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The song of death is sweet and endless... But what is this? Somewhere in the sore, bloated man-meat around you — a sensation!

Disco Elysium (earlier known as No Truce with the Furies) is an Urban Fantasy Western RPG developed by the Estonian game developing collective ZA/UM, taking inspiration from detective fiction. It was released for PC on October 15, 2019 and on for Mac on April 27, 2020. A PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch release is planned for later in 2020.

The story unfolds in the fictional city of Revachol, in the island chain of Insulinde, and follows a disgraced, amnesiac detective in the Revachol Citizens' Militia after a three-day drunken bender which has completely obliterated all trace of his former life. After waking up in Martinaise, an impoverished, Union-controlled harbour district about to explode in the wake of a lynching at the height of a two-month-long strike, the detective will try to solve the murder, stop the strike, and salvage what remains of his life and career — with the help of his temporary interdepartmental partner, Detective Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi. As always, the crime is never as simple as it seems, and how you go about the investigation, along with the mystery of who you are and what drove you to your current straits, are left up to the player — and the host of 24 inner voices, the pieces of your fragmented psyche, all vying for your attention: your character's skills.


As the set-up may convey, the game places less emphasis on combat (there isn't even a dedicated combat system to speak of) and more on dialogue, finding clues, and exploring Martinaise and the coast. The game's skill tree also stands out, focusing on the inner workings of your mind, your thoughts, feelings, opinions, memories, ideas, and beliefs, any of which may provide the key to getting through to a witness or suspect and eventually cracking the case. Skills are not only constantly being tested, passively and actively, but are characters in their own right who react to your choices, offer you their own advice, and argue among themselves, effectively a Player Party the detective carries around in their head at all times.

The game received enormous critical acclaim and remained on bestseller lists for weeks after its release. ZA/UM have hinted at plans for an expansion or sequel as well as a possible tabletop game using the Metric system the company developed for the game. In June 2020, ZA/UM announced that they had entered a collaboration with dj2 Entertainment to develop a TV series based on the game.


The setting was created by lead writer and developer Robert Kurvitz for the company's long-running Tabletop RPG campaign. Kurvitz has also written a novel in his native Estonian set twenty years later in the same universe, Sacred and Terrible Air. Published in 2013, the book is currently in the process of being translated into English.

It is foolish of you to resurface to the tropes.

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  • Abdicate the Throne: In the backstory, the penultimate king of Revachol, realizing the decline of the monarchy was irreversible, abdicated and survived the Revolution as a wealthy industrialist, leaving his nephew to take the blame. You can either find this pragmatic or cowardly.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: While Kim is usually quite serious there are occasions where your antics break through and he'll smile or play along. Notably when saying "I think he's dead" in regards to a corpse of a man that's been hanging in a tree rotting for seven days; Lt. Kitsuragi is inclined to agree.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Regardless of what ending the player gets and their choices throughout the game, it still ends with a lot of loose ends and a very uncertain future for both the protagonist, Revachol and the various characters they've met.
  • Addiction-Powered: Drugs are powerful, increasing your stats (and thus all the attached skills) by +1 for their duration — at a cost of an immediate -1 Health or Morale every time you partake. The Electrochemistry skill focuses on seeking out said buffs and making the most of them. However, this leads to substance abuse, meaning it can do more harm than good in long term beyond even its immediate short-term Health cost.
  • Addled Addict: Possibly. The Electrochemistry skill is all about understanding drugs, taking them, knowing about drug culture, being cool (along with Savoir Faire and Composure), and having sex. At high levels it also makes it very hard to resist any of the above.
  • The Alcoholic: The Player Character, self-declared if you so choose — with bloodshot eyes and shiny puffy skin, waking up with a monstrous hangover.
  • Alternate Techline: The most obvious example is that computers here are run by radio waves and their "disks" are crystalline cubes, although reel-to-reel tapes are used for audio recording. A prototype tape-using computer becomes plot-relevant.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • The "Hobocop" copotype might seem to be silly Pun on Robocop... except that "hobocop" is an actual term, used for police operations where policemen disguise themselves as the homeless.
    • Revachol's police force is called "Revachol Citizens Militia". It might sound weird for westerners, but in Eastern European and in post-Soviet countries (like Estonia, from the creators are from) the police force is sometimes referred as Militsyia, this trend started after the Russian revolution when the old "bourgeois" Politsiya was disbanded and in place a "citizens/workers militia" was created (the other reason law enforcement wasn't called "police" in Soviet Union is the association with Hilfspolizei ("politsai"), Nazi collaborators who served as police force at the occupied territories during the World War II). Interestingly enough, the old Revacholian communist army was called "Insulindian Citizens Militia" (ICM).
    • The Deserter is a communist straggler hiding from civilization while "fighting" in a war that was lost long ago is pretty similar to the Japanese Holdouts, Imperial Japanese soldiers that spent decades hiding from civilization believing either that the war was still going, or refusing to surrender as it would be "shameful". The last man confirmed to surrender was Private Teruo Nakamura, 29 years, 3 months, and 16 days after the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: You can attempt to rediscover your past, if you so choose. Much of what you uncover is unpleasant; some of what you think you might remember might not be true. A possible end-game sidequest is investigating whether you and the team you don't remember were actually a hit squad in league with the Jamrock crime lord known as La Puta Madre (the Mother of Whores). Your Station 41 partner confirms that you are not, if only because you're too unstable to be trusted with such a position.
  • Amnesiac Hero: The protagonist has no idea who he is or why he's in an utterly trashed hotel room in the beginning of the game. You wake up with amnesia so bad that not only can you not remember your name or profession, the concept of money temporarily eludes you. Drugs and alcohol were involved.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Two of the possible endings have Harry rejoining Precinct 41 with either Kim or Cuno at his side, the latter of whom is going to start training as a junior detective under Harry's tutelage.
  • Animal Motifs:
    • The detective apparently screamed 'I don't want to be this kind of animal anymore!' at the top of his lungs in the depths of the night before the game begins. What kind of animal you would like to be instead may continue to come up over the course of the investigation.
    • Birds are referenced throughout:
      • There are a number of places on the map where, if your Perception is high enough, you'll hear a swallow chirping, or see one flying by overhead. Programmer Soona dubs the 2mm hole in the world 'the swallow', because it swallows sound and radio signals.
      • If your Endurance skill is sufficiently high, it compares you to a seagull, a noble beast reduced to a loathsome scavenger as cities encroached on the seas — but nevertheless, a survivor.
        Endurance: Own it! Steal hot dogs, shit in the sand. Whatever it takes to survive!
      • The state bird of Revachol is the great skua, like the taxidermy bird your character breaks while drunk, a majestic seabird... whose primary feeding tactic is to pursue other birds to the point of exhaustion and snatch up their catch when they drop it, essentially stealing the food from their mouths. This is pointed out to be a fairly apt metaphor for Revachol during their supposed golden age, leading up to the Revolution and the rest of the world clamping down hard on them.
    • The game also mentions insects in passing, usually to highlight how kind and caring humans can be — even when we often are not. Neha the dicemaker, for instance, as decent and sympathetic as she is, has a whole windowsill full of flies swatted without a second thought. The encounter with the Insulindian phasmid is likewise all about insects holding humanity in both awe and terror, fearful of our majesty, reverent of the power and suffering wrought by human intellect and emotion.
  • Anti-Climax: If you solve the case and end the game early enough, those dire warnings from your Limbic System and Ancient Reptilian Brain every time you go to sleep never amount to anything, and you just learn the details of your past, your breakup with your girlfriend and subsequent mental breakdown from the rest of your squad instead. It's definitely better for your character's mental health, though less dramatic.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Time only passes by choosing dialog options. You can spend as long as you like wandering around and exploring or navigating the area, as long as you don't initiate dialog. This also means that players in desperate need of money can go around collecting Tare without wasting precious time.
    • Time stops moving forward at 2AM. While most characters have gone to sleep at that time and it's too dark to collect tare, certain characters and quests do remain available, allowing you to stay up late and catch up if the previous day was too hectic. The pawn shop, cafeteria manager Garte, Joyce the Wild Pines representative, and the kids and squatters at the church (after Day 3) are all available any time of day.
    • It's possible to heal damage immediately before it finishes registering, meaning you can't die in one hit to morale or health as long as you can heal it, even if you only have no points in the relevant stats.
    • Skill checks marked white (but not red) can be retried after failing them by putting another point into the skill. Some checks can be retried once immediately, sometimes with a bonus to the roll. Failing a certain Visual Calculus check near the end of the game could potentially soft-lock you since the assumption is you completed all sidequests and thus have no more extra skill points, so failing it counts as a success, just with different flavor text.
    • The in-game map (once you've found one) notes and lists all White checks you've previously encountered, so you can see places you might want to go back to and try again at a glance after your skills increase.
    • Hitting the Point of No Return will result in the game not only warning that you're about to do so, but listing some of the tasks you need to complete beforehand, as they will be rendered inaccessible.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The old kings of Revachol were decadent, inbred, and insane. The legend on the horseback monument in the middle of Martinaise actually reads:
    "I am Filippe III, the Squanderer, the Greatest of the Filippian Kings of Revachol; Son of Filippe II, the Opulent; Father of Filippe IV, the Insane."
  • Artificial Stupidity: While the Developers' Foresight is generally good at keeping track of a lot of things, it has a couple of blind spots — for example, if you drink alcohol in the game exactly once, past midnight, in your room, while Kim is in his own room, he will somehow end up knowing it. A couple of dialogue lines will also give away they really don't expect you to do much with Kim not being around — one example being Emma, whose greeting line refers to you as "officers" even if you're alone.
  • Badass Mustache: The protagonist sports an impressive one along with disco mutton chops, and he can certainly kick ass if the player so desires.
  • Battlecry: You get to choose yours: among others, "Disco Elysium!" or "Disco Infernum!", "You've been policed!", or the racist nationalist slogan "Welcome to Revachol."
  • Bat Deduction: Any correct deduction made using Inland Empire comes across as this to outsiders, but you can also make some tenuous connections on loose evidence. For instance, you can tie one character correctly to a piece of evidence because it contains racism, they made a bigoted remark, and "that's not something a good person would say". They confess immediately.
  • Big "NO!": Once you make it across the water lock and onto the coast and find the motor carriage that drove over the pawn shop and planted itself in the sea ice:
    You: OH MY GOD, IT'S MINE, I DROVE MY CAR INTO THE SEA????!!!!!???!!??!!???!!!!
  • Bland-Name Product: Señorita Pineapple, instead of Chiquita bananas.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: This is a bit of an odd example, but your Skills are actually a form of these. While most of the time their insight is positive, it becomes clear that they may also mislead you — and that you shouldn't always listen to them. The reason why is that the Skills are manifestations of your emotions, and said emotions can be knee-jerk reactions to the situation at hand, and can harm you as a result. For example, the Authority skill has you try to retain your honor and prestige around people, but it can also lead to you doing dangerous and hurtful actions against people who undermine your authority, including people who do it by accident. The best example of this is having your Authority motivate you into putting a loaded gun into your mouth to prove yourself, which is dangerously suicidal.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Kim, though even with his glasses his eyesight is terrible. He fails every attempt he makes on visual estimates and often overlooks material clues like footprints and damages.
  • Booze-Based Buff: Much like with drugs, simply drinking alcohol can add +1 point (+2 with the Revacholian Nationhood thought) to your Physique — but at the cost of -1 Morale.
  • Brown Note:
    • Amplifying the sound of the swallow, the point of utter void and silence, and a precursor to reality-destroying pale through nightclub speakers not only actually works, but turns out to be a pretty bad idea. Fortunately, the HARDCORE tape-jockey is self-aware enough to know when things have gotten a little TOO hardcore for safety and reason.
    • Ruby weaponizes a jury-rigged emitter that copies the specialized radios that transmits a tight beam across the pale. The effect is cripplingly painful, and can cause death at high amplification. She uses it to ambush you when you catch up with her on the coast.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: You can only find the ceramic helmet at the very end of the game, when there aren't any rolls to make anyway. The game lampshades this. As further bragging rights, you get an achievement for it if you've found the other three armour pieces as well.
    • Hitting it off on your date with Lilliene will result in her giving you her sword as thanks. Equipping it does absolutely nothing but make you look cool.
    • The sawn-off street light from the pawn shop. It is entirely possible to buy it if you manage to save up enough money (which is easier said than done, given that you can only have 700 réal in your inventory under extremely specific lategame circumstances), but it does nothing but waste inventory space and slowing you down.
  • Buddy Cop Show: Your partner, Kim Kitsuragi, is very fleshed out, frequently chimes in during conversations, and while he generally follows your lead, preferring to disappear into the background, he'll take over if he feels strongly that you are hindering the investigation. He's also the Straight Man to your Defective Detective, with your main character ranging from "just" very eccentric to morbidly dysfunctional, based on player choices. Whether you become True Companions or only stick it out for the sake of the case is down to the player and their choices.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Being viewed as anything other than this is something of an uphill battle, but the Inland Empire skill is particularly likely to turn you into this. You receive various opaque hints, but can never be sure to what extent they're true insights or merely your own hyperactive imagination. This results in you behaving in a rather eccentric way, such as talking to objects. Inland Empire also tries to bend you away from learning about yourself, which means figuring out your identity and learning from your past is more difficult if you listen to it. To a lesser extent, any skill can also cause you to act erratically or obsessively, whether lying simply to be dramatic or obsessing over art or cryptids. You can also opt into bizarre beliefs outside of any of the skills, such as declaring yourself the Cop of the Apocalypse, openly acknowledging you are an incredibly corrupt "bad addict cop", or denying all signs to the contrary and proclaiming yourself a handsome, glamorous superstar cop. Kim will push past most of it, though even he can be pushed too far.
    • Even before the events of the game, this is what you were — learning about your past reveal you were a very competent cop, with eighteen years of service, over 200 cases solved, and a very low body count — only three kills confirmed — but still a complete drunkard who worked by bouts of productivity, and regularly bordering on outright insanity.
