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Video Game / Disco Elysium

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"The furies are at home in their mirror; it is their address.
Even the clearest water, if deep enough can drown."
R. S. Thomas

Disco Elysium is a New Weird Western RPG developed by the Estonian game developing collective ZA/UM. It took inspiration from New Wave Science Fiction, detective stories and classic Western RPGs, Planescape: Torment in particular. It was released for PC on October 15, 2019 and on for Mac on April 27, 2020. On March 30, 2021, Disco Elysium: The Final Cut was released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Google Stadia. The Final Cut was also released for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Nintendo Switch on October 12, 2021.

One miserable morning, you awaken from pain and darkness in a trashed motel room with the hangover to end all hangovers. You have no idea where, or even who, you are, but some details begin filling in as you explore: you are a police detective visiting Martinaise, harbor district of the city of Revachol, jewel of the Insulindian Isola, in the year '51 of the current century. Perhaps most importantly, you were sent here three days ago to deal with a lynched corpse, but instead went on a deranged bender of drug and alcohol abuse.

Now, you must resume the investigation with the aid of Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi, a fellow detective from a rival precinct. But of course, it won't be as simple as it seems — the victim, a security contractor for a major international shipping company, stands at the center of a labor dispute involving the local dockworker's union, corrupt businessmen, communist agitators, and foreign interests, with blood on the streets looking more likely by the day. Everyone involved is eager to use you for their own ends — and of course, you're no titan of mental stability, what with the two dozen voices in your head vying for your attention...

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 tree of 24 skills 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.

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. In spring of 2021, ZA/UM released an Updated Re-release of the game, subtitled The Final Cut. It includes additional content for the game, most prominently full voice acting, an entirely new area with new characters, and four new quests based on the player character's political alignment. It released on consoles and as a free update for all owners of the PC version.

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 was translated into English in mid-2023 and links to download it can be found here.

The tropes are at home in the mirror — it is their address.

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  • Abandoned Area: Even many buildings which survived the war intact have fallen into disrepair over the half-century since. The coast is dotted with empty skyscrapers, old boardwalks, and fishing shacks, and with the strike ongoing and the harbour closed, many lorry drivers have been forced to abandon their lorries on the road into Martinaise. Most prominent are the Doomed Commercial Area, with its shadowy hallways packed with forgotten wares, weathered taxidermy, and creepy mannequins, and the old church on the coast, abandoned to the elements after a shootout between local gangs and the RCM, now a squat for junkies and "spookers", according to a group of local ravers. Martinaise proper has had this reputation post-war, still bearing enough scars both obvious and subtle and often going completely unpoliced and unsupported.
  • 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.
  • Abnormal Ammo: As indicated by the title, "THE SQUARE BULLET HOLE MURDERS" case, had you trying to solve the case of a sequence killer whose murders left strange square-shaped holes, though no actual bullets were ever retrieved from the scenes of crime. It is heavily implied that the killer is using a modified gun firing ice cubes to kill his victims, and this was how he was able to not leave any bullets behind; they simply melted away and the RCM was none the wiser. Which is also why he is waiting for spring to come around before he starts killing again; his bullets need warmer weather to thaw.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: While Kim is usually quite serious, there are occasions where your antics break through his stoicism, 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.
  • 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.
  • After Boss Recovery: Your encounter with Ruby can result in a lot of Health damage depending on how long it goes, so there's a stash of three Drouamines you can find in their camp right after.
  • Ahem: Coughing and throat-clearing appear frequently as part of the game's mostly realistic diction, but are written as *khm* rather than "Ahem."
  • The Alcoholic: The Player Character, self-declared if you so choose — with bloodshot eyes and shiny puffy skin, waking up with a monstrous hangover. Even downing one bottle of booze has various characters comment that you look like a trainwreck. Jean complains that you reek of the stuff, even if you've touched a bottle only once.
  • Allohistorical Allusion:
    • Revachol made massive profit off of Safre by introducing cocaine to the country, then forcing the addicted country to export exotic goods. This is exactly what the UK did to China.
    • Despite having been the birthplace (and the gravesite) of Communism (or various Communist movements), Slavic/Balkan Graad and East Asian Safre balkanized shortly thereafter and are still strongly associated with Communism, not unlike the modern Russian Federation or even the modern-day ostensibly Communist PRC mixed in with Warlord-era China.
    • Safre is engaged in a cold war, using Vietnam-esque Tien En as a proxy, with Graad. The entire conflict transplants the Sino-Soviet border clashes into The Vietnam War, and a My Lai Massacre equivalent is even part of modern parlance as shorthand for "war crime" (in this case, "Co Hoi").
    • UK-flavoured Vesper-Messina and its apparently non-violent political partition into two countries reflects both the UK and the Commonwealth territories becoming independent (apparently, Messinans are Australian, judging from what Harry thinks they sound like), but also the non-violent revolution of Czechloslovakia and its eventual partition into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
    • Dutch-flavoured mercenaries brutally extracting precious material out of a Darkest Africa-type area, complete with massive racist war crimes against the populace and slave labour, combines Belgium decimating the Congo for rubber and other goods with South Africa and Rhodesia's various conflicts (and, of course, racist war crimes and oppression) against the native black populace.
