full-band performances when they toured this year, and the show was incredibly fun. Honorable mentions to Jeff Rosenstock’s Post- and Hop Along’s Bark Your Head Off, Dog.



Hey folks!

We’re back with NEW SCREENSHOTS, NEW FESTIVE HATS & OUTFITS! Please also be sure to check us out in the latest issues of  EDGE  and and the dual-cover edition of Wireframe – we’re super proud of them both.


Oh, and we happen to be at ACG Play in Nanjing, China later on in the month from the 30th to the 31st of December. Drop on by!

Merry x-mas from everyone at ZA/UM!


Dani’s Gameplay Diary: Frostpunk

As the end of the year draws close, like many others we find ourselves reflecting on the things we enjoyed most in 2018. While chatting to each other, many of us at ZA/UM brought up our enthusiasm for Frostpunk, a city-survival game from 11 bit studios. Its beautiful menus were a real wake-up call for us, and we admire its lively UI for how streamer-friendly it is. Our conversation inspired our UK Community Manager Danielle to pick it back up, write about her experiences as she played, and freshly renew her enthusiasm for this amazing title.

Frostpunk… what a game. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, I’m going to talk a bit about the main story scenario and the first steps you take, as well as the variety of choices you can make/ways you can play the game. Don’t worry too much about spoilers, I won’t be going far into the story!

I begin a new save of “New Home” the main story scenario, with everything set on medium difficulty.

“We have lost our world to snow and with it the last traces of our humanity
The time has come to build the last city on earth.”

So first you need to fight the cold by stockpiling 200 coal and turning the generator on. Once you do that, it will set off the next set of steps so be warned and be ready. I start with 80 people, 15 are kids, 15 are engineers and 50 are normal workers.

Sounds simple right? Wrong. It may begin simple but it isn’t long before you are micromanaging and multitasking to extremes. Despite this, Frostpunk never feels cumbersome or dull. It does a great job of making you feel pressured even though there is a pause button.

The only building you start with is the generator and “stockpiles”. The Generator provides heat and power to other buildings. Without it the city will freeze to death. Meanwhile, the surrounding areas are filled with wreckages for you to gather resources from. Wood Crates, Steel Wreckages and Coal piles are your first targets, with Frozen Trees, Coal Deposits, and Iron Ore Deposits (which need advanced machinery) following.

Day 1 – 3
At 2am I finally turn on the generator to Steal level 1 after gathering 300 coal. I’ve managed to build 30 houses with the wood from the crates. It’s currently -20 and I’ll need to build another 50 houses to keep everyone safe and warm from the biting cold. Now I’ve completed the generator task, my next goal is to secure food for my people. To do this I need to secure a raw food supply by building a Hunters Hut or a Hothouse, and also build cookhouses to start preparing the meat.

You’ll have to continue to gather resources to be able to erect new buildings.

A pop up appears: “A word of advice. Critical Shortage. The Sick is rising.” Great. Now I have to think about medical posts. Or there is the book of laws…

The book of laws is basically what it says it is; It allows you to enact various laws on your city. There is a cool-down period where you must wait for the law to be passed before starting another. Laws will affect the people in different ways.

Back to considering my options. I could push the Emergency Shift (Overtime) Law through so I can gather more resources and open a medical post sooner. Or I could ignore it for now, causing Discontent to rise. In Frostpunk you have two bars measuring Hope and Discontent. Sometimes necessary laws will have to be processed and they will cause Discontent to rise. Continue building, completing tasks and heating the city to raise Hope.

I ignore The Sick for now. I’m informed the Steel Wreckages have been depleted which means I’ve gathered all I can. I now have available workers so I pause and replace them elsewhere. To be efficient in Frostpunk you need to do this a lot until you have more workers, or you pass a law allowing children to work. Move people around to where you need it the most. I pass the emergency shift law and Discontent rises more than I anticipated. Oops.

I’ve finally managed to build 80 houses on the inner ring so at least people are happy they have homes… well tents at this point. I also have built 2 medical posts. It’s still -20.

Day 4
It’s now -40 and I need to get more building on the go. I build
2 resource depots to store coal.
2 hunters huts
2 workshops (next to each other)
2 cookhouses
Building 2 of everything is a bit much at this point and I hope it doesn’t bite me later on. Usually I build a bit slower but I’m trying to make my city more efficient and get a grip on things early on.

Another pop up. People are hungry. This time I’m presented with various choices on whether to try and feed them all by x time or feed some of them by x time, each with different outcomes. I say I’ll try to feed them all.

The next pop up is people from our convoy. “With basic resources for now we can try to rescue the people we left behind.” The game wants you to research, build a beacon, and try to save as many survivors from the expedition as possible- at least 20. You’ll need a workshop (mine is already done!) to design plans for more advanced buildings.

Now I’m going to end my little Frostpunk Diary there as to not spoil too much of the scenario. This way it just gives a little taste of the choice and variety available in the game. Just like with Disco Elysium, you can make choices about who you want to be. You can play Frostpunk as a dictator who has little care of people’s feelings and only wants to survive, or you can try and be the nice guy who doesn’t put the kids to work while building care homes and shelters.

This War of Mine, another excellent game from 11bit Games has a similar vibe of bleakness and desperation. It also has the ability to tug at your heartstrings as you make near impossible choices, sometimes between life and death. It might seem silly to say but both of these games actually feel cold when you are playing them. Credit to all involved for crafting such immersive experiences, using the writing and the visuals harmoniously.

The ability to put this burden on to the player, making the player care about the city and its inhabitants, is the key to its success. The need to control every detail, combined with random events, and various paths means Frostpunk doesn’t feel repetitive in a way some games can. It’s a perfect balance of knowing what you have to achieve and trying different ways of going about it. I’m also aware that for some players that could be frustrated at first, but for me that’s what also makes it exciting. I know in this day and age I can google a game or watch a YouTube video or Stream and learn how to play it better. But I didn’t want to with Frostpunk because I liked learning how to play the game better each time I failed. That’s also part of the fun for me, and what makes me start ‘new game’ almost immediately after dying or being banished in the last one.

I would be so inclined to name it my favourite game of the year because it’s one of the few I’ve sunk the most time into and enjoyed the most. I grew up on games like Sierra’s Pharaoh then eventually graduated to Civilization, and Frostpunk feels like the next level in Survival/City Builder/Strategy games. 11bit are continuously adding new scenarios and I hope that continues. I recently played the newest scenario and it’s amazing. Leading on from the events in the first main scenario, it’s like a great episodic sequel and I urge anyone who hasn’t played it yet to give it a go. I really hope the studio continue to build on this game or games in this format, because it’s clear that they shine in these areas. When a studio can make some of the bleakest and most horrible decisions be fun to play, you know they have a masterpiece on their hands. They call it the first Society Survival game, and I really hope we see more in this vein, but only if they are handled with the skill and mastery that 11 bit keeps delivering.