  • But Thou Must!: While the game is fantastically open-ended, certain things will happen only a certain way.
    • In-universe, this is often Kim vetoing your wackier ideas — he won't let you name the case anything other than "THE HANGED MAN", for instance (unless you sulkily refuse to name it anything at all).
    • After the encounter with the Instigator in the cave underneath the Feld building, you're not allowed to leave the cave before you find and read Ruby's journal.
    • Failing the Visual Calculus roll to determine the bullet's trajectory will simply result in being told that it's too important to fail, and proceeding as a success anyway.
    • During the final Dream Sequence on the island, where you are confronted by the memory of Dora in the guise of Dolores Dei, you can attempt to walk away as soon as you meet her, but then find that you cannot. You have to have a conversation with her before you can leave the dream. Volition even chimes in and apologizes for not being able to give you the strength to walk away.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Kim Kitsuragi, your partner, has been described as your 'voice of professionalism.' As such, he can be seen as this. Kim isn't a complete stiff, however, and while he won't necessarily change his own methods, he can come to appreciate some of your more eccentric decisions if they end up helping you make headway into the case.
    • The Boring Cop archetype largely comes from ignoring the game's wackier dialogue choices and trying to play things as realistically straight as you can. Your Drama skill will complain if you're too boring.
  • Cassandra Truth: A meta one — if you pass an Inland Empire check while studying the corpse of the Hanged Man, the corpse will "talk" to you and reveal that "love did [him] in" and "communism killed [him]". This is painfully accurate, but you don't piece the actual meaning of this until you actually corner the killer and listen to his motive.
  • Casting Gag: Felix Biederman, one of the hosts of the radical, proudly 'dirtbag left' podcast Chapo Trap House, voices Raul Kortenaer, a bloodthirsty, racist, authoritarian corporate mercenary who, after he sheds his Paper-Thin Disguise, openly boasts about committing war crimes in third-world countries, knowing he's protected by his Mega-Corp employers and their allies in the world government.
  • Cast of Personifications: Your skills are essentially party members in their own right, with their own opinions, conflicting desires, and even personal sidequests. You banter back and forth with them throughout the game, even stopping in mid-conversation with other people to hear them out or argue with them. Your reptilian brain and limbic system and Horrific Necktie also speak to you. Some of the personifications themselves acknowledge that it's a fine line between the power of imagination and a mental break.
    You: I don't know, that just comes off as a lazy effort at re-conceptualizing the antics of a shambling drunk.
    Ancient Reptilian Brain: If it comes off like that, it's because it *is*. And you *are*.
  • Central Theme:
    • Everything is connected, and the strangest detours end up tying back into the case in the most unlikely ways.
    • Deception — or rather, self-deception. Plenty of people in Martinaise lie to each other, but the driving force is primarily the lies they tell themselves. You're not immune to this.
    • Failure and moving past it. You feel like a failure as a human being and as a cop. Revachol is a city where every revolution and idea born in it failed. Sidequests like the Doomed Commercial Area also feed to the theme. Failed checks often don't have exclusively negative consequences, but can sometimes be outright helpful in unforeseen ways. It's up to you how you frame and respond to these failures.
    • "The Return": a desire for things to be how they used to be, and the impossibility of it.
  • Cessation of Existence: The pale, also known poetically in Perikarnassis as the Western Plain, is is an absence in the world, "less than less than nothing — the final rest state for all reality..." and as such, it is very difficult for the human mind to grasp. Physical laws and properties break down, starting with sound, sight, distance, and memory. Eventually even numbers cease to function; supposedly no one has ever passed beyond the so-called number barrier, and it may well be impossible. In-universe, ill-understood as it is, it's associated with death and, thanks to its disruptive effects on memory, the past in general. An urban myth among those who frequently travel across the pale is that one can pass beyond the outer edge of the pale, a "route" they call the Motorway South, from which no one ever returns. The "Motorway South" thought indicates you have had your own experiences with the pale, possibly explaining your loss of memory. The bits of memory you reclaim include a belief that "to reach the end of the Motorway South is to be *unborn*." The paledriver and the crab man express similar sentiments, suggesting a form of peace and even ecstasy to be found in forgetting and passing out of this world forever.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A major theme of the case is that small, seemingly insubstantial elements of Martinaise actually factor into the case in weird ways. Examples include the racist mug found in the Whirling-In-Rags trash bin, the old Revolutionary rifles stashed away in the Doomed Commercial District, and the bottle of medicinal spirits that your Horrific Necktie tries desperately to get you to buy.
  • The City Narrows: While not the worst neighbourhood in Revachol (that dubious honor goes to the dying factory district of Coal City), Martinaise is one of the poorest, and has gone completely unpoliced by the RCM for over twenty years. The Hardie Boys have cleaned it up considerably in the last ten years, but by most outside definitions the Débardeurs' Union are nothing more than Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters.
    Kim: It's our fault for leaving this place to the dogs. To the Union. To the company. Not daring to come here more often. It's like I told you — this place is an orphan. Fallen through the cracks.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Thanks to your amnesia and the influence of your various skills on your outward personality, it's very easy to come across as rather bizarre and out of it, particularly to your proudly normal, stoic partner Kim. It's actually fairly difficult to act normal, looking the way you do and coming out of your recent bad behavior in Martinaise.
  • Collection Sidequest: Collect all the figurines you can so you can "win her back". Win who back? It's not Dolores Dei, and it wouldn't matter if it was. There are only two figurines in the game, and they won't win her back. She doesn't want them. She doesn't want you. It's only a dream, anyway. You do get an achievement ("The Figurines Won't Win Her Back") out of it, though.
  • Cool Old Lady:
    • Depending on how you feel about her, Wild Pines rep Joyce Messier — she's a (relatively) Honest Corporate Executive who's one of the few people involved who's trying to stop violence from breaking out, a champion sailboat racer, and broadly educated on a wide swath of topics, making it likely she'll act as your mentor on the history and geography of the strange new world you find yourself in. She can also pay for the damage in your hotel and will NOT make it an attempt at corruption, meaning she's likely to save your ass early in the game.
    • Lena, wife of the cryptozoologist Morell, is pretty much the most pleasant person in the entire city, will give you her pin to pawn when you need money, and will happily spend her time telling you about cryptids or quizzing you about local history.
  • Combat Sadomasochist: A potential effect of having a high Pain Threshold. Not only will you shrug off the damage taken, but your character will like it. As such, having a high threshold can make you a pretty unhealthy person.
  • Comedic Understatement: While talking to Joyce she and you both can categorize the deaths of over two million people during the Revolution as 'a kerfuffle'.
  • Comically Small Bribe: Played Straight and Subverted. Over the course of the game, Union boss Evrart Claire tries to bribe you with at first with a Giant Novelty Check signed for 25 réal, and later tries to bribe you with another 5. While laughably small amounts of money, it's played straight in that it's a not-insignificant amount of money in the context of the game. You have next to nothing beyond the clothes on your back and you have to resort to collecting tare and loose change in the hopes of collecting enough to have a place to sleep, and that's on top of the bill for 130 réal you've accrued before the game begins.
  • Companion Cube: Although multiple inanimate objects can talk to you, provided your Inland Empire skill is high enough, the one that sticks out the most is your Horrific Necktie. The description treats it as an old friend, and it acts like one through the game, often urging you to stand up for yourself (sometimes at inopportune moments), expressing camaraderie, and sometimes having useful advice. It can even pull a Heroic Sacrifice as part of an improvised Molotov cocktail.
  • Consummate Liar: Klaasje. Has multiple, nested lies and excuses to distance herself from Lely's death. Being an international corporate spy, she's been trained in cover stories, and her good looks prevents your Drama skill from noticing, even at high ranks.
  • Consummate Professional: Kim Kitsuragi prides himself on being a diligent, disciplined, impartial officer of the law. Expect him to react to your antics with exasperation.
  • Cosmetic Award: There's no particular benefit to wearing the final piece of the ceramic armor, the helmet, when you find it, as you are at the very VERY last part of the game, and will not be getting any more checks. Your squad mates do make note of it if you wear it during your debriefing. But it makes you feel cool and gives you an achievement.
  • Cowboy: Deconstructed even as it's romanticized. The roaming heart of the classic Mesque boiadero cannot be tied down, so one cowboy love ballad you're told about ends with the man strangling his love before Riding into the Sunset.
  • Cowboy Cop:
    • Your character looks the part, and the Superstar and Apocalypse copotypes encourage you to go renegade in different ways. You can be a drug-snorting addict, a vicious thug, or as corrupt as you want to be. On the other hand, you can also become a by-the-book Boring Cop or even a Sorry Cop, apologizing for the obvious mess you've made of your life and trying to be a better person, no longer the alcoholic, self-destructing deconstructed Cowboy Cop you seemingly start out as.
    • Parodied in-universe: when you start thinking that you might share the devil-may-care, cool attitude of the boiadero, this universe's version of the cowboy, your Encyclopedia skill shuts you down hard if it's high enough.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Storyteller Idiot Doom Spiral and company in the fishing village west of down. Not unlike the protagonist, Spiral lost his whole life — wife, business, the keys to his apartment — over the course of a single day. Unlike you, however, Spiral simply gave up after the fact, sinking contentedly into homelessness. The other men living in the same concrete cylinders have practically no dialogue other than the saner of the three selling you speed and pilsner you can use to keep Doom Spiral talking, while the third, Don't Call Abigail, literally can't seem to say anything other than begging everyone not to call Abigail, whoever that is. Also potentially you, if you internalize the Hobocop thought.
  • Crying Wolf: Evrart lies and schemes so much that nothing he says sounds genuine or trustworthy, which he exploits to his advantage by making you think you're working against him while actually playing right into his hands. Klaasje is a Wild Card with any number of secrets to protect who consistently mixes truth with lies, to the point where you can't be sure anything she tells you is true.
    Drama: She's not *candid* at all, she's smoke and mirrors and will-o-wisps!
  • Culture Chop Suey:
    • Revachol is superficially French, from character names to the Revolution to the use of motorized stagecoaches and muskets/flintlocks rather than automatic weapons, but its clash of ideologies and postwar ruins resemble many a former Soviet Bloc country once the Iron Curtain fell, its division into foreign zones of occupation after a disastrous global war with fascist and communist involvement evokes Germany (especially Berlin), and it's situated in the Insulinde, an enormous archipelago whose discovery and colonization resembles that of the Americas, minus the natives. The history also has a substantial amount of Estonia in it — Revachol sounds a lot like Reval, today better known as the Estonian capital Tallinn. Reval was the German name for the city, which spent much of its history under the rule of a succession of foreign powers between the 13th and late 20th centuries.
    • Insulinde, made up entirely of islands colonized by the other isolas, is named for Insulindia, the geopolitical term for the various former colonial holdings in southeast Asia. The actual in-game equivalent of Asia, meanwhile, is Samara.
    • Much like Kim's Seolite name, Seol's history and relationship with Revachol make it a mixture of Korea and Japan.
      Encyclopedia: Seol is a protectionist, isolationist panisolary state west of the Insulindian isola. Actually it's *quite* interesting; some would even say mysterious...
    • Oranje seems to be a combination of Scandinavia and the Netherlands by way of the modern United States, with its Mega Corps and Private Military Contractors.
    • The people known as the Ubi and the "disappearing peninsula" they call home are the Irish, complete with a major city known as Iraesh. The one Ubi character we meet has a distinct accent and is a moderately stereotypical plucky immigrant.
    • Mesque is Mexico by way of Spain, with some Portuguese language thrown in; Graad is pan-Slavic; Vaasa is Sweden; the Semenine islands and Ile-de-Fantôm have aspects of Caribbean culture as a result of being descended from Areopagite (pseudo-African) settlers from Perikarnassis.
  • Cutting the Knot: The Unsolvable Case. The two culprits would get drunk and commit indecent exposure and petty vandalism, respectively, crimes that weren't sever enough to be arrested for, only issued fines. So the "case" floated from detective to detective for a decade. The protagonist "solved" the case when it floated to him, and the one who liked to commit property damage tried to break his clipboard (one of his Companion Cubes). Harry (also drunk) responds by beating him down with it, ultimately breaking his kneecap. He couldn't walk or go outside anymore, and the other was wracked with enough guilt that he spent his time taking care of the other, leaving no more time for getting drunk and comitting indecent exposure. Since the Unsolvable Case was indeed "solved," Harry narrowly avoided a disciplinary hearing.
  • Dare to Be Badass: One thought gives you this when it is complete:
    The Precarious World: You can either play or you can crawl under a boat and waste away — turn into salt or a flock of seagulls. Your enemies would *love* that. Or you can fight. The only way to load the dice is to keep on fighting.
  • Delayed Reaction: This is what happens when you discover your wrecked car. Even the intellectual cop, usually very quick on the uptake on that kind of things, capable of identifying the same model of car just by it's engine noise at the start of the game, will delude himself into thinking this is an unrelated accident and spending over half an hour with Kim contemplating the car waiting for the water to recede. Kim will even point out he's very surprised you haven't figured it out already and ends up telling you the facts, which can prompt a Big "NO!" from you in reaction and at the very least quite the shock.
  • Deadpan Snarker: A few of the options. Kim also gets in the occasional line of bone-dry sarcasm, especially if you choose to act out, take bribes, take drugs, talk to corpses, hunt ghosts, hunt cryptids, start a dance club in a church, or otherwise seemingly lose your mind.
  • Deconstruction:
    • Numerous Police Procedural and Fair-Play Whodunnit tropes are mocked, played with, and taken apart. Just about every cop archetype gets some deconstructive action in the story, and regardless what you play you'll have a ton of serious flaws. The emotionally sensitive Cooper-type cop is also someone with serious emotional instability, and your constant hallucinatory insights can often be completely meaningless. The shoot-first-ask-questions-later Cowboy Cop is also someone who tramples over evidence and completely ignores real detective work, resulting in missing a ton of emotional and logical insight. And the analytical By-the-Book Cop will ultimately ignore context clues (causing them to misinterpret evidence) and be useless in a conflict where bending the rules matters.