    • A Moralintern rep talks about wanting to make a "United States" out of the current Coalition of nations occupying Revachol, but the description sounds much more like The European Union, and with much more capital. This is no coincidence; modern rhetoric about the EU has often conjured up the dream/nightmare vision (depending on opinion) of a "United States of Europe".
      • Hammering this home further is that Revachol has only existed for 400 years (the US, as of Disco Elysium's release, is just shy a century of this), split off from a massive colonising effort from a European country (Sur-la-Clef, while French, is stated to have similar reputations to our world's Britain, starting from horrible cuisine), and is mostly made up of immigrants.
    • "Operation Death Blow" was a never-before-seen assault on a beachhead held by the Communists, who rose to power identically to many European fascists, consisting of human-wave landings backed up by heavy artillery. It's Disco Elysium's equivalent of D-Day.
    • Like the modern death of disco, disco in Elysium died out due to waning interest, a stigma of "music for old people thinking they're still hip", and high-profile drug-related scandals.
    • Seol mashes up Japan's Closed-Door Policy (which, unlike Japan, has never been fully lifted), Taiwan's semi-self-imposed isolation, North Korea's forced isolationism, and city-state Singapore's general economic isolation from the rest of Asia. It's commonly feared they've got better tech and are taking Western jobs, similar to the explosive growth Japan had in the eighties and China and South Korea's current economic explosion, and it's further implied the country is in a constant state of conservative lockdown, not unlike Taiwan and North Korea's infamous dictatorships.
    • The People's Republic of Samara mirrors other People's Republics such as China and North Korea. Like China it is described as having drifted away from its' socialist roots towards sustained democracy; it is ruled over by the dictatorial President Sapormat 'Sport' Knezhinisky, not unlike North Korea's deceased dictator Kim Jong-Il. Similar to both states, the Samaran Republic has initiated a rigorous fitness programme for its citizens; unlike any known fitness programme, it involves Bear Wrestling.
    • Pan-Celtic Ubi Sunt? (sic) is known for devastating famines, economic disaster, and an ongoing campaign of violent Communist resistance to nearby Vesper-Messina. Its "disappearing" status is also in line with an old Irish myth about an island called Hybrasil.
    • The Communist theory of Plasm combines the Stalin-favoured Lysenkoism (which rejected established science as a form of capitalism), Communist rejection of intellectualism during the Cultural Revolution (wherein even scientific theories were decried as capitalist), Pol Pot's own belief in a farming-based society, and other fringe Communist pseudoscience movements into what boils down to "the more people believe in Communism, the better its methods will work" (e.g.: housing projects built against normal architectural standards will stand, crops will yield better results regardless of soil quality, etc.) Its founder is partially based on Trotsky, though his exile was apparently self-imposed.
  • 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. It's also offhandedly mentioned that a few electronics companies have been around for over two centuries, and massive airships which are able to fold the non-space of the pale are commonplace. At the same time, the setting has yet to develop personal home computers, although there was one company that nearly succeeded... fifty years ago, before the Revolution. A prototype tape-using computer becomes plot-relevant.
    • In addition to the universe's computers running off of it, radio in general seems to be the main form of media prevalent in the universe, with comparatively very little visual technology and entertainment available: other than things like picture books, Kim's compact Polaroid-like camera seems to be some of the newest such technology available, and while it's stated that video rentals exist, the implication seems to be that they rent out movie reels instead of anything like VHS cassettes and television is more or less nonexistent, which includes lack of monitors for the aforementioned radiocomputers, making it difficult to discern how they're meant to be used for anything beyond simple tasks with their own dedicated buttons.
      • With the lack of televisions, monitors and self-contained computing devices, video and arcade games are also naturally nonexistent in the setting, with the closest equivalent being pinball: as the Detective can later recall, Kim used to be a well-known pinball player, something which he had to learn for his cover role in a pinball gang which made him hate pinball as a result. As seen from the pinball game added with the Jamais Vu update that the Detective can play, the gameplay and features in the setting's pinball games are at least as complex as they are in currently existing actual pinball machines, including things that would be impractical to implement on real-life pinball games, such as an Interface Screw mode called "Pale Rupture" in form of breakable liquid-filled glass ampoules that cause the playfield (and by extension, the immediate surroundings of the machine) to fill up with smoke that blocks the view to the playing field when broken as a result of gameplay progression, and a definite game-ending victory condition that causes a giant black pinball to be released and drained as the game retracts the flippers and makes them inoperative to give it room to do so.
    • While motor carriages serve the same purpose as cars in our world, they have several notable differences. Their design looks much more like some advanced version of real-life motorized carriages, such as the 1886 Daimler Motorcoach, their motor is exposed on the back instead of being inside a hood, their steering is done through a set of levers instead of a wheel and, if the Kim's motor carriage is anything to go by, the sound their motors make sounds nothing like anything in real life.
  • Alternative Calendar: Zigzagged. Centuries aren't numbered, but individual years within a century are — the current year is '51. The days of the week and months of the year do line up with the Gregorian calendar, however, with the game beginning on a cold Monday in March.
