“Disco Elysium” first released in 2019 to critical acclaim, taking home four awards at The Game Awards that year. Since then, ZA/UM — a studio based in both Estonia and the United Kingdom — has been hard at work building “The Final Cut.”
For the first time, “Disco Elysium” will be playable on console, with PlayStation 4 and PS5 being the first console versions to release this month with “The Final Cut.” This definitive edition will simultaneously launch on PC and Google Stadia. If you already own the original game on PC, “The Final Cut” will be available as a free upgrade. Later, the team plans to bring “The Final Cut” to Xbox and Switch as well.
Although ZA/UM remained tight-lipped on what new locations the definitive edition will introduce and how many new characters there will be, the biggest additions are the political alignment quests. In “Disco Elysium,” your political alignment (i.e. communism, fascism, moralism or ultraliberalism) develops over the course of the game depending on your actions, and each comes with specific perks (such as gaining bigger and better bonuses from drinking alcohol). The four political alignment quests will be tied to whatever identity you’ve developed, and you can only play one quest per playthrough. These quests will also open up new areas to explore and new characters to meet.
“After one [in-game] day, you can embark on one of those quests,” ZA/UM art director Kaspar Tamsalu said. “Each quest incorporates different characters you might already know in the game, and offers you brand-new ways to interact with them. [The quests] will also tell you something new about the game world or show a different aspect that you might not have seen during the vanilla Disco Elysium experience.”
A handful of smaller changes are coming, too, including some tweaks to the art, such as updated character portraits and new animations, along with the ability to fast travel — which is huge news considering it is a slog to slowly move from one end of the map to the other in the original game.
For the uninitiated, “Disco Elysium” has an incredibly unique setup: The protagonist, Harry, has skills which you can upgrade as you play, taking the form of voices in his head. Each skill is part of his psyche, such as his logic, empathy or pain threshold — and they all have a personality. In “The Final Cut,” these voices in Harry’s head will all be voiced by actor Levi Brown, the narrator of the game, who ZA/UM says spent eight long months in the studio to record the huge amount of lines.
The rest of the dialogue is voiced too, including the inanimate objects that speak, such as Harry’s necktie. In terms of word count, there are more than 1 million words, according to ZA/UM, which is more than all of J.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” novels put together. Voicing everything was a huge undertaking, with 59 total actors, particularly because of the many accents and backgrounds that Disco Elysium includes in its multicultural world.
“We’re a small studio,” voice-over director Jim Ashlevi said. “The sensible thing to do would be to outsource the whole thing, maybe get three or four different studios to handle that, and then just sit back, relax, have a drink and wait for the Dropbox link or the WeTransfer. But that’s not us.”
Jim calls ZA/UM an “art collective,” and compares his team to the Wu-Tang Clan, in that each person has other creative endeavors, both personal and professional, outside of creating video games. Many of them have theater, film or television roots, and covid-19 proved a challenge, halting many of those other projects. But it also meant that when it came to “Disco Elysium: The Final Cut,” they could commit fully and pour their hearts into it.
“When we come together under the umbrella of ZA/UM, that’s when we create the best works of our lives,” Ashlevi said.