    • The story investigates the idea of being a detective in the first place. Revachol is a terrible place to live, and its history of being a conquered state and being currently under occupation causes some serious issues in regards to what you're actually accomplishing. Does being a detective and solving some potentially meaningless crime actually make the world a better place? In addition, the victim was killed because of communism, the political ideology that caused Revachol to be invaded in the first place, which seems to imply that violent unrest will be a perpetual reality for Revachol as long as they are continued to be trampled over by oppressive governments.
    • A Defective Detective, no matter how good at their job they are, is going to find it difficult to be taken seriously when their malfuctioning private life spills out in front of the public they are meant to protect. A good part of the game's sidequests involve trying to recover the detective's lost belongings and rebuilding a sense of trust with certain characters after a wild bender resulted in the detective trashing the local hotel and making a fool of himself across the town.
    • The game also bends a lot of traditional RPG rules and mindsets. Minmaxing results in less a character excelling in one specific area over all others, and more a character who becomes completely subsumed by that area — putting too many points into a skill will cause it to manifest itself as a personality abberation, encouraging potentially harmful acts and even blocking off crucial dialogue trees. Alignment charts are given a spin in the traditional Chaos/Order and Good/Evil paradigm being tossed out in exchange for a political alignment chart, and rather than giving explicit bonuses to which alignment you pick, most of them incur some kind of penalty instead, with people shunning you for your choice of political identity. The biggest of these is the ending: the game outright states that it does not matter how you built your version of Harry, as every single one of them is a mental "shield" of sorts to get over Harry's traumatic breakup with his wife. How you choose to build Harry isn't so much "this is who Harry is" and more "this is how Harry copes", and furthers this by implying that Harry's coping mechanism of choice (aka how you've built him) will become his new dominant personality.
    • Talking the Monster to Death only works when the monster in question is open to reason. The group of mercenaries at the tribunal are drunk, angry and only interested in bloodshed. They outright mock any attempts to talk them out of murder, and the most the detective can do is sow discord in their ranks before the bullets start flying. It also doesn't work when the monster is a manifestation of deep personal trauma and rejection that the detective has tried to drown out through years of drugs and drinking. Trying to talk your way out of your dream of Dora leaving you will just result in all of your skills failing and the assurance that this will keep happening so long as the detective is unwilling to move past it.
  • Defective Detective: You start the game with a laundry list of psychological issues, not the least of them being amnesia following a three-day bender, in which you lost your badge, gun, uniform, and car, destroyed your hotel room, alienated the staff, failed to meet your assigned partner, and didn't even remove the body from the crime scene. Depending on how you play, you can try to get better — or just get worse, and the myriad ways of destroying yourself are entirely up to the player. Piecing together your record shows that for most of your 18 years in the force, you were in many way an exemplary cop, taking two cases a week for a long time, and closing 216 of them, and having only three kills in all that time (in a department who's officers are infamous for their high body counts), despite working in a neighborhood infamous for a high rate of violent crime. However your workaholic nature and casual drug use caused your wife to leave you, which in turn made your sanity and drug use spiral, eventually destroying your working reputation.
  • Developers' Foresight: The game is remarkably reactive, even to completely minor decisions. Kim in particular, since he's with you almost all the time, is saddled with the job of playing Straight Man to your Cloudcuckoolander throughout the investigation.
    • While the game establishes early on that if your own partner isn't going to react to the fact that you're not wearing any clothes, nobody else in the game is going to, and the game seems to assume you'll run everywhere even if you actually don't, Kim will notice if you spend all of Day 1 running around with only one shoe.
    • If you somehow run out of money, and are unable to find alternative lodging, you'll get a special Non Standard Game Over, with a humorous 4th-wall breaking byline from the devs lampshading them anticipating this scenario.
      "Oh, yeah, we know what you're up to. You think you're so clever. But we made sure to take it into account." — Local Igaunian Game Developers.
    • Your portrait can potentially go through many changes, such as if you pass an Electrochemistry check to do away with The Expression, or shave off your muttonchops in the fishing village, or shave off your muttonchops after doing away with The Expression. You can even leave yourself with the obfuscated, fogged-up portrait you have at the start of the game if you don't bother with looking into the mirror in the bathroom.
    • If you hold off on doing the dance-off in abandoned church until after the Tribunal, Kim will be downright mortified that you are dancing around on the leg you took a bullet in less than two days before.
    • At the beginning of the game, you pick a Signature Skill to receive an early boost. Near the end of the game Dolores Dei has a unique line for your signature skill, explaining that it was the way your insanity expressed itself when you were with Dora. For example, Inland Empire made you talk to objects, or Encyclopedia made you communicate only in trivia.
    • The final scene, where you reunite with your Squad, takes several details into account, such as whether you've ran a majority of the time, the different results of your attempt at Karaoke, your political leanings (including pointing out if the political views you've expressed contradict one another), and whether you have Kim or Cuno as your partner.
    • When you examine the body on the boardwalk, you will notice lots of empty bottles laying around. If you have the plastic bag equipped, Kim will ask you not to collect them since it would be inappropriate.
    • If you spent a lot of time running on day 1, during the debrief at the end of the day Kim will ask you if it was necessary. And also compliment you on managing to do that in those heels of yours, if you were wearing your crocodile shoes.
    • If you buy a jar of medicinal spirit from one of the drunks, your Logic will pre-emptively store it as a Sellable item in your inventory, since drinking it will kill you. However, if you make a Molotov cocktail out of it, it will be moved to the Tools section...allowing you to drink it. After having set it on fire. It gets you a special Game Over screen.
    • Yes, you can buy the sawed-off street lamp at the pawn shop for 700 réal (when even an observant player would be lucky to have a quarter of that amount by the end game). It is completely useless and so heavy that you can't take it out of the store. No refunds.
    • If Kim's handkerchief is still in your possession when you inform the Working-Class Woman of her husband's death, you get the option to give it to her...but you also get the option to keep it since "it's too special". After all, if you didn't sell it during the first three days, when you were in dire need of money, then it probably holds enough sentimental value for you to continue holding onto it.
  • Dirty Cop: You may suspect you were this, and it's entirely possible to openly take bribes and turn a blind eye to various crimes in Martinaise.
  • Disappointed in You: Kim tells you this in no uncertain terms, if you fail the Authority check at the church dance-off, and end up spitting an extremely racist remark at him. What is even worse, is that Volition will chime in on this too. Not only is Kim disappointed in you for what you did, the best part of yourself is disappointed in you too.
    Kim: I mean, look at yourself.
    Volition: Yes, look at yourself. What do you see?
    You: A good guy. Underneath it all.
    Volition: If that good guy never comes out, what difference does it make?
  • Disco Dan: The main character, dressed in snakeskin boots and tight flared pants, with a handlebar mustache and sideburns. Disco here is less about the music (though you are, or were, apparently a fan) than a state of mind.
  • Dodge the Bullet: With a good Reaction Speed, you can handily pull this off during the Tribunal, at least when the disastrously drunk Hoenkloewen tries to shoot you. Kortenaer's Last Breath Bullet, however, is impossible to dodge.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The killer is revealed to be The Deserter/Iosef Lilianovich Dros. The player never encounters or even hears of him until they get to the island where his sniper nest is close to the end of the game.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Of a sort. In a game that encourages you to act out and choose the more provocative, strange, or humiliating dialogue options when talking to people, consistently choosing the most inoffensive, matter-of-fact, dry dialogue options will get you labelled as a Boring Cop.
  • Eldritch Location: The Doomed Commercial Area might be one, but it is left open to you to decide how much stock you put into it.
    • The Pale:
      • The Pale is large enough to be the world's most prominent geographical feature. In fact most of the planet of Elysium is Pale by about 2:1 to regular matter, and it separates (or connects, depending on who you ask) the isolas (islands of matter, basically continental plates but complete with oceans).
      • You might learn what the world actually looks like during some conversations, and it's not a spherical planet like Earth (some scientists believes it might have been at some point in the past, it is certainly not the case any more). The isolas describe a fractured disc in "a dark grey halo."
      • The scientific study of the pale in called entroptics, and though this field has managed to develop some technologies in safely traversing or communicating across the Pale, the best that anyone has done in actually describing it is describing what it's not: it's utterly featureless and has no qualities besides being visually white and otherwise slowly evaporates away matter and information, including spacial attributes such as dimension and concrete distances. The places where the Pale is transforming isolas into more Pale are undergoing a phenomenon called "porch collapse". The undeniable implication of a glacially slow apocalypse is something the civilized world deals with by ignoring it as best and as for long as they can.
      • Some theorize the Pale is rarefied matter, while other speculate that it's rarefied time. Nobody is certain because of the impossibility of getting any useful information from the Pale, though it's nature makes this impossible to determine. One person who frequently crosses the Pale may be suffering a slow psychotic break, or possibly living out the memories of somebody else that she caught with too much exposure to the Pale. This can be staved off with mental preparations, and entering a mind state that approximates that of writing poetry can counter the mental effects of the Pale, but not entirely.
      • A pseudoscientific book of remedies purports that near Pale is apparently safe enough for humans to survive in for a short time and advises burying liquor in the ground just past the border of the Pale to imbue it with certain qualities. Assuming this is actually true, the Near Pale doesn't immediately invoke instant evaporation into more Pale, though Far Pale apparently may be able to. Also repeated or frequent exposure, such as flying over it, will damage the mind irreversibly. One case had the person to become inflicted with chronic hallucinatory states, or possibly living out other peoples' memories in her head.
      • What's more, completing the church questline has Harry put forth that the Swallow, the hole of nothingness in the church, is an "object" which is an originating point for the Pale. In other words that the Pale comes form similar points of nonexistence spreading across the world, and the Pale itself is a transitionary state between matter and absolute oblivion, or a resting state for spacetime. Basically transitioning the world to a point where it basically never existed. What's more, Dolores Dei (an unnaturally intelligent woman if even half of the historical records are half-right, and a Humanoid Abomination if the records are even more true) put forth measures of containing further outbreaks of the Pale without explicitly saying as much. The church was speculated to be, in effect, a containment facility. How this worked was unknown. The effect the humans had on the Swallow when they gathered there probably had something to do with it. Then you realize that the other six churches that were burnt or torn down may indeed have had similar phenomena in them...
    • The abandoned church's own Eldritch properties are a direct result of the pale — there's a 2-millimeter-wide hole in reality in it, which is in-formation pale. For now, it only swallows sound and occasionally information in three-meter radius, but it is growing, and will one day consume the entire island.
  • Emotional Powers: Most of your skills are considered this, which is why they all have logical downsides to being over-leveled as well as under-leveled. "Shivers," your danger-sense (and your "sense of the city") can lead to blatant paranoia and anxiety when amped up. "Inland Empire," your imagination, more or less, can lead to you being surrounded by hallucinations. Even the supposedly-emotionless skills will involve emotion when sufficiently invoked; Logical reasoning will leave you susceptible to intellectual flattery due to your pride in your intellect, and people with very good hand-eye coordination (and thus good fighting skills) will be too quick to jump to violence as a solution.
  • Epigraph: The first lines of the game are taken from R.S. Thomas's poem "Reflections", and not the game's only reference to his work; the game's working title, No Truce With The Furies, is another.
    The furies are at home in the mirror; it is their address.
    Even the clearest water, if deep enough can drown.
    R. S. Thomas, "Reflections"
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: Invoked. Some of your skills, particularly Conceptualization, are very keen on the idea that you're actually dead, Martinaise is Purgatory, the woman who haunts your dreams is Dolores Dei (greatest Innocence of the Moralist church), and that you are Kras Mazov, founding father of scientific communism and leader of the Revolution. It's just your overactive imagination. Probably.
  • Exact Words: The caption under your gun says "Equip this when times are most dire". You can use it to commit suicide if you internalised and completed the relevant thought.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • The local bookstore is called Crime, Romance, and Biographies of Famous People.note 
    • One of the NPCs is simply called Racist Lorry Driver and given no other name.
    • As your ledger reveals, one of your previous cases was called "THE SQUARE BULLET HOLE MURDERS". This is the exact description.
  • Failed a Spot Check: You can experience plenty of these situations if your Perception skill isn't up to snuff. Most prominently, when trying to bum a smoke off of Tommy, Tommy will excuse himself by saying that he doesn't smoke, while openly standing around with a cigarette in his hand. It is still possible to miss this blatantly obvious detail and accept his excuse without any questions asked. Even your Perception skill will snark quite viciously at you for that one, sarcastically telling you that you doesn't notice anything wrong with that statement at all.
  • Failure Gambit: There is one specific skill check that actually overtly dares to you try to fail at it, namely pitching a deliberately bad business idea to the mega-rich investor, Roustame Diodore. Succeeding the check really does just that, but failing it instead causes you to come up with a geniunely clever plan on the spot that impresses Diodore.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: You can't solve the case before the mercenaries hold their "tribunal" and attempt to gun down the Hardie Boys. The most you can do is downplaying the trope by finding ways to mitigate the number of deaths. Confronting Ruby is the Point of No Return, and the fight always breaks out upon your return to the Whirling-In-Rags.
    • At the climax of the Tribunal shootout, your skill check to dodge Kortenaer's Last Breath Bullet will always fail.
    • In the final dream sequence, your skills throw everything they have into winning back Dora/Dolores' heart. They're beaten and humiliated, one after another.
    • Trying to confront Ruby without Kim will kill you no matter what.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: The game, being a deconstruction of Detective Drama, deliberately subverts or outright breaks several of Knox's "Ten Commandments" during the course of the story.