  • 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.
    • If you have high Shivers during the epilogue, you find out that the Square Bullet Hole Killer is due to strike again.
    • High enough Esprit de Corps implies that the Chief of Precinct 41 is planning on starting or joining in on some kind of revolution against the Coalition, and it's heavily implied they'll be counting on Harry regardless of his political choices during the game.
    • Whatever the Return is, it's coming soon — either by Klaasje's hand, the Dockworkers' Union hand, or even by the RCM's hand.
    • Successfully completing the Church storyline reveals that the city itself needs Harry to stop a nuclear detonation from wiping Revachol off the map.
  • 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.
    • Your blazer is described as looking like it was skinned off a long-dead 'disco animal'.
    • Inland Empire makes repeated references to a sad, lonely sea monster, lurking in the ocean depths or the tunnels and sewers, perhaps the Last of His Kind. The sea monster is a metaphor... for you.
    • 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.
      • Harry's full first name is "Harrier", a type of small hawk, and his former partner Jean's full name is Jean-Heron, "heron" being a fishing bird.
      • You can buy a book about cockatoos and use it to figure out what kind of cockatoo is Harry's spirit animal.
    • 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.
  • 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 the protagonist, the various characters they've met, and Revachol as a whole.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The game thrives on this. See also Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane below. Examples include:
    • Why do businesses keep failing in the Doomed Commercial District? The theory by the bookstore owner that it's a curse seems obviously ridiculous, and the novelty dicemaker offers the far more conventional explanation that businesses failing in a poor capitalist economy is just very common. But if you get through the church sidequest, it becomes surprisingly plausible that a 2mm hole in the fabric of reality is responsible for it all. Really.
    • Why did your character lose his memory? It's all but stated initially that you simply drank so hard in an attempted suicide that you forgot nearly everything, but other characters point out how implausible this is, and the game also suggests the amnesia could be either a coping mechanism to get over your Dark and Troubled Past, or an effect from exposure to the pale. There are some suggestions that Harry may have deliberately given himself amnesia, as Judit says this isn't the first time Harry drank himself into total amnesia, or that it could have been a pale-related ritual to purge himself. It's even implied that all of Precinct 41 are the type of nutsos who'd do something as ludicrous as give themselves amnesia to solve a case.
    • Was your character actually a Dirty Cop under the payroll of a drug kingpin prior to the events of the game? While your partner denies it and gives a solid justification as to how it's unlikely, he never gives any definite proof to confirm his point. Your Communications Officer gives you a far more ambiguous answer by contrast, pointing out how a lot of cops are on the take, and Ruby's description of the cop believed to be on La Puta Madre's employ is far too similar to your appearance to be a coincidence.
    • Just who was Dora? Was she truly devoted to you, only to be driven away by your worsening mental state and addictions? Was she cold-hearted and destined to leave you once she grew tired of you? Or did you just have a normal relationship that fizzled out and ended in her leaving when the spark was gone? Your amnesia, mental instability and inability to emotionally process her leaving you makes getting a clear explanation almost impossible. Your tendency to latch on to each and every detail that reminds you of her makes it even harder to determine what were significant factors in your relationship and falling out and what is just your mind's desperate attempt to find some meaning in her leaving you.
      • Speaking of, is the dream of Dora just a figment of your imagination equating Her Holiness Dolores Dei to her, as the Dora-in-your-dreams states, some weird psychic link to the real Dora, or is it ACTUALLY Dolores Dei herself? Note that accusing Dei-as-Dora of her historic atrocities has her go out-of-character to defend herself, and that the figure is also keenly aware of the fact she's NOT Dora but somehow knows every detail about what happened between Dora and Harry that day, and that her awareness of the fact she visits Harry repeatedly isn't far off from religious visions. As for it being Dora (somehow), the fact the pale does incredibly weird things to reality and a hidden conversation you can have with Dora in real life being rather similar to the one you have in your head raises another question.
      • A specific line in the last dream immediately raises a question that is never addressed again: Was the real Dora ever actually pregnant with your child? If so, did she really terminate the child to avoid being trapped in perpetual poverty with you? The Dora of your dreams becomes unusually venomous when she tells you about this, even more so than the rest of the dream. The specific details of what happened are deeply obfuscated by Harry's own self-loathing and resentment.
    • What IS the pale? While the game mostly trends towards it being otherworldly, it does throw several curveballs as to what it is - unreality, a noosphere-like environment of human consciousness and thought, the collective memory of mankind manifested, or just a simple hazard in the world, similar to radiation?
    • While the Phasmid is real, does it actually talk to you? The skill that lets it talk to you is Inland Empire, which has lied to you and given you some wild theories before, and Kim claims that you didn't converse with it - you just stood there the whole time.
    • Is anything the Phasmid tells you real? It doesn't claim to be omniscient, but the things it tells you - such as the animals all being able to communicate to each other like humans, lost civilisations even before the Areopagites, and the nature of the pale - can't be confirmed for one reason or another, like the lost civilization being far too buried to be dug up any time soon or the fact humans can't talk to animals, for obvious reasons.
    • For Communists, how much of the 'plasm' theory - which boils down to "communism and the belief in communism warps reality to be favourable to communism" - is true, and did you and the students actually use plasm to hold the matchbox tower aloft? And even if you did, is communism plausible enough to generate enough plasm to avoid crumbling into ruins like your model tower, or do all ideologies inevitably die out?
    • What IS your Precinct planning? Communist playthroughs heavily imply they're going to support the Dockworkers in their strike, but there's the possibility your commander may just be a Moralist or even Nationalist trying to do the same.
      • The fact that the Ptolemy Pryce glimpse is available no matter what political alignment Harry chooses would imply that it's possibly some kind of apolitical resistance - maybe even the RCM striking out to become an independent police force, no longer answerable to the Moralintern. Ultimately Pryce values Harry's devotion to Revachol and Revacholian people (as the gameplay shows the player, Harry can't help but be interested in people) as the quality they need - and does not trust the more Moralist-aligned Trant.
    • What's the Return? Does it have anything to do with the nuclear strike La Revacholiere is worried about?
    • Moralists won't get a straight answer to what happens if they come along with the dropship after reporting the Pale Hole. Killed, inducted into a conspiracy, debriefed and maybe pending a release back to society, or becoming some kind of tracker to the Moralists - whatever it is, the Moralists have no comment, and the Hanged Man remains.
    • There's an old bullet-riddled wall you can investigate. You can recreate the crime scene and deduce that it dates from the Revolution, but who killed who (communists, anarchists, moralists, fascists, etc.) is lost to history.
  • 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.
    • On a more comedic note, both the Hjelmdallerman and Dick Mullen books that you can read don't have a definite ending: the former is an ongoing series where every single book seems to end on a cliffhanger and since the latter is an old copy, it comes apart when the glue holding it together fails as Harry frantically turns the pages to get to the end and the last quarter of the pages is scattered to the winds: if you check back at the book store, there aren't any other copies of the book left either. You're then given a choice to pick any of the previously mentioned suspects as the murderer and treat it as the actual ending to the book.
  • Anti-Escapism Aesop: Ultimately, the game is about a man retreating into his own world to avoid dealing with his personal problems.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • 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 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 that you completed all sidequests and thus have no more extra skill points, so failing it counts as a success, just with different flavor text.
      • Many other white checks important to the investigation can also be overcome even if you fail - usually with a bit of help from Kim - allowing you to avoid wasting too many skill points on reopening and retrying them. (For example, if you fail to break open Ruby's lorry, Kim will step in and do it for you, and if you fail an Authority check with the Hardie Boys one too many times, you gain the option to hand things over to him.)
    • 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.
    • During your investigation, René can identify the Dried May Bells that you find on Klaasje's balcony as an old monarchist and revolutionary symbol. Should you find the May Bells after René has died on day 4, then his friend Gaston can identify them for you instead.
  • Arc Words:
    • "I don't want to come back." — This and variations upon it are often spoken by you or your mind in your darkest moments. Often to underscore your longing for death or, more accurately, some sort of peaceful oblivion where there are no ghosts from the past to haunt you.
    • "There is nothing funny about X." — Spoken at various point by several characters. Most notably, the Hanged Man himself will tell you that "there is nothing funny about jokes."
    • "I don't want to be this kind of animal anymore." — During your self-destructive bender, Klaasje heard you yell this, and the statement is alluded to multiple times over the game, referencing all the existential horrors that can accompany the human capacity for abstract thought, imagination, and the ability to understand the inevitability of one's own decay and death. Your encounter with the Insulindian phasmid allows you to decide whether you still wish to be something more like it, or if you've come to embrace being you, an 'incredibly sensitive instrument'.
    • "I don't want to get better, I only want to get worse."
  • 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."
    • You meet an old communist who tells you that all aristocrats want to have sex with their own children.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Innocences are spiritual and temporal leaders, and a few of them were false:
    The most famous — and important — of these was Ernö Pasternak. He was into torture, despotism, hymns, cannons, and world conquest, but got defeated by Stepan the Despicable of Kedra.
  • Artificial Stupidity: While the Developer's 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. One of the more extreme cases is Kim agreeing with Detective on the matter of pale and the 2mm. hole, even if you finish Soona's quest without him.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Played straight and conversed if you try to shoot down the Hanged Man. Kim will try to do it after some convincing, despite the fact that behind the body are populated apartment buildings. If you try to convince him to try again, he'll point out how dangerous it is to use a firearm in that way, but will allow you to give it a shot as well.
  • Artwork and Game Graphics Segregation: Several characters have dialogue portraits that do not match their in-game models, and vice versa. The Detective is a prominent example: his model shows him with a shoulder-length mullet, but his dialogue portrait, coming from an older piece of concept art, depicts him with short hair.
    • In Kim Kitsuragi's character portrait, he wears his jacket zipped up. His in-game model, however, wears the jacket unzipped. His hairline is also straight in his portrait, but M-shaped/receding on his model.