    • Most importantly, the first commandment ("the criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow") is broken entirely. The culprit turns out to be the former-revolutionary Iosef Lilianovich Dros. While his existence is vaguely foreshadowed at several points, he is otherwise effectively a Stranger Behind the Mask, and hides out in a part of the map that first becomes accessible during the end game. Of course, by the time that this happens, the story has effectively become much more complicated that simply being a murder investigation and it turns out Iosef was connected to the story in other, more subtle ways which are first revealed when you confront him.
    • In direct connection with the first point, the second commandment ("all supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course") is similarly broken. On top of the many supernatural ambiguities, the reason why Iosef is even still alive to play a role in the story, is because of the Insulindian Phasmid which is Real After All. As a side-effect of spending time near the Phasmid, Iosef's lifespan was unnaturally prolonged.
    • The third commandment ("not more than one secret room or passage is allowable") is also repeatedly broken, you stumble on several secret rooms and passages during the game. A non-exhausive list includes: the pinball workshop in the Whirling-in-Rags, the hidden spaces beneath the Feld Building, the Doomed Commercial Area lurking behind the bookshop's curtain, the Dicemaker's nest in the chimney, and Cuno's shack.
    • The fifth commandment ("no Chinaman must figure in the story") is broken both in letter and spirit. When it comes to the letter, Kim is Asian (although cheekily, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture his family comes from is based more on Japan and Korea than China) and he plays a central role to the story as your partner. When it comes to the spirit, Kim is a heroic figure and a descendant of naturalized citizens, rather than an inscrutable "exotic" villain, which the commandment was originally written as a response against.
    • The sixth commandment ("no accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right") is broken with gusto. Not only can several failed checks actually help you accomplish certain things, the Shivers and Inland Empire skills will at several points reveal information that later proves true (most prominently, the Hanged Man himself will tell you through an Inland Empire check that love did him in, but communism pulled the trigger), although often out of context.
    • The seventh commandment, ("the detective himself must not have committed the crime") is technically followed with regard to the actual murder you are investigating, but a lot of the clues you pick up have nothing to do with the case, and everything to do with the fact that you backed your car into a gate, smashing it, then drove it into the river after driving through a billboard. Which is where your badge still is.
    • The ninth commandment ("the stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader") is not followed either. Kim is not just as capable a detective as you, he shows more much common sense, acting as The Straight Man and By-the-Book Cop to your Bunny-Ears Lawyer Defective Detective (unless you deliberately play as a Boring Cop). The only area where Kim comes up short is that his strong common sense makes it next to impossible for him to make some of the stranger leaps of logic and lateral thinking that you are able to, which often proves surprisingly helpful in advancing the investigation. He also has terrible eyesight and often misses crucial physical evidence. Even your other possible partner, Cuno (who steps in the event Kim is wounded during the Tribunal), is smart as a whip, and proves quite capable of Wisdom from the Gutter. Most importantly, Kim's thoughts, as well as Cuno's, are mostly concealed from the player, and only high levels of Esprit de Corps, Empathy, and/or Composure can occasionally give you some general idea of what he is thinking or feeling.
  • Fantastic Drug: Downplayed. The drugs generally aren't exceptionally bizarre, but they are otherworldly and don't exist on earth: the nasal spray painkiller nosaphed is the basic Health healing item, for example, while magnesium, rather than being a mineral occasionally used to treat heartburn, constipation, and migraine headaches, here has apparent mood-altering, energy-boosting effects and is used to heal your Morale. There is also pyrholidon, a purple liquid that was invented as an anti-radiation drug, but can also be used recreationally for its psychedelic side-effects.
  • Fantastic Racism: Not really present in the actual story, which features more mundane racism against human ethnicities, but in-universe one race in a failed role-playing game displays this in spades.
  • Fantastic Science: Entroponetics, the study of the pale, its disruptive effects on probability, consciousness, and reality in general, and its strange connection to sound and radiowaves. As the pale covers most of the known world and is slowly encroaching on the remaining isolas, its study is a matter of some moderate urgency — slow though it is, at its current rate of growth it will eventually cover everything, even if it takes centuries.
  • Fantastic Slurs:
    • "Loincloth" is used by the mercenaries as a slur for foreigners.
    • Several Elysium-specific ethnic slurs are used, such as "kipt" for a black person or "Mesquito" for a person of mixed Mesque descent.
    • "Welcome to Revachol" is a slogan primarily recited to non-occidentals with the implication of their distinction from the 'native' Revacholiers — even though Insulinde had no human inhabitants whatsoever until 300 years ago and many non-white citizens of Revachol have lived there for generations.
    • It is implied that, despite immediate appearences, the most common slur used against homosexuals of the Elysium universe is actually "Flaubert".
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart:
    • The Commune of Revachol hearkens to the Paris Commune, particularly in respect to its bloody repression and its formation as a socialist workers' government after the fall of the French Second Empire.
    • The World Revolution has aspects of most of the real-world wars of the 20th Century. Most directly it's a combination of the the rise of nationalism and fascism throughout Europe, Red October, and World War II, with Moralintern representing the Allies/burgeoning UN clamping down on Revachol's Germany and father of communism Kras Mazov as a stand-in for both Hitler and Lenin. The conflict between Commune and Capital, however, gives it a distinct post-Cold War flavour as well.
    • The Señorita Pineapple company being willing to go to war with other countries cuts out the middleman of the US's various "police actions" throughout Central America and the Caribbean from 1898 into the 1930s, in countries in which American corporations so happened to have interest — also known as the Banana Wars, in part due to those companies including the likes of the United Fruit Company.
      Half-Light: Those Señorita Pineapple people are scary motherfuckers, decimating your state if you don't give them your pineapples.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Various flavours of Culture Chop Suey, with every nation being made up of multiple real-world countries, past and present. Revachol
  • Fat Bastard: Union boss Evrart Claire is enormously fat (to the point of immobility) and hugely corrupt, a Smug Snake who's eager to show he's got a cop on the payroll, whether or not it's actually true. His identical twin brother is slightly more mobile, better-traveled, and more educated.
  • Femme Fatale: Deconstructed with Klaasje, Miss Oranje Disco Dancer. Within moments of first meeting her (actually for the second time, but after waking up with amnesia), Harry becomes deeply infatuated with the mysterious and beautiful disco girl. However, her manipulation and lies are her attempts to stay alive and out of the crosshairs of the Oranje/Moralintern-aligned Mega-Corp she betrayed — after having second thoughts over exposing the company's high-level corruption after it resulted in the suicide of a mid-level accountant. Furthermore, all the lies, misdirection, and head games can exasperate Harry if he's sharp enough, giving him the option to arrest her — only for her to end up being murdered in her cell. Yet despite "partying" (her word for sex and drugs with multiple partners) in Martinaise over the course of several months, this isn't treated as evil unto itself and turns out to be completely unrelated to the case — she's hasn't been with Titus or the boys in some weeks, made it clear it was only a passing fling, and they seem to have been motivated to help her by a combination of loyalty and propriety rather than sex. She also had genuine feelings for Lely, didn't kill him and doesn't know who did, but wants his killer to be brought to justice, and gradually does piece together a portion of the mystery, including tracing the path of the bullet that killed him to the island off the coast of Martinaise.
  • Fictional Currency: Like most of the "civilized" world, Revachol uses the currency most commonly know as "réal", or by its code IIR, which is short for "interisolary reál", which was established five centuries ago by Innocence Franconegro. Of further note, réal uses ✤ as its symbol, and 1 réal can be divided into 100 centims.
  • Film Noir: Oh, very much so. For starters, the story involves a seemingly simple crime that proves quite complicated to solve as it is a part of an conspiracy that involves a bitter fight between several political factions and corruption on several levels of society. Then we have our main character, a broken man who despite having very much been chewed up and spat out by life, is still very much capable of taking on the challenge as he is tasked with navigating a colorful cast of characters as he searches for answers, using his wits and determination, and facing constant tests of his morality and character.
  • Fission Mailed: Discovering the hidden compartment in the ledge of past cases, and uncovering Dora's poem, leads to the detective suffering a massive emotional breakdown, causing him to collapse on the spot and the scene to Fade to Black. This is then followed by a Smash Cut to a splash screen with the game's title, implying that it is some kind of game over sequence, but the game then performs a Smash to Black, and another conversation with the Limbic System and Ancient Reptilian Brain follows, before Kim arrives and wakes you up by pouring water on your face.
  • Flipping the Bird: When Garte confronts you with the payment you owe him for trashing your hostel room, you can make a Savoir Faire check to attempt to run out on the bill. Failing the check causes you to, instead of just running away, get about halfway across the room before spinning around to leap backwards towards the exit while flipping Garte off with both hands. You then crash-land hard, because you focused too much on the rude gesture and failed to see where you were going.
  • Foreshadowing: Before the game proper even starts, some hints at things to come can be found in the descriptions of certain skills:
    • Encyclopedia mentions cigarette brands and pre-Revolutionary guns as examples of obscure details that might help you solve the case. The killer smoked a particularly rare brand of cigarettes and used a pre-Revolutionary sniper rifle.
    • Rhetoric has "What was the dancer trying to divert you from?", among other things, in its description. Klaasje, the disco dancer, diverts you from things virtually any time you talk to her.
    • The drawback of having your Half-Light stat too high is constantly being afraid of things - for instance, having a fear of someone's scent. The apricot scent of your former lover, to be more specific.
    • Hand-Eye Coordination points out that the guns always go off at some point. Hinting that you won't be able to talk your way out of the tribunal.
  • Fun with Acronyms: A van blocking the highway east out of Martinaise is tantalizingly labelled Delta Logistics Company, and figures into Idiot Doom Spiral's story about the treasure of the Cocaine Skull, which you'll only be able to search for if an awful lot of money shows up (in ZA/UM's accounts).
  • Game Master: The 24 skills on your character sheet to various degrees, and even more so your Ancient Reptilian Brain and Limbic System, who narrate your dreams.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Your skills will often point out their equivalents in other characters. Characters like Soona and Trant Heidelstam, for example, show the downsides of having too much Interfacing and Encyclopedia, respectively, becoming obsessed by minutiae and indifferent to the actual people around them, and Cuno's Hidden Depths include a creative, artistic streak which your own Conceptualization can recognize.
    • Your partner Kim has high Interfacing (he loves cool machines such as cars and cameras) and Volition (his calmness and self-control), as well as off-the-charts Authority (but which his high Volition keeps him from abusing) — and, underneath it all, high reserves of Motorics skills such as Hand/Eye Coordination (undercut by his nearsightedness) and Savoir Faire (his secret fondness for appearing 'cool'). But he lacks imagination, which Conceptualization quickly picks up on; even if you lack Conceptualization or Inland Empire yourself, your way of communicating with your own skills shows you are imaginative in a way Kim never has been, and which he can eventually come to admire about you. He also has terrible eyes, leaving him weak in Perception and Visual Calculus, and constantly misses physical clues and makes bad deductions based on appearances.
    • Racist characters such as Measurehead and the Racist Lorry Driver are often high on Rhetoric (which doesn't convince anyone of anything but instead simply serves to make people angry, thus asserting power over them). Evrart, too, a slimy individual who maintains a thin facade of politeness and amiability while all but revelling in your discomfort, anger, and indignation. The game drives this home to the player by having your first conversation inflict several points of both Health and Morale, possibly even killing the unprepared player, making their dislike of him immediately more personal. He does all this with nothing more than words and an exceptionally uncomfortable chair. And by deliberately cultivating your dislike of him and his stated politics, he may actually manage to push you in the opposite direction, playing straight into his actual goals, suggesting a significant degree of psychological awareness, Empathy or Suggestion he keeps hidden under his sense of Drama.
    • Trained corporate spy Klaasje's command of Electrochemistry (both drug use and physical attractiveness), Composure (body language and outward calm), and Drama (lying and sensing lies) are such that she completely short-circuits your ability to catch her out in her various half-truths by virtue of your attraction to her — subverting all your skills other than Volition and Encyclopedia, and making their insights unreliable except for direct factual observations. Kim claims to be unaffected, but Volition disagrees and blames his hubris. It's her training alone that's allowing her to lie to Kim here, though, since he simply isn't attracted to women. Her good looks don't really factor into things for him.
  • Genius Ditz: Put a lot of points into Intellect skills and choose the most immature dialogue options and you're an incredibly competent detective with huge troves of trivial knowledge that happens to act like a complete idiot. Add high Inland Empire and Shivers you're Sherlock Holmes if he talked to his tie and thought he could teleport.
  • Genius Loci: Invoked. The Revacholier is the (alleged) spirit of the city of Revachol, which implies that itself is sentient and sapient to some degree. Your connection to this entity is represented by the Shivers skill, which grants you insights into the events of the past and present from the perspective of the city, primarily its winds. If Harry talks about it, the other person dismisses it as superstitious nonsense that men from his youth indulged in. On the one hand, he might be right and Harry may have been having a delusion based on a local legend. On the other, these may be correspondent and isolated cases may give Shivers a level of credence...
  • Golden Ending: Solving the case with flying colors by catching the true murderer and determining their motive.
  • Gotta Get Your Head Together: You and Kim take this stance once Ruby ambushes you with the Pale Compressor, which is basically a device that beams radio signals directly to your head.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality:
    • Corrupt union versus a corporate-sponsored mercenary team with a Dirty Cop Defective Detective in the middle. The closest thing to a conventional good guy in the whole setting is your partner.
    • There's also no "good" ideology option that you can follow and not act horribly to other people and be told off for following it. Nationalism is about bigotry, ultraliberalism (libertarianism) is about cruelty for the impoverished, communism relishes in mass murder, and moralism (centrism) doesn't act upon problems, causing their exacerbation. Trying to be neutral between and you'll get told off for being a fence-sitter.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
    • The Half-Light skill occasionally talks in Greek, such as the dialogue that ensues when you officially opt in as the Cop of the Apocalypse.
    • The old washerwoman in the fishing village sings Suliram, an Indonesian folk song.
    • Cunoesse peppers her sentences with the little-known language only she seems to speak (real life Finnish, Suruese in-universe).
    • Call Me Mañana and the Paledriver drop in the occasional line in their native Mesque (a combination of Spanish and Portuguese). Boiadero, for example, is Portuguese for cowboy.
    • The cook working at Whirling-In-Rags speaks Polish. The name you give him, if your Logic skill doesn't stop you, is "Gorący Kubek", which translates to Hot Cup, which also happens to be a fairly popular brand of a real-life instant soup.
  • Gratuitous French: Two of your skills have French names, Cindy the Skull's graffiti is in French ("Un jour je serai de retour près de toi", "One day I will return to your side"), and quotes given in French are often untranslated, among other items like Réné's carabiner uniform. Justified given that Revachol's culture is heavily French-inspired; most people have French names, and many of the characters we hear speak have French accents, such as born-and-raised Revacholier Kim.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Dolores is Latin for "sorrows"; in other words, Dolores Dei translates to, essentially, Sadness of God. Ubi Sunt? [sic], Elysium's version of Oireland, means "Where are (they)", and is taken from the longer phrase Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?, "Where are those who were before us?" The Other Wiki says that while it is "sometimes interpreted to indicate nostalgia, the ubi sunt motif is actually a meditation on mortality and life's transience," very much in keeping with the game's themes of life, loss, and memory.
  • Great Offscreen War: Revachol's Revolution, fifty years ago, impacts absolutely everything about the setting.
  • Guide Dang It!: Certain events and quests can only be discovered (much less solved) by having very specific skill builds.
  • Harder Than Hard: In a game already intended to be occasionally unfair, Hardcore Mode makes all skill checks more difficult, reduces the amount of money in the game, and further incentivizes/penalizes drug use. It does increase XP for completing tasks, however.
  • Hard Mode Perks: Playing on Hardcore Mode will reward the player with more XP.
  • Heart Symbol: Not quite, but it's because of the influence of Delores Dei (and her reputedly glowing lungs) that the heart symbol is replaced by a set of lungs as the symbol of love and faith in the reál belt, where Revachol is located.
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Going by René, it appears this was very much the case with the old royal army. How else can a bright blue jacket with yellow markings and an accompanying pair of almost fluorescent orange riding pants be described? René even acknowledges that taking it into combat looks glorious, but it's amazingly impractical compared to camouflage, and royalist forces suffered for it over the course of that war.
  • Hit Points: Two separate meters, Health and Morale, with the number of points based directly on your Endurance and Volition skills, respectively, which can make you a One-Hit Point Wonder if you start the game with only 1 point in Physique or Psyche. Running out of Endurance means you die of a heart attack, while depleting Morale means the stress and pressure of the job get to you and you resign from it immediately.
  • Hot Blooded Sideburns: The player's mustache-and-mutton chops combined with their Disco Dan fashion sense and three-day epic bender all give the impression of a maverick Cowboy Cop — but it's actually possible to subvert this by acting as straitlaced and boring or grovellingly apologetic as possible.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Downplayed, as you can survive minor heart attacks, but the main way running out of Health will kill you isn't by being shot, it's a heart attack brought on by the massive toll your alcoholism and the stress of your job have taken on the Detective.
  • Homage: As part of the game's low-key spiritual adaptation of Planescape: Torment, the idea of the pale, a zone of negation which slowly erodes the self, is an expanded version of the Dungeons & Dragons' Negative Energy Plane as it appears in the Great Wheel cosmology — primarily as depicted in Torment, whose Very Definitely Final Dungeon is hidden there. Planewalker Candrian Illbourne describes his sojourn to you in the Smoldering Corpse Bar, much as Joyce and the unnamed paledriver explain (at some length) the pale's deleterious long-term effects, not to mention the unusual shape of the world. Unlike the Negative Energy Plane, however, the pale is spreading, and while the Nameless One's memory loss wasn't caused by the plane itself, the pale's effects on human memory can affect anyone exposed to it — including, it is heavily implied, the Detective himself.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Assuming the information is accurate, the Insulindian phasmid can reveal (via Inland Empire) that it and every animal and plant are absolutely terrified of humans due to their ability to unconsciously affect (and generate) the pale. This means that at any point in time humanity may collectively erase all of existence by complete accident.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Plaisance, the bookstore owner, practices occult rituals meant to banish and contain curses and spiritual entities and has had the books in her shop enchanted, supposedly compelling customers to buy. She also believes that Wirral (the local stand-in for Dungeons & Dragons) is occult magic and therefore bad.
  • I Am Who?: You're an amnesiac who has visions which may or may not be real. It's also possible to convince yourself that you are some kind of superstar action detective like the ones in books, or the herald of the apocalypse, or the reincarnation of communist demagogue Kras Mazov. How true any of these things are is another matter.
  • I Am the Noun: You can proclaim "I am the law!" as a way of introducing yourself. Do this enough, you can start to introduce yourself as "the Lawbringer" upon meeting new people.
  • I Know Your True Name: A recurring element. Quite a few of the characters you encounter during the investigation hide their name behind a moniker, and learning their real identity will often give you an edge against them. Most notably during the Tribunal, where having learned the Hanged Man's real name allows you to figure out that the leader of the mercenaries is his brother, which gives you a considerable psychological advantage against him. But you aren't immune to this yourself, however, seeing how you have forgotten your own name, and Evrart gleefully exploits this fact against you during your first "business" meeting with him.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: The wide collar, bell bottoms, and high-heeled green snakeskin loafers you start the game in draw plenty of mockery early on, and not even you can call your paisley necktie anything other than Horrific. Characters (mostly Kim) will also call you out for a heavy metal Barbarian Hero T-shirt covered in flames, Nerd Glasses and sunglasses you can barely even see through, and an ultra-trendy jockey tracksuit that you are way too old to wear.
  • Informed Attribute: The game describes Cuno as almost resembling a gremlin, whereas his portrait shows him as rather plain-looking, not appearing much worse than the other portraits.
  • Inherently Funny Words: "What the hell is a Wompty-Dompty-Dom Centre?" Even your Encyclopedia skill is thrown. According to Trant Heidelstam, it's a research and performance centre for the Contemporary Arts.
  • Instant-Win Condition: Should you roll double-6/boxcars on any check that needs a dice roll, you always pass the check, regardless of any other factors. By the same token, rolling double-1/snake-eyes always fails a check. There's one exception to this rule: during the gunfight in the last part of the game, you cannot dodge Kortenaer's Last Breath Bullet, no matter what. It's an "Impossible" check of 20, which is rigged to fail regardless of your skills or dice roll.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: An unusual example, perhaps due to the game's focus. In addition to a more standard inventory system, the game also gives you a Thought Cabinet, meaning you'll have to literally wade through your own thoughts to reach a variety of conclusions. Thoughts are 'researched' over the course of in-game hours, providing various bonuses as you mull them over and then a different set of bonuses upon completion. Space is limited, however, and there are 50 possible thoughts in-game, so by the end of which you may find yourself forgetting earlier thoughts (at the cost of a skill point) to make room for new ones.
  • Invisible to Normals: In the ending, you discover that the Insulindian phasmid secretes a pheromone which causes people to forget it's there — but it only works over time, which means that children and teenagers do occasionally spot it. Adults, of course, never believe them.
  • Irony: The color of Communism in the Elysium universe is white, rather than red. In the real world, white is the color commonly associated with anti-Communist counter-revolutionaries, most notably during the Russian revolution and following civil war.
  • Isometric Projection: The game uses 3D models against a 2D background. Thanks to the stylized, painterly style the game uses for both background and character textures, this blends rather well.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: The abandoned Church is just too quiet at a certain spot. There's a good reason: a 2mm hole into the pale is located there and is eating all the sound away.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • You, if you so choose. Authority and Physical Instrument are particularly keen on asserting your dominance over everyone you meet, no matter how petty the insult or infraction.
    • Also territorial Good Ol' Boy Titus, ringleader of the Hardie Boys, who turns out to be the Union's equivalent of a local sheriff, and believe it or not, drug-dealing local hellion Cuno, up to a point, who took in a damaged "psycho" (his words) little girl who couldn't remember her own name (hence why he just calls her Cunoesse or "C"), and of whom he's fiercely protective. It's possible to make peace with both of the latter, but only with considerable effort.
    • Garte, the cafeteria manager, starts off very antagonistic to you, what with all the things you've done during your three-day bender, but can mellow out to you if you can show you're willing to set things straight, by paying for the damages, paying for your room in time, finding a replacement to the stuffed bird you broke — culminating in him cleaning your room and letting you spend two nights in it for free after you get injured from the shootout that happened in front of the Whirling.
  • Jukebox Musical: Soundtrack by one band variant. The entire soundtrack was composed by British Sea Power, made up of a combination of both new compositions and instrumental versions of songs from their previous albums.
    • The daytime theme for Martinaise is an instrumental version of "Red Rock Riviera" entitled "Instrument of Surrender" — referring to the document by which Revachol surrendered to the Coalition at the end of the Revolution... as well as the real-world Japanese Instrument of Surrender signed at the end of World War II, and the musical instruments making up the game's soundtrack.
    • "Detective Arriving on the Scene" is an extended, instrumental "Cleaning Up the Rooms" — the title of which is later a Thought you can add to your cabinet by passing the Logic check with Soona that allows you to theorize that the 2mm hole of nascent pale is what caused you to lose your memory.
    • "The Smallest Church in Saint-Saëns", the song you can sing at karaoke (and which you played as you trashed your room on the night you lost your memory), is an only slightly rewritten "The Smallest Church in Sussex".
    • Truck driver/poet Tommy Le Homme's rhymes ("I am a hunter and a gander and a gatherer / Feel like a traveler...") are from "Want To Be Free", the melody of which serves as a recurring Leitmotif throughout the game. A downtempo piano version, "Live With Me", is used as the background music for the fishing village and the coast, and the "Sad FM" track you can play on your final trip to the island is a vocal cover, titled "Burn, Baby, Burn". The melody is even subtly included as part of Klaasje's sparse, otherwise percussion-driven theme.
    • Garte says he named the Whirling In Rags after lyrics from the song "Hail Holy Queen" by the Etenniers, a band who are apparently the in-universe equivalent of British Sea Power. The backing strings from the original BSP song also seem to be the basis for "La Revacholiere", the lilting melody which follows you throughout the island sea fort and turns out to be the theme of the Insulindian phasmid. The lyrics:
      Hail holy queen of the sea. You're whirling in rags — you're vast and you're sad.
    • Various other song titles and lyrics find their way into the text of the game, such as Revachol's official motto being "A Light Above Descending" and its state bird being the great skua.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Red-haired gremlin-boy Cuno is a loudmouthed twelve-year-old delinquent who you can find hurling rocks at the corpse you're there to examine, a free-range child with a grandiose self-opinion who sells drugs (and takes them) and is only too happy to try and pump himself up by screwing up your investigation. And despite seeming like the quiet follower, Cunoesse is actually much more disturbed than Cuno, the one who eggs him on to his delinquent behaviour and, if Cuno is to be believed, an actual Cop Killer somewhere in her Dark and Troubled Past. Yet for all that, Cuno is fiercely protective of her, knowing better than anyone how damaged she must be.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: During a dream sequence, it's revealed that both your bickering skill tree and the game's numerous dialogue trees are actually signs of your insanity.
  • Logical Weakness: All of your skills are double-edged swords — the higher they are, the more they shape your thoughts and control you. What begins as advice can eventually become a compulsion, restricting what dialogue options you can choose in certain circumstances or just becoming overbearingly loud compared to the other skills.
  • Love Triangle: One of these actually plays a very central part in the murder. Iosef was hopelessly love with Klaasje, and him murdering Lely was at the very least partly motivated by jealousy.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • The Inland Empire skill might give the protagonist psychic abilities... or might just be a symptom of a severe psychological condition which simply happens to lead him in the right direction from time to time.
    • The bookseller is convinced that her building is part of a "Doomed Commercial Area," which curses all ventures within it to failure, and a subsequent investigation suggests that it may extend to the Whirling-In-Rags, just down the block, as well. The same investigation, though, also reveals that all of the affected businesses were either horribly mismanaged, ill-conceived to begin with, or both - it's entirely possible they just ended up failing because running a successful business, particularly an ambitious one, is difficult.
    • Tiago (the "crab man" living in the rafters of the church) is Ambiguously Human, able to Wall Crawl and survive the freezing temperatures of winter without a shirt, and the way he describes the Mother of Silence he worships makes her sound like some kind of Eldritch Abomination. Is he just an unusually acrobatic drug addict? Have both you and he been somehow affected by the pale in the form of the 2mm hole in the world, centred under the church steeple? Or is the Mother of Silence real, and able to somehow transform her true believers, body and mind?
    • While taken for granted in-universe, the pale itself is one of the more blatantly fantastic elements in the setting. But the exact cause of the pale is unclear — it might be a phenomenon as natural as water in-universe, but the imagined conversation with the phasmid implies that humans' thoughts are what's causing it. It also has deleterious effects on the human psyche, as Joyce can tell you firsthand, affecting memory up to and including apparently containing snatches of other people's memories, as seen with the old paledriver, ruminating in a past that she realizes is not her own. So what does that mean for your own amnesia? Did you really just drink so much that you caused yourself brain damage, or is it actually the result of the entropic effects of the "2 mm hole" of nascent pale you discover in the church? Because if Soona is right, it wasn't the only church on the island, just the only hole that remains 'shielded' in such a way in the present.
      Noid: The first settlers built it, plus six more like it. On the coast here. Was one of the first things they did... must've been really scared of something. But I understand... Alone on an uninhabited archipelago, forced to face themselves and nature. Pre-industrial quantities of solitude. The sea. Perhaps something more... fundamental.
    • Shivers is the only skill stated to be outright supra-natural in-universe, but does that mean everything it tells you is true? Does that extend to its prediction during the endgame that Revachol is going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, twenty years from now, and it needs your help to stop it?