    • Joyce Messier's portrait has her with voluminous dark gray hair, styled in what is described as a "tastefully short bob", and what looks like either a low bun or the beginning of a ponytail. Her model, also based on older concept art, shows her with flatter brown hair and a high ponytail. Interestingly, the scarf she wears is yellow-ish in her dialogue portrait, and light gray in the concept image her model best matches, but her actual model gives it more of an orange color.
    • Gary has an extreme case of this. His dialogue portrait portrays him as a young-looking man, with light brown hair in a shoulder-length bob. His in-game model makes him look far older: while his hair still reaches his shoulders, it is now in the form of a severely-balding mullet, the color aged to a shade of white.
    • Egg Head's model depicts him with a blond, flat top pompadour. His portrait in the original version of the game shows a haircut that is much shorter and flatter, and The Final Cut gave him a new portrait where he looks bald.
    • When Cuno is first talked to, the Detective's Conceptualization skill claims he is "almost exquisite in his ugliness" and compares him to a gremlin. If you only look at his dialogue portrait, this seems like an Informed Attribute — while his impish scowl isn't exactly inviting, his appearance is otherwise pretty average. His model, on the other hand...
  • Backup Bluff: You can bluff on Ruby about an backup of colleagues that you were talking about with her, they are waiting outside of this place, with guns, while in reality you came here alone with Kim. It will also make the attempts of talking her out of suicide quite difficult.
    You: Yeah, that's right, I was just... testing you. They're right outside, with guns.
    Ruby: I've faced worse. (she shrugs)
    Drama: She hasn't. She hasn't gone up against three armed people before. And she believed you.
  • Barbarian Hero: In-Universe, there is the Man from Hjelmdall, a Conan the Barbarian rip-off who dual-wields zweihander swords and is the central character in a series of books with hundreds of entries, strongly suggested to all be juvenile formulaic garbage.
  • Battle Cry: 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.
  • Bears Are Bad News: One failed business in the Doomed Commercial Area was founded on the idea that people would want to buy ice cream out of a fridge built into the belly of a ten-foot-tall taxidermy polar bear. It turns out that a rearing, snarling "hypercarnivore" that made children cry was not a huge draw for business.
    • As mentioned above, you can also learn that the notoriously corrupt People's Republic of Samara has recently adopted Bear-Wrestling as a national pastime.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Evrart and the Union have bugs and spies everywhere in Martinaise, even on their own employees.
  • Big "OMG!": 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????!!!!!???!!??!!???!!!!
    • Similarly, an "OH MY GOD!!!" is triggered when The Pigs tries to shoot Harry, whether or not you succeed in the check.
  • Bittersweet Ending: You solve the case, but ...
    • Some more people die along the way. Making the right decisions can only reduce the number of deaths, not prevent them entirely.
    • Your colleagues in Precinct 41 might not take you back. Say the wrong things in the final scene, and they will decide that they have had enough of your drunken misbehaviour, and dismiss you.
    • Martinaise is still a dump, because its problems run much deeper than one murder.
    • You won't be able to solve all of your personal problems along the way, as they run far too deep to just be overcome in a matter of days. Actually turning your life around will require years of commitment, and there's no guarantee that you won't just fall off the wagon again at some point down the line.
  • 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; or when Suggestion tells Harry to kiss Dora/Dolores Dei in his vision of her, which does not go well:
    Suggestion: Brother, you should put me in front of a firing squad. I have no words for how I failed you.
  • 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 damage to objects.
  • 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.
  • Boss Rush: The climax pits you against Ruby and the mercenary tribunal, the two most dangerous encounters in the game, in short succession. You only get a brief chance to heal after the first encounter before diving into the second.
  • Bragging Rights Reward:
    • Downplayed with the Speedfreaks DONKS, a pair of shoes that are very hard to obtain, since doing so requires that you start a quest that is effectively secret as it is hidden behind two failed Shivers checks, and then requires you to pass a somewhat difficult Reaction Speed check during said quest. You will first recieve the DONKS following the Tribunal, which is effectively the story's climax, meaning that you can only wear them during the Dénouement portion of the game, limiting their utility somewhat, though they can still be useful in passing a few of the endgame checks.
    • Played straight with the ceramic helmet, which you can only find at the very end of the game, at a point where 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.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: A non-romantic example. Evrart Claire claims that, while he liked the negotiator before Joyce, he had to send him away somehow to avoid being caught in the likely-to-be-violent confrontation between the Dockworkers' Union and the shipping companies. (More pragmatically, it forced Joyce, in actuality one of the owners of said shipping companies, to come, and the last negotiator knew several ways in.) According to Joyce, this came in the form of telling him to "fuck off, midget" and kicking him out.
  • Broken Bridge: The water lock is your only way of accessing the western part of the map, and it is broken at the start of the game because of your character and his vehicular antics prior to losing his memory. Played with in that no specific story progression or effort on the player's part is required to fix it. It is repaired overnight into the third day no matter what you do.
  • 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. By basically screwing up local reality with the concept of nothingness, namely by making it so the old church is no longer hardcore enough to serve as a rave club and instead wants to cave in on everyone inside, including you. 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.
  • 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 reveals 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 in 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).
    • When you first meet Kim, you have the option to tell him you're not the person he's looking for. Although you've never met prior to that, he dismisses this possibility out of hand and you're forced to agree that you're a police officer.