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words: As a cop, you have the potential to weaponize this. With sufficiently high Authority, you can be quite good at intimidating others into compliance by threatening them with big legal-sounding words and implied consequences, even if what you're saying is actually borderline nonsense with no basis in any actual laws.
    Authority: You're well versed in the kind of threatening legalese that implies criminal liability but in fact has no meaning whatsoever.
  • Mind Screw: In-universe and out, the game is designed in such a way as to leave the player uncertain as to whether anything they're seeing is real, something the player is free to call out in dialogue. Subverted with the ending, however, which (seemingly) makes it clear that the case, the cryptid, and Martinaise were all quite real, and that seeing Dolores Dei in your dreams was in fact just your unconscious trying to shield you from the devastating memory of breaking up with the woman you loved — not, in fact, Dolores Dei herself. The pale is not a metaphor but an in-universe phenomenon which slowly dissolves reality, which the human mind struggles to comprehend, also resulting in permanent damage to those so exposed.
  • Mood Whiplash: During what is a very humorous sequence at the church, you can start dancing your heart out and invite most of the other people there to join in. Succeed at an Authority check and Kim can join in as well — but fail it, and you will call Kim something extremely racist, causing him to storm out and then leave the party for the rest of the day after having a frank chat with you.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: Skill checks get bonuses and penalties based on your actions, but sometimes it's hard to determine what objective gives a bonus to a particular check, because they have no obvious connection. That said, it is somewhat justified by the fact that you are at least somewhat crazy, and the game does helpfully inform you after you have gotten bonuses for certain checks.
  • Multiple Endings: Per traditional cRPG standards, the game's finale changes depending on the choices you made. The major aspect is whether or not you solve the case and how.
  • Mundane Utility: You can use the recording of the "noise" of the 2mm hole that threatens to destroy the church to boost the bass for Egg Head's anodic dance track.
  • My Skull Runneth Over: The downside to having too high of an Encyclopedia skill is that your brain will interrupt you with trivia about the world you live in constantly, which may be distracting or even disorienting.

    N to Z 
  • New Weird: The game takes place in a mostly-modern (The '70s' idea of modern) but distinctly fantastic world that definitely isn't our earth, with its own history, on a planet where various continent-sized isolas, each made up of separate oceans, islands, and nations, are divided by growing regions of pale, patches of nonexistence which can only be traversed by specially-designed airships. Animals and plants are not all as we know them, and technology is both ahead of and behind where we were at roughly the same point culturally — though despite resembling a post-Cold War version of the '70s in the wake of a brutal Civil War in which a communist uprising was put down by an outside invasion by Moralintern (Moralism International, the loose equivalent of the UN), civilization is said to be over eight thousand years old. While much of the game takes place firmly in Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane territory, there is a distinct undercurrent of mysticism to your dreams, including an odd connection to Dolores Dei, a messianic figure who apparently had glowing lungs and waged a war to unite the world under her church. Then, near the end of the game, there's the giant, possibly sentient stick insect you discover...
  • No Name Given: Most of the game is spent not knowing your own name, although there are a few possible paths to finding out. As it turns out, you do have a name, as well as a title and even a past life; it's just that you can choose to refuse it all if you so please, through a failed Conceptualization check, and settle with the fake identity you give yourself as a result.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Each with its own newspaper article epilogue screen. While even trivial damage can potentially trigger a Hollywood Heart Attack or Heroic BSoD, there are a few adventure game-style deaths:
    • Push the Hardie Boys too hard and they'll gang up and kill you and Kim and make you disappear.
    • If you shoot disturbed little girl Cunoesse, the investigation ends in scandal and disgrace.
    • When confronting the Hardy Boys, an authority check will allow you to take your gun (or borrow Kim's) and point it at yourself to demonstrate that you're hardened or to assert authority by telling them that they'll remember what they're about to see. You can relent, or you can keep going and take it to the logical conclusion...
    • Keep talking about killing yourself, and you'll eventually get a Thought; completion of which will give you the option.
    • Confronting Ruby without Kim present will trigger a game over immediately when you step into her trap. Apparently she didn't want to hurt Kim in defending herself from the bogeyman that La Puta Madre made out of you, or showing up without the legitimate cop actually made it look like a hit coming for her. Either way, without Kim there, you're toast.
  • No Points for Neutrality: Zigzagged. There are four main ideologies in the game (roughly corresponding to the political compass), with Moralism representing centrism, humanism above idealism, and incremental change. Following any of the four grants you a thought for the cabinet, and bonus dialogue options. In some cases you're forced to choose a stance, and choosing compromise, "there must be a better way", or "none of the above" moves you closer toward Moralism's self-appointed center; the associated thought is Kingdom of Conscience, increasing your learning caps for Volition and Logic and healing your Morale when ever you use Moralism to assuage your conscience. On the other hand, some choices do include a fifth "no comment" option, and, playing the trope straight, saying you don't have any opinion or that it's your job as an RCM officer to remain impartial gets you nothing but contempt from many characters for being a fencesitter.
  • Not So Above It All:
    • Kim likes to act rather aloof and professional, but he's not above cracking a joke or bluffing a suspect, and he likes cool cars more than he's technically allowed to show on the job. He also listens to hard, brash punk music, of the sort usually listened to by speedfreaks and gangbangers — he tries to play it off as someone else fiddling with his radio settings, but if pressed, finally admits that it helps keep him focused at night. He falls short of saying he might actually like it.
    • Cuno, as he frequently reminds you, 'doesn't give a fuck,' with Cunoesse being even more sociopathic: shoot down the body and succeed on subsequent parts of the autopsy they start acting like excited little kids — albeit deeply disturbing kids. Succeed on the digging the bullet out of the hanged man's head and they're thrilled.
  • Not So Stoic: Kim is absolutely thrilled when you manage to shoot the body of the hanged man out of the tree on the first try, giving you an 'Aces High' (high-five) and then a round-the-back/on-the-flipside Aces Low if you pass a passive Reaction Speed/Interfacing check and chose to offer one.
  • N-Word Privileges: You can quote DMX's "Where the Hood At?" at one point and your Shivers skill quotes back, but uses "brother" instead of the N-word.
  • Oh, Crap!: The player and Kim have one when they walk in on the Tribunal commencing and realize that there are three Krenel Mercenaries to confront, and not two like they'd assumed.
  • "Open!" Says Me:
    • As seen in the title trailer, at one point the protagonist attempt to bust open a door (in the backroom of the bookstore) by ramming it with his shoulder, only to fail and clutch it while wincing in pain. You can repeat the same feat with another door, but this time the success is not painful. In both cases, the success is mainly a question of breaking the lock rather than knocking the door entirely off the hinge.
    • It takes a reality-defying, near-impossible Rhetoric check, but the player can also literally talk a locked cargo container into opening itself. Because there's someone hiding out inside, but you really had no reason to believe that at the time.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: The husband of a woman you meet in the hostel at the beginning of the game is a cryptozoologist, and she shares his passion for his subject. He has yet to discover a true cryptid, but has ventured out into the wilds near Martinaise to search for the Insulindian phasmid, a supposed carnivorous, parthogenetic stick insect endemic to the region but never definitely spotted by any reputable source.
  • Out-Gambitted: A sufficiently clever protagonist can realize that Evrart Claire's plans for a community center to "revitalize" the fishing village are actually designed to create such a nuisance during construction that it becomes unlivable and he can buy the land for cheap. In response, he and Kim can forge one of the signatures Claire requested, making the agreement legally worthless and wasting Claire's time and resources... something he'll only find out after he's aided the investigation.
  • One-Hit Point Wonder: Downplayed. While this makes you especially fragile in the early game, even if you allocate your stats in such a way you only have 1 Health or 1 Morale, if you have medications ready, the game will give you a couple seconds to heal immediately after you've taken the damage and avoid an instant game-over.
  • Permanently Missable Content:
    • The game is very up front about how difficult finding all the pieces of the hanged man's armour is going to be, including hanging a lampshade on the fact that you might not be able to lay your hands on the boots during your first run.
    • Concluding the seemingly unrelated sidequest with the cryptozoologists too early can result in missing out on some closure and one of the ceramic armor pieces. Gary is wearing the cuirass, and he goes home after you turn in the last leg of the quest to Morell. He's also the one who put the clothes in the dumpster, another potentially missable quest.
    • Hitting the Point of No Return can make some sidequests impossible to complete. The Union goes into full lockdown in the harbour, apart from Mañana and any surviving Hardie Boys; Joyce returns to Wild Pines to report, the scabs and lorry drivers disperse, and if any of the mercenaries are still alive they're picked up by Krenel and out of your reach; Klaasje goes on the run if you didn't arrest her, the Whirling empties out after the shooting, and Cindy the Skull goes to ground after painting her big statement in the central square.
    • René is revealed to have died in the night on the morning of Day 5. Any information he could provide, such as details about the may bells you find on the roof or the antique rifles you find under the DCA, becomes largely inaccessible by that point. You also lose your chance to convince Gaston to part with his sandwich.
    • The church questline cannot be completed if you arrest or evict the kids on the sea ice.
    • Should you miss the prompt to sleep in the bed inside the bunker on the island during the endgame, the plotline revolving around the ex-something won't see any kind of real climax or resolvement.
  • Point of No Return: Make sure you've wrapped up anything you want to before meeting with Ruby; while the game continues, you lose access to many locations and people, and from then on you're on a strict time limit. The game makes sure to warn you before it happens though.
  • Police Are Useless: Revachol is occupied by Moralintern, which depending of your interpretation, either created the RCM or allowed the Revacholian citizens to form a volunteer police, which limited their actual law enforcement powers. Resulting in the RCM becoming ineffective, overworked, corrupt and having its hand tied by Moralintern. In Martinaise the Union is the law, while Revachol West has an unsolved murder rate of 85%. Still, when the RCM was founded they were enough to bring a sense of peace, order and self-governance back to Revachol.
  • Police Procedural: The game is set in an Urban Fantasy setting, but centers on solving a seemingly straightforward, non-supernatural murder. There's almost no combat and the plot progresses mainly through dialogue and investigation.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Discussed. While the most common answer as to why racism is bad is brought up (being unfairly prejudiced against others for their race is wrong) the game also discusses why people become racist. The short answer is that racism is an excuse for individuals to point to a specific reason as to why society has let them down as opposed to any greater web of interconnected actions. The racist nationalist slogan "Welcome to Revachol" is built on this, being a rejection of non-white Revacholians despite 1) Insulinde not having any humans on the isola until 300 years ago and 2) having a huge amount of the population be non-whites. Notably this also goes both ways, with Measurehead being a prime example. Measurehead is extremely educated, well-spoken and physically fit, yet is dragged down by his obsession with scientifically proven racism. Since this racism is founded on shaky principles and filled with holes in the theory, he just makes himself look like an idiot trying to justify his hatred of you in medical/science based reasoning.
  • Press Start to Game Over: One of the first tasks you are faced with — getting your tie down from the motel room's loft ventilator — can quite possibly result in your character dying of a heart attack from the exertion.
  • Purgatory and Limbo: Several characters mention that Martinaise is "in limbo" during your stay, and the dreamlike state of your own addled mind makes this seem like a real possibility. Your visions of messianic Joan Of Archetype pope-figure Dolores Dei don't help. Garner enough 'proof' and you can declare that Martinaise is in fact the 'antechamber to the afterlife'.
  • Punk Punk: ZA/UM themselves once (with a bit of tongue in cheek) described the game's setting of Elysium as being "Modernopunk".
    The game is set in a time of cold war in a world that never was. Replace the futuristic science elements in sci-fi with modernity and you get... Modernopunk? A world of Bauhaus and Dada, neo-grotesk fonts and transistors, communists and fascists and boring old democracies.
  • Rainbow Pimp Gear: The player character is a frequent victim, thanks to a wardrobe limited to whatever he can scavenge from the environment and each piece of clothing giving bonuses and penalties to certain attributes. The character will often be dressed for whatever helps him the most with likely upcoming tests than for fashion.
  • Real After All: Moments after solving the case and tracking down the murderer, you also find the supposedly mythical Insulindian phasmid, a 3-metre-tall stick insect with psychoactive Pheromones that make people forget it's there. You can then have an imaginary (?) conversation with it in your brain.
    You: Is this a dream? What is happening?
    Insulindian Phasmid: No. You are awake. I am real. Light is forming me. This is real.
  • Reality Ensues: Even if you succeed in some skill checks, the resulting action can either still be a failure or give an entirely different outcome simply because what is being attempted is physically impossible:
    • "Slipping away unnoticed" from the cafeteria manager who is demanding payment for your room to your face just results in you running out of the hostel while he admonishes you.
    • Trying to open a rusted shut bunker door with nothing but your bare hands goes about as well as you'd expect. Kim will even point out the futility of trying it.
    • Trying to 'teleport' to the roof of an abandoned building just amounts to climbing to the top on its extremely rickety and unsafe emergency ladder with your eyes closed.
    • While you can dodge a bullet once during the tribunal, you can't do it twice. Kortenaer's shot will hit you no matter what.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: The pale, strange enormous patches of anti-reality where all human history and memory of the past collects that separate the continents and covers most of the planet. While just being in the pale may not immediately kill you, the longer you stay and deeper you go, the more the laws of physics stop working, such as distance, time, gravity, and even math. Eventually, concepts such as "ground" and "sky" just stops existing altogether, and you find yourself slowly going insane as you increasingly lose the ability to separate past from present. The only way civilization has found to reliably navigate them is to plot a precise course with as little exposure as possible and shoot straight through as fast as they can with specially designed airships.
  • Recurring Dreams: Not in the game proper, as all your character's dreams are fairly different, but the final one you make is stated to be a recurring dream you used to make about three to four times a week before the massive hangover at the start of the game, and that all the fairly unpleasant conversations with your limbic system and reptilian brain are their attempt to save you from having that dream over and over. It's your character meeting their ex-girlfriend and desperately trying to win her back while she has long moved on from him, ending with your character telling her "See you tomorrow", realizing he'll have that dream again.
  • Red Herring:
    • The victim's clothing wasn't disposed of by the killer, it was put there by a local after the corpse was looted, because he didn't like it lying around the yard.
    • To the case as a whole, there's Ruby. After interrogating the Hardy Boys and Klaasje, it appears that she had the possibility to commit the crime and had a solid motive for it too, was responsible for coming up with the cover-up plan and ran into hiding when learning you were coming to investigate the case. In truth, while she did carried out the cover-up, it was actually Klaasje's idea, something she lied about. Her motive isn't nearly as solid as it seemed, if your Volition skill hasn't brought it up yet, she'll point out she couldn't have committed the murder without people in the Whirling-in-Rags hearing the gunshot, meaning she can't be the culprit. She went into hiding because she believed the rumors you were a Corrupt Cop out to kill her for a Jamrock gang.
      • The accusation of you being a Killer Cop turns out to be one as well, as your Station 41 partner firmly establishes that you aren't one in the finale, simply because you're too unstable to be utilized in that way. It turns out she just interpreted your reputation as the "Human Can Opener" literally and assumed the worst.
    • Passing a check in the church allows Harry to remember that Dolores Dei loved collecting figurines, and resolve to give her one should he ever meet her. Sure enough, he meets her in a dream later on... and giving her the figurine does nothing to win her favor.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Late in the game, you need to get inside a building. One of the possible ways in is to climb an incredibly dangerous-looking ladder — some bars are missing, the base of the ladder is three meters off the ground, and it's likely to collapse if you try. It's dangerous enough that Kim wants nothing to do with it. One of the solutions you can come up with to this problem is teleporting, and by teleporting, your Savoir Faire skill really means dashing up ten meters of broken ladder with your eyes closed as if it's the most natural thing in the world — and should you pass the check, this actually works.
  • Religious Horror: There's an unsettling undercurrent of it running through all things related to the above-mentioned Dolores Dei and her church. The lore even notes that being subtly terrifying was part of her mystique. Also, those constant longings you have to "win her back"? Turns out you're projecting quite a lot of Dolores into your ex-girlfriend Dora, to the point your last sequence involve meeting her and desperately trying to mend things with the ex-girlfriend, who's looking like Dolores.
  • Retro Universe: Revachol mixes 1970s aesthetics and technology (plus a few technologies that never were) with an early 19th-century French aesthetic. For instance, the police wear highwayman-style cloaks instead of raincoats on patrol, Kim's sporty patrol car looks more like a stagecoach, and the streetlights are styled after hurricane lamps.
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: The Boring Cop copotype has you actively working to embody a completely ordinary, even dull, Consummate Professional police detective. The description for its associated thought, Regular Law Official, notes that this can't come naturally for someone with your colourful past and current looks.
  • Right Hand Vs Left Hand: The Wild Pines Group sent Joyce to negotiate, but also sent mercenaries from Krenel to act as her 'bodyguards'. The mercs, however, don't answer to Joyce, and with the hanging death of their colonel, have gone rogue, convening their own 'tribunal' against the locals. Joyce is only in occasional contact with them, and the superiors both she and the mercs answer to are too bogged down in bureaucracy to call them off. Which results in a drunken bloodbath outside the Whirling where it's all you can do to survive and save a handful of Titus's men at the climax of the case.
  • Right on Queue: The Jam looks like a full-on Post-Apocalyptic Traffic Jam, but has actually only been going on for a few weeks — the company has ordered the drawbridge into Martinaise raised, and the Union isn't letting anyone into the harbour, resulting in a long line of decrepit long-haul trucks, many of the lorry-drivers having abandoned all hope of ever getting through and simply having walked away, leaving their vehicles and cargo behind. A few stragglers have set up camp, or in the case of small-time hustler Siileng, set up shop selling clothing and food (humanitarian aid food marked not for resale). You can only see the portion of the Jam that extends into Martinaise proper, but it's apparently lined up for miles to the southeast of the game world.
    Tommy Le Homme: It's the Jam, my man. [...] It's a traffic jam for the ages. Harbour gates up the street are shut tight. No explanation given. Workers on strike. Scabs agitatin'. An all-around clusterfuck.
  • Rocks Fall Everybody Dies: Any check which reduces your Health or Morale can potentially kill you, so even trivial actions can potentially end your game — even failing to put on your pants (a Heroic BSoD at the realization a screwup like you has no business being a cop so you just walk away from the case) or trying and failing to grab your tie off of a spinning fan (the exertion is the last straw that triggers a deadly heart attack).
  • RPGs Equal Combat: Averted. Combat isn't even a distinct gameplay mechanic.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The planet that the game takes place on is a spherical shape, with large patches of land subsumed by the Pale. The result is that only patches of land remain, creating a "patchwork" look to the planet. Hmm... a patchwork orb, eh?
  • Running Gag: Certain dialogue options, once chosen, will open up callbacks to the same line, whether unlocking otherwise unavailable options or slightly rephrasing ones that would always be there otherwise.
    • Your Limbic System, if you ask what the world is like before you even wake up at the beginning of the game, warns you that there's nothing out there but 'evil apes dukin' it out on a giant ball.' You can adopt this turn of phrase as your own, confusing various NPCs. Joyce finds it cynical; Morel points out that while it's an apt description, humans can hardly be said to be cryptids unknown to science.
    • Failing the Conceptualization check to come up with a good name for Kim given that you can't remember your actual name allows you to dub yourself Raphaël Ambrosius Costeau, which you can't deny is cool although you can ask Conceptualization if people won't think you're a douche with such a fancy name. Insist you're Raphaël Ambrosius Costeau for long enough, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, and you're rewarded with the Detective Costeau thought. While thinking it over, you suffer -2 Conceptualization for it being 'an idiotic idea,', but complete the thought and it gives you +1 Esprit de Corps and +1 Savoir Faire because they're French and thus fancy.
    • Once you encounter a bust of Kras Mazov, you can start to claim to several people that you actually resemble the guy quite a bit. People you point this out to will admit to some resemblance, but that you look considerably worse. Claiming you are literally the reincarnation of Kras Mazov (or that maybe Mazov never actually killed himself, even though that was fifty years ago) awards you a Thought and a lot of raised eyebrows.
  • Schmuck Bait: It's hard to know when it's just your Thoughts' opinion on what you should do or when it's really in your best interest — but on occasions when they're particularly argumentative or when a Thought you wouldn't expect is chiming in with advice not to do something, it usually ends badly for you if you go ahead anyway. Played more straight when you have high Volition, since it acts as the Only Sane Man — disregarding its advice is almost always blatantly harmful.
  • Schizo Tech: A Retro Universe somewhat like 1970s Earth but with its own distinct culture and aesthetics, with radio-based computers and cops who wield muzzle-loading handguns and drive supercharged stagecoaches. While semi-automatic and automatic firearms exist in the universe, their use is tightly regulated, with the RCM having to instead rely on flintlock pistols. This makes the rogue Wild Pine Mercenaries, all decked out with automatic rifles and completely bulletproof armor, all the more dangerous.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • The Cocaine Skull, lost treasure of the dead kings of Revachol, supposedly buried beneath Martinaise in the tombs and catacombs of le Royaume. It's supposedly some kind of a bejeweled skull with an impossible amount of purple coke inside. Crazy homeless local raconteur Idiot Doom Spiral all but spells out the idea that the skull will be the object of yet another extended side-investigation, hidden beyond the derelict van marked Delta Logistics Company — but that you can't embark on said quest right now, and you and your fellow would-be seekers probably never will... unless a huge amount of money were to, say, fall out of the sky (and into the developers' laps).
    • It's also hinted that several of the cases in your ledger — the mural, the unsolvable case, and "THE SQUARE BULLET HOLE MURDERS" — also caused you to black out in a manner similar to the case of the hanged man. The source of the aforementioned square bullet-holes is outright called a story for another day at one point.
    • On a grander note, a number of hints from your Esprit de Corps and Shivers skills point to a second Revolution on the verge of breaking out in Revachol. Evrart's strike is all about consolidating power in Martinaise and readying the Union for war; Shivers describes the discovery of caches of monarchist-era swords in addition to the various antique rifles you've already found yourself; and Klaasje, if pressed, can admit that part of the reason she came to Revachol was to be on the scene come spring, for an event she obliquely refers to as "the Return" (a term which Cindy the Skull also writes in the massive graffito she paints in Martinaise's central square). Depending on your politics, as one of the last lines of the game, Esprit de Corps can either present you with a Flash Sideways which suggests your fellow officers at the 41st are in on The Conspiracy; or, alternatively, if you internalized the Revacholian Nationhood thought and your Fascist Cop rating is high, or have a high Reaction Speed when talking to Revachol through Shivers, an apparent vision of the future twenty years from now in which the city is threatened with nuclear annihilation which only you can stop.
  • Sherlock Scan: Visual Calculus allows you to do this, starting off with you casually differentiating the footsteps of eight different persons and knowing their shoe size, to mentally reconstructing crime scenes and isolating every single possible point a bullet could have been fired from just by looking at the scene.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Disco Elysium, as opposed to "Disco Inferno". "Disco Infernum" may also be invoked by the player. The game's cover of British Sea Power's "Want To Be Free", "Burn, Baby, Burn", includes a whispered "Disco Inferno" at several points.
    • One of the skills is called Inland Empire, which has been described by the developers as "the Lynchian skill."
      • "Yellow Man" and the use of insects as a motif are subtler nods to Blue Velvet; you can also find a sheet of literal blue velvet in the Doomed Commercial Area.
    • Your hotel bathroom at the beginning of the game: "Words fail to describe how rank it smells in here. They should've sent a poet."
    • Titus Hardie and his posse, who act as muscle/law for the Union, are known as the Hardie Boys.
    • If you fail the Logic check to convince Titus that Klaasje has been manipulating him this whole time, one of the possible dialogue options is "'Tis Pity She's a Whore. (wink)"
    • The protagonist of an in-universe crime fiction book series is called Dick Mullen, a reference to Nick Mullen, one of the hosts of the Cum Town podcast.
    • Egg Head's look, accent, and many of his Catchphrases are an homage to the German Electronic Music band Scooter and their frontman H.P. Baxxter, including "HARD CORE!" "[insert city name], the place to be!" "Latierski materialski," and "The question is, what is the question?" Spiky-haired Andre refers to "the sound above my hair." Union lookout Call Me Mañana is named after another of their songs.
    • If you get lost in a labyrinthine conversation with Egg Head, the game will refer to it as a "garden of forking paths," the title of a story by Jorge Luis Borges about a spy who stages a murder scene to send a coded message.
    • A number of references to German experimental/industrial music group Einstürzende Neubauten. The "Col Do Ma Ma Daqua" thought/cryptid, said to translate as a "a whisper light and low" is taken from the song "Ein leichtes leises Saeuseln" (ie. "a whisper light and low" in German). The description for the "Cleaning Out the Rooms" (itself another song from British Sea Power) thought is translated from the lyrics for "Gruendstuck". The band's logo, a petroglyph of a stick figure said to be taken from Stonehenge but variously attributed to Toltec, Olmec, or ancient Chinese inscriptions, is one of the various things you can paint on the wall (with a Conceptualization check) between the front and back of Capeside Apartments.
      Someone's been walking around in your dreams lately, looking for something. Tidying up, rearranging. Storing away all the unrealized dreams, putting old pains in boxes. The worst nightmares have settled down for a while. A spot of light on the bedroom door after the dark.
      from the description for "Cleaning Out the Rooms"
    • In Evrart's office, you can spot an emptied-out cup of coffee with grounds on the bottom. Inland Empire will chime and tell you that it believes it sees an "F.K." in them. This is a reference to Deadly Premonition where the main character York sees the letters F and K upon pouring cream into his coffee.
    • After Idiot Doom Spiral tells you the story of the Headless FALN Rider, Esprit de Corps says: "Oh, headless brother, where are thou?"
    • Possibly unintentional, but your most effective, though perhaps most sadistic, tool is the Spirit Bomb, formed from a glass bottle of nearly pure, medical strength alcohol and an improvised wick. The spirit bomb probably got its name for being a grenade.
    • When when you figure out the exact spot the bullet that killed the mercenary was fired from, by examining its trajectory, you can underscore the occasion with an emphatic exclamation of "Motherfucker!"
    • One of the more overt ones is the achievement for completing the game on Hardcore Mode, simply called "True Detective".
    • After using the phrase "I am the Law!" one too many times, you get a thought concerning how saying that phrase makes your jaw shift and the words come out in a strange way that sounds really awkward. Completing the thought reveals you have partial facial paralysis from childhood polio. In a nod to Dredd's Improbable Aiming Skills, the thought increases the cap for Hand-Eye Coordination to six.
    • The "Motorway South" thought, and the conversation with the paledriver which triggers it, are allusions to the dreamlike, eponymous Route Zero in Kentucky Route Zero. A pre-release devblog post featured the latter as one of their favourite indie games, and it was later tweeted as part of a list the game's notable influences.
    • Investigating the sign that blocks the water lock will result in an Incredibly Lame Pun on one of the factions in The Butter Battle Book: "Butter sign down!"
    • A number of poetic/cryptic phrases in the game (The Far Out Son of Lung, Her Face Forms in the Summertime; Everyone in the World is Doing Something Without Me) are songs by 90s psychedelic electronic group The Future Sound of London.
    • Cuno mentions that he was in Night City at one point. An encyclopedia check can additionally say it sounds like "the name of a city in some pulp science fiction novel."
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: The game uses loud static noise in place of homophobic slurs during dialogue, which can end up being as horrific as the word itself.
  • Sigil Spam: One symbol you'll see repeatedly in graffiti is the white, inverted pentacle-and-antlers. It represents communism in this universe.