    • 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 Visual Calculus telling you 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.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Or at a minimum, deeply flawed and enforced at gunpoint. About half a century prior to the game, a Communist revolution in Revachol was stamped out by the combined force of the Moralintern republics of Sur-la-Clef, Messina, and Oranje, leaving the city divided and occupied. The Coalition massacred all the Communists (and anarchists, and pretty much everyone they even remotely suspected of belonging to one of the two groups) it could find, then mostly left the city to rot, while maintaining an occupation force of aerial warships floating just offshore, ready to rain artillery fire on the city at the first sign of a revolt against the free market. One of the more sympathetic moments from the true murderer is, past his authoritarian blustering and edgelord nonsense, witnessing the Moralintern assault on Revachol and understanding that it wasn't some heroic attempt to save Revachol from communism's ills, it was capitalist countries wanting their nest egg back, and wantonly murdering recruits and even civilians.
  • 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 together the actual meaning of this until you actually corner the killer and listen to his motive.
  • Casting Gag: In the original version of the game, 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, 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 into 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.
    • Finding hope. Throughout the game you encounter disenfranchised people, societal collapse, uncertainty, a looming sense of doom wherever you go, and if you dig deep enough outright confirmation that one way or another, the city and the world have less than three decades of existence left. A lot of the time, you can bring some beauty to this dump, even for a fleeting moment, even in the dumbest things: a hug to someone in grief, a dance-off in a church, even in just waking up to struggle all over again.
  • Cessation of Existence: The pale, also known poetically in Perikarnassis as the Western Plain, 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.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe:
    • "Plasm", a communist theory that melds this with Your Mind Makes It Real and posits that the more communist believers there are, the more reality can be warped - among other things, crops that would normally succumb to overfarming will grow plentiful, Great Leap Forward-style mass industralization will occur without major deaths, and housing structures that would be normally physically impossible will be held aloft by the sheer will of the people itself. The reason why the Communist students dick around with houses of cards so much is that they're trying to see if they can literally will a facsimile of a Communist project into staying upright.
    • The containment of pale is theorized to be helped along by the belief you can contain it - it's stated Churches like the one Noid and his gang hope to occupy are essentially containment zones for pale holes, as for whatever reason, worship and faith reduces or at least halts pale development. By extension, it's implied that crossing the pale requires some form of this, and it's likely not a coincidence that an Innocent (basically Elysium's version of a Pope) was the first to help develop methods to cross the pale without going crazy.
    • There's a further implication that the pale is either human belief itself, part of humanity's consciousness that makes up belief, or some part of a collective of the human experience, among other things.
  • Clingy Costume: Parodied with the leopard-print leotard added with the Jamais Vu update: once you put it on, you can either leave it on permanently or take it off, causing it to disappear, but since it doesn't take up any equipment slots and only replaces your unequiped naked default appearance, it doesn't make much of a difference.
  • 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.
  • Combat Sadomasochist: A potential effect of having a high Pain Threshold. Not only will you shrug off the damage taken, you will start to like expiercing pain, and Pain Threshold will even begin to enourage you to actively seek it out. As such, having a high threshold can make you a pretty unhealthy person.
  • 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.
  • Commie Nazis: Communism here took a far more violent rise to power akin to the ascent of the Nazis and the worlds' response to them: seizing on poor conditions, whipped into a frenzy by one charismatic individual with a pack of underlings as infamous as he was, and uniting the world against them in a massive world war. Official history even claims that Kras Mazov offed himself akin to Hitler after being surrounded by anti-Communist forces.
  • 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 prevent 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.
  • Constructed World: Elysium, the world where the story is set, isn't even a planet, but continents called isolas surrounded by a reality-bending matter known as the pale. A conversation with one character reveals that scientists originally thought the world was a sphere, but the shape of the world seems to be more like a 'dark grey corona.' While it is possible the world was a sphere at one time, it isn't anymore.
  • 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.
  • Cosmetic Award:
    • Hitting it off on your date with Lilienne will result in her giving you her sword as thanks. Equipping it does absolutely nothing but make you look cool. Subverted in The Final Cut, where it actually has a use during the Moralist political quest.
    • 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. You can't even take it with you.
  • Cosmic Horror Reveal: The world seems basically normal, aside from its Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane elements. Magic Realism at the worst. At least, until Joyce reveals what the pale actually is. Downplayed in that it doesn't directly affect the plot, but it's still quite ominous.
  • 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. If not, you can get a Thought in which you wonder how you can become a boiadero, which you eventually conclude can be done by smoking lots of cigarettes.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Doll: The discarded mannequins and dress forms of the Doomed Commercial Area serve no other purpose other than to create an unsettling atmosphere.
  • 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!
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Dolorianism is a religion based around the worship of Dolores Dei and has many similarities to the Catholic Church, including a legacy of imperialism and saints.
  • 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.
    • Saramizia appears to be a mash-up of all of Latin America, including the invasions by the Señorita Pineapple company (based on the real-life massacres in Guatemala and Colombia by the United Fruit Company), the large-scale production and trafficking of coffee and cocaine (prominent in once-again Colombia, as well as Peru, Bolívia, and Brazil), as well as wine (derived from Chile and Argentina). Finally, the region has a socialist legacy that is popular with young communards (the Cuban Revolution).