  • Significant Haircut: The game does not tell you what its significance is, but once the old washerwoman loans you the shack in the fishing village, it's possible to shave off your mustache and mutton chops. It's easy to read it as a deliberate break with the past. Some like it better, others not so much.
  • Smug Smiler: The Expression, as it's called in-game. The player detective always has a big shit-eating grin on his face, and there's nothing you can do about it even if you recognize it as inappropriate or far from what you're actually feeling — short of succeeding at a very difficult Electrochemistry check to somehow make yourself stop. It comes with its own Origin Story, which similarly requires a difficult Encyclopedia check to remember. Much like shaving your facial hair, the game doesn't tell you how to feel about it, so it's left to the player to assign their own significance to it.
  • Space Madness: Referenced in part of the background details. Travel through the pale has to be strictly regulated to prevent this. The limit is six days per year for regular citizens, twenty for specialists that have proper training. Joyce has spent so much time traveling she admits multiple complete personality changes. There are people that live in the pale long-term on relay stations protected by bubbles of radio waves, but even they are effected just by watching the pale for so long.
  • Spell My Name with an "S":
    • The Semenine isle of Ile de Phantom, Ile-de-Fantome, or Ile-de-Fantôm. May be an in-universe distinction that depends on who you talk to.
    • The proper spelling of the Irish counterpart culture of Ubi Sunt? apparently includes the question mark, being named after a Latin phrase which means "Where are (they)?"
  • Spiritual Successor: Multiple reviewers have described it as one to Planescape: Torment — uses traditional isometric RPG interfaces and design principles, but without the focus on combat, set in a New Weird setting with a focus on conflicting ideologies, starring a mess of an amnesiac protagonist of dubious moral history.
  • The Storyteller: Idiot Doom Spiral (real name George), a tech billionaire turned hobo, can tell you a number of stories, from his own fall from grace to the legend of the Headless FALN Rider, for the price of a beer.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: The game's loading text actively encourages you to act like the bonkers, snarky Defective Detective to Kim's Consummate Professional.
  • Straight Gay: If you talk to the Smoker On the Balcony enough you can start internalizing thoughts about whether or not you're part of the "*homo-sexual underground*" — ultimately it leads to your brain telling you to stop obsessing about yours (or other people's) sexuality. You can, however, still ask Kim if he's ALSO part of the "*homo-sexual underground*". He saves you the trouble of spending another 20 hours thinking about it by saying yes without further comment. If you pass a passive check, your Drama will confirm this.
  • Stranger Behind the Mask: With a host of suspects and all the pieces coming together and the case getting bigger and more complicated, the murderer turns out to be a character we've never met before the last ten minutes of the game — just a deserter who lived through the last moments of the war thanks to an act of cowardice, a Stalker with a Crush who shot the man as much to punish Klaasje as because he was a tool of the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, Lely's death was only ever important for what the union and mercenaries made of it: an excuse to go to war, and the deserter does turn out to be connected to the Claire brothers (manipulating him into killing other supposed enemies of the left) as well as the cryptid whose memory-altering pheromones serve as an odd parallel to the growing entropogenic influence of the pale.
  • Stylistic Suck: Hjelmdallerman, the Man from Hjelmdall is a Conan knockoff (you can get into an argument with the book about its literary merits, or lack thereof). Dick Mullen is a ridiculously overexaggerated wish-fulfillment version of a detective. Both are, in-universe, formulaic dreck with dozens of titles to their name.
  • Take a Third Option: Helping Evrart with getting signatures for building a youth centre means that the noise from construction will eventually force the villagers to move out. Not helping Evrart means you won't get your gun back, which will make your life way harder later on. The solution? Study the documents thoroughly before getting the signatures, and Kim will suggest you could forge them — either yourself or by asking local drunks to sign the papers. By the time Evrart realizes this, you will be long gone.
    • Klaasje proposes one when catching her lying about how The Hanged Man died. Instead of letting her go free or sending her to jail where she will be extradited and killed for other crimes she has done, she suggests giving her a written summons to let her put off her jail sentence for a few months and prepare a legal defense. Picking the third option just makes her ignore the summons and flee the country. It was her idea, after all, and she is a Consummate Liar, though in return she'll give you a major clue to the killer's location.
  • Take That!: Several moments, items and characters deconstruct or mock modern 21st Century Society:
    • When looking at the paranormal books in the bookstore, the alternative medicine books are said to serve platitudes and accuse modern medicine as causing cancer despite a lack of evidence.
    • Every political ideology available in the game (fascism, libertarianism, communism, neoliberalism, and centrism) is criticized rather ruthlessly.
    • Police, in this world, are restricted to using deliberately inefficient firearms that must be muzzle-loaded like muskets. This is to prevent shooting sprees that would surely ensue if cops and civilians had automatic weapons, or so Kim and the detective remark to each other.
    • An in-universe board game you can play with Kim, Suzerainty! is a poke at settlement games like Catan or Civilization. The game is based upon a colonial mindset, which means ruthless expansion and exploitation are the key to victory. Trying to play the game like a fair-minded communist who invests in his people does not help you beat Kim.
    • Sixteen Days Of Coldest April is a jab at Russian classical literature, a Doorstopper of a book that damages both your Health and Morale just by reading it. Your Pain Threshold skill loves it.
  • Take Your Time: While the game looks like there's a time counter, you can actually have some leeway for the encounters in the game. Of course this is subverted in a later encounter, specifically, after meeting Ruby, the Tribunal encounter triggers and all bets are off.
  • Talking to Themself: Activating your skills includes talking with them in your Thought Cabinet or during other conversations, and they're each given a distinct personality, from the overzealous high school coach of Physical Instrument to the actor/jester of Drama. You are also in frequent contact with your Ancient Reptilian Brain (your basal ganglia) and Limbic System (the paleo-mammalian cortex), who narrate your dreams each night.
  • Talk to Everyone: Subverted and parodied several times, such as when you come across an ordinary working-class woman and can decide that she must need a detective's help, because her husband must be missing. She informs you he's not, nor are her children, nor her cockatoo (which she doesn't even own). Double Subverted later, when you discover a dead man on the boardwalk and it turns out to be her husband. The aforementioned talk also makes it much easier to roll an empathy check to properly tell her the news.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: One thought for your Cabinet gives the Detective a +2 bonus to Hand/Eye Coordination to hit targets wearing T-500 armor. It is an ultra-specific niche skill that won't be useful anywhere until the single climactic shootout near the very end of the game.
  • Trivial Title:
    • An abandoned church can be converted into a nightclub and named "Disco Elysium" or the game's original title "No Truce With The Furies".
    • Encyclopedia can tell you that Elysium is a poetic old name for the world as a whole after the existence of the other isolas was discovered; Occidental civilization simply called their isola Mundi (Latin for "the world"), assuming that's all there was.
  • Unconventional Alignment: The game has a rough equivalent to an alignment system in how it measures both your character's political alignment as well as his personality based on the comments you have him make.
  • Urban Fantasy: Much of the game would be a straight detective story, with the exception that it takes place in a world that is pointedly not our earth. Certain technologies from our world don't exist in the game world (and vice-versa), while others developed on distinctly different lines, such as electrical motorized stagecoaches rather than conventional cars or computers being run by radio waves rather than microcircuitry. The most glaringly fantastic thing is that most of the universe seems to consist of absolute nothingness known as the pale, dividing the world into isolas (Italian for islands) that, up until quite recently, didn't know the others even existed, and requires specialized airships equipped with space-bending technology to reach the other side. The pale also has a powerful effect on the human memory and can eventually leave people insane or catatonic — and it's growing.
  • Urban Legends: The legend of the Headless FALN Rider, a headless man in a tracksuit alleged to have ridden on a horse, a bull, or the back of another headless man. You can buy an action figure of him in the pawn shop. According to RCM records, he's believed to have actually been a businessman who killed his ex-girlfriend after she got involved with another woman.
  • Vice City: Revachol West is filled to the brim with out-of-control corruption and locals taking the law into their own hands, murders never being solved, and kids wanting to dance.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: A detective who adopts the Fascist-aligned Thought Cabinet project, Revacholian Nationhood, will start taking morale damage whenever he says anything that pushes him further towards Fascism, which usually equates to saying things that are racist and reactionary. Fascism is thus treated almost as a form of Self-Harm, as damaging to the detective himself as it is to those around him.
  • Villain in a White Suit: The mercenaries briefly seen in the trailer dress in futuristic silvery-white ceramic armor. In-game that moment is the Tribunal, where the drug-fueled, drunken mercs exact bloody vengeance for the hanged man's death on locals who are actually innocent of the crime — despite having openly taken credit for the hanging for the past week, the man wasn't in fact lynched, but was instead shot by a person or persons then unknown, with the lynching as a coverup. The mercenaries don't care — they just want blood.
  • Void Between the Worlds: A variation — while the isolas are technically all part of the same planet (the technology needed to photograph the planet from low orbit is a fairly recent development), the pale divides them so thoroughly by its abstraction/negation of normal space that they are akin to worlds unto themselves, with their own oceans and continents. The pale is a featureless void, extremely difficult to describe in normal language (and not actually shown in-game), which requires specialized airships to traverse and with extended exposure causing cumulative, eventually irreversible damage to the human psyche.
  • Vomiting Cop: You will upon first finding the body unless you pass a very difficult test. Unlike most examples it's not because you're a rookie, but because the corpse has been decomposing for a week. Kim barely manages to hold on.
  • Warts and All: The player character is a legend in in the RCM, and also a hopeless alcoholic, addict, and potentially sex pest. Kim first meets him after the player character has been through a three-day bender that obliterated his memory. In the better endings Kim admits that Harry is completely insane but the best detective he's ever seen.
  • Waxing Lyrical: From real-world songs, making one wonder about their in-universe equivalents:
    • You can quote DMX's "Where The Hood At" at your Shivers skill, and it replies in kind:
      You: Where the hood, where the hood, where the hood at?
    • Cunoesse quotes Snoop Dogg: "Murder was the case, was the case they gave me."
    • When you extract the bullet which has punched a hole in the Hanged Man's basal ganglia, Electrochemistry says "The *funk soul brother* at the back of his head has gone dark. Forever."
    • When you are trying to listen to the beat of the pale, and the church is collapsing around you as a result, you can loudly shout out a line of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody", and Egg Head will quote you right back:
  • Wham Episode: Eventually, the Krenel Mercenaries will initate an armed standoff in the streets that ends up killing several named characters. Your intervention will protentially mitigate the death toll, but you simply cannot save everyone.
  • Wham Line:
    • When investigating the note found in the hidden compartment in your clipboard, you get a message from your Shivers skill. Shivers almost always just provides atmospheric details, rarely gives you suggestions, and almost never gives you commands:
      Shivers: LET GO.
    • Just opening the hidden compartment in your clipboard and seeing its content can bring up a thought that even takes you by surprise:
      Just fucking kill yourself you asshole.
    • When interrogating Klaasje, it is possible for you to pass a difficult Volition check. Upon doing so, Volition takes a moment to contemplate Klaasje's radiant beauty and then tells you:
      Volition: I have bad news for you.
    • To learn about the Pale, you must first speak with Joyce and pass a difficult Conceptualization check, then for her to actually explain what it is, Kim cannot be with you (as he cuts her off, fearing for your mental state upon learning the truth). As such, one can go for several in-game days and ,many real world hours without learning the true nature of the world. The truth coming out is a big shock, for the player and for Harry.
      You: Oh my god, wait— what the hell are you telling me?
      Joyce: ... Imagine vast swathes of land disrupted by nothingness.
  • Wiki Walk: The Encyclopedia skill is very prone to getting sidetracked and taking you along for the trip.
  • Windbag Politician: Sunday Friend is a high-level government official for Moralism International. He preaches the virtues of Moralism through extremely long strings of meaningless jargon, and deflects any other questions about himself, the murder, or what he's doing in the apartment of a gay student in one of the city's poorest districts.
  • Worf Had the Flu: The mercenary team hired by Wild Pines to keep an eye on the strike are highly trained, armed to the teeth with automatic weaponry (while the average citizen and police officer are restricted to muzzle-loaded weapons, if they have any guns at all), and decked out in bulletproof armor. It is made very clear that if you do not complete your investigation on time and they get a chance to act out their tribunal, the ensuing massacre would be catastrophic. When the Tribunal inevitably does take place, it is made abundantly clear that the only reason you stand a chance against them at all is because they're all too drunk and off their rockers on combat drugs to act effectively, which can buy you just enough time to get the drop on them before they can start.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: A trashed hostel room, stripped to your socks and underpants, with a killer hangover and complete blackout amnesia. It isn't until you stagger out into the hall that you find out you're a detective from a fellow guest.
  • You Were Trying Too Hard: The game hits you with a subtle version of this at the climax of the Tribunal. Once Major Kortenaer first his Last Breath Bullet at you, you are presented with two options, go for an "Impossible" check (which is set to fail no matter how well you do) to attempt to Dodge the Bullet, or just quietly accept that you cannot avoid the shot and let it happen. Choosing the former leads the bullet to hit your inner thigh and almost hit an artery, leaving you with a somewhat serious injury when you fully regain consciousness two days later. Choosing the latter, however, means the bullet just ends up hitting your outer thigh, still leaving you wounded and down for the count for two days, but not in quite as bad a shape as the other choice.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Not seen in-game thanks to the top-down isometric perspective, but visible in the opening splash screen: rather than seagoing ships, which cannot cross the pale, most cargo shipping and passenger travel is accomplished through the use of airships, or aerostats — blocky vessels which resemble aircraft carriers, maneuvering via enormous fixed rotors. Even the equivalent of naval forces use aerostats rather than conventional battleships, such as the Coalition patrol ships off the shore of Revachol which have been a permanent feature of the city's skyline since the end of the World Revolution.

"I'm in my head. I miss you."
"Well, I'm in my head too. We're all in our heads."

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