    • Sur-la-Clef is mostly based on France, but with a few aspects derived from Great Britain as well (in particular, it's stereotyped as having wretched food).
  • Cutting the Knot: The Unsolvable Case. The two culprits would get drunk and commit indecent exposure and petty vandalism, respectively, crimes that weren't severe enough to be arrested for, only issued fines. And since the culprits were both dirt poor, they didn't really have any assets they could pay their fines with, effectively making any attempt at sanctioning their behavior null and void. So the "case" floated from detective to detective for a decade. The protagonist "solved" the case when it floated to him, as he went to interview the culprits and the one who liked to commit property damage stole his clipboard (one of his Companion Cubes) and tried to break over his knee. Harry (also drunk) responded by flying to a blind rage and beating him down with it, ultimately breaking his kneecap. He couldn't walk or go outside anymore, thus effectively preventing him from committing any further acts of vandalism, 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 committing 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.
    • When Rhetoric asks you if you want to dedicate yourself to rebuilding communism, after you have made enough communist statements, you can at first reject it by pointing out that communism has been crushed in the past and that you are too broken and tired to try to stand up against society. In that case, Volition will chime in, and tell you that you should try to rebuild communism exactly because it is an impossible task.
  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: Turning the light on in the hostel room at the beginning of the game can result in this if you have low Pain Threshold and don't turn it off again right away, resulting in Press Start to Game Over if your build doesn't have more than a single point of Health.
  • 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 its 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 "OMG!" 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 of how you play, you'll have a ton of serious flaws. The emotionally sensitive Dale 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 continue 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 malfunctioning 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 aberration, 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 no matter how you built your version of the player character, every single one of them is a mental "shield" of sorts to get over his traumatic breakup with his wife. You roleplay not so much who he is, but rather how he copes — the imaginary avatar he presents to the world. It then ends by further implying that your coping mechanisms of choice, your copotype and political alignment(s), 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.
    • The Amnesiac Hero shows up in most RPGs as a character who is hiding some awful secret. Disco Elysium hints at the existence of something cosmic in Harry's past, but ultimately resolves the mystery by revealing that the player character was just a normal person who lost his memory - even though the mechanism for that is Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, it is never resolved either way because it is not relevant. In a normal RPG, the hero's Lost Lenore would typically be dealt with by presenting her as a saintly presence who assures him that her tragic death was not his fault - in Disco Elysium, the supposed hero dreams of his lost love as an actual saint as an indication of the emotional shallowness and narcissism that drove her to leave him in the first place, while she pleads with him to recognise that she was just a normal person who shouldn't be put on a pedestal like this. She is also not dead - she was just a normal woman who left him due to a mixture of the normal kinds of life disagreements that drive couples apart.
    • In typical Fantastic Noir, a detective would be cool and hardboiled and deal with his pain through Do Not Do This Cool Thing alcohol abuse, Mangst and validation of his feelings about it. In Disco Elysium, Harry aspires to this type of cool, but the story portrays this as the immature, ridiculous coping mechanisms of a pathetic loser retreating into a fantasy world to prevent him meeting his own problems head on. Instead of hitting the accepted The '70s Cop Show standard of funk-inflected cool, Harry is a dated, disco-era embarrassment who is constantly flailing his emotions at people and screwing up at trivial tasks.
  • 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, despite working in a neighborhood infamous for a high rate of violent crime and in a department whose officers are notorious for having high body counts. 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.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • This is the other Game Over you can get if your Morale runs out: you have a nervous breakdown, quit on the spot, and become an insane hobo living under a bridge, while spending your days throwing shit at people.
    • This is what lead to your amnesia: decades of failure, self-loathing, a broken relationship, and trying to cover the pain with drugs, partying, and sadism culminated in a weeks-long breakdown of screaming and near-fatal alcoholism. This apparently has happened to you before, too.
    • It's implied this is also what lead to the Hanged Man hanging around the Whirling-in-Rags; he's a combat vet who's committed numerous atrocities, but he was otherwise apparently an upstanding soldier, and the things he did led him to a massive bender. Apparently, you and him met during your bender.
    • Idiot Doom Spiral's name isn't for nothing: the way he tells it, him forgetting his keys lead to a series of unfortunate events that culminated in him having a breakdown and turning into the hobo he is. Your brain notes he's likely oversimplfying things and blaming other people... which is what you did, too.
  • Developer's 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. The ending of the Fascist Vision Quest also takes your muttonchops being shaved or not into account when your portrait changes into The Icebreaker.
    • If you hold off on doing the dance-off in the 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. Similarly, if you try to do the dance-off before the Tribunal but after confronting Ruby, you and Kim have a short exchange admitting that you don't have time for it at the moment.
    • 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.
    • If you don't talk to Gaston about René's death until after the Tribunal, you can ask him if René was killed during the Tribunal. Gaston will reply that René would have rather died that way than how he actually died.
    • If the player makes every effort to avoid all the hints towards Dora's existence, something that is pretty much impossible to do by accident, then the final dream will not happen. Harry will instead have a quiet and peaceful nap in the bunker. If they then try interacting with the contents of the ledger's hidden compartment after successfully letting go of Dora, Harry will find himself unable to do so, with Composure stating that it's doing it for your own good to prevent you from fucking everything up and starting to pine after Dora again.
    • Added in the later patches, was preventing the player from opening the ledger's hidden compartment under certain, very specific circumstances.
      • Attempting to access the hidden compartment after you have gotten past Measurehead and into the container loading area, but before you have spoken to Evrart Claire, leads Volition, no matter how weak it might be, to chime in and tell you to focus on the task of speaking to Claire before you do anything else.
      • Attempting to access the hidden compartment at any point after solving the Ruby situation, one way or another, leads Kim to speak up and tell Harry that it is not an appropriate time to go through personal effects.
      • In the event Kim was brought down for the count during the Tribunal, attempting to access the hidden compartment leads to the game flat-out saying that Harry simply cannot do it; not as long as he is "without official police backup".
        Inland Empire: Hmm... it's as if there is an automatic *self-defence* structure in your hand, keeping you from mind-fucking yourself with letters from past lovers.
        Hand/Eye Coordination: It's me. I'm keeping his hand from moving. We're not doing that anymore. We're not reading those words. People have died. He needs to work, not ache his heart for something that will never return.
  • Dirty Communists: Zig-zagged. The Antecentennial Revolution was put down nearly half a century before the game's start, but anecdotal accounts suggest the Communists killed millions of people in Revachol and Graad before they themselves were almost completely slaughtered by the Coalition. The one remaining official socialist state — the People's Republic of Samara, — is known for brutal repression of internal dissent, monumental corruption, and fabricated statistics touting its people's health and prosperity. By the present day, Communism has been discredited and is treated mostly as a historical curiosity, outside of some rebellious youth culture. Nonetheless, among many of the inhabitants of Revachol the failed revolution is often spoken of wistfully as a lost opportunity rather than with anger or bitterness. Even the Deserter, who comes across as a fanatical extremist, elicits more pity than hatred. Evrart and company appear to be a textbook definition of "is communist to grift", but your Drama is certain Evrart is a true fanatic and it's implied his corrupt-boss act is required for the movement to have any hope of winning. And Communist Cops can, despite Communism's past sins, help keep the idealism of a better world alive, however small that action might be.
  • 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. Visual Calculus explictly notes that the only real reason why you can pull off the trick is exactly because Hoenkloewen is extremely drunk, and drunk people have a tendency to overcorrect when taking aim against a moving target. Kortenaer's Last Breath Bullet, however, is impossible to dodge.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Several allusions to real life systems and ideals.
    • Revachol is a nation of immigrants that has a very short history (400 years) yet it has a severe problem with nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiments among its population. Is this talking about Revachol or the United States?
    • Revachol's failed communist state and the resulting capitalist boom has caused more than a little consternation among the working class as well as exploitation by foreign corporations. This is very familiar to many Eastern European nations post-Soviet Union.
    • Moralism International bears more than a passing resemblance to the 21st century neo-liberal free-market world order - the insistence on expanding to new markets, highly structured globalized economy, distaste for any ideology beyond those near the political center, a club of wealthy countries that are the de-facto hegemons of the world (EPIS-OECD), a military arm of the former (Coalition of Nations-NATO). The list goes on and on.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Triple-meaning, actually. Disco Elysium can be a pun on "Disco Inferno" by The Trammps and reference the detective's love for disco music, to the point that you have an option to refer to the wreck in your room by "Disco Infernum" to Klaasje. Second, Disco means "I Discover" in Latin and Elysium is the in-universe name of the planet, which relates to the detective's amnesia and his need to get a lowdown on reality. Third, Disco also means "disc" in several Romance languages and a certain dialogue tree with Joyce reveals that the planet, Elysium, is shaped like a disc due to the Pale.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect:
    • Your skills' blurbs will outright tell you that having too many points in a skill can be a bad thing, as they will crowd out other thoughts and lead you to inaccurate conclusions. This is borne out in the game, where certain skills will hurt you or unlock obviously stupid dialogue options if they're too high. Optimal play requires threading a needle instead of maxing everything out.
    • Some specific skill checks will actually provide better outcomes if you fail at them. For example, some of Siileng's wares can only be obtained by failing a search check, and those items are actually Lethal Joke Items.
  • Drinking on Duty: You begin the game three days after arriving at Martinaise to investigate a murder. By all accounts, you spent those three days on a bender of epic proportions, so much so you appear to have obliterated all memory of yourself and the world. Whether you choose to continue down this path going forward is up to you, but if you do you will disappoint Kim and all signs indicate you will very likely be dead within the next few days/weeks/months.
  • Dual Wielding: Discussed in-universe. One of the Hjelmdallerman books, has the titular character dual wielding One-Handed Zweihänders. If high enough, Hand-Eye Coordination and Logic will disdainfully comment that it is probably safe to assume that the book's writer has never even held a sword in their hand, let alone two two-handed swords at the same time.
  • 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.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: Among five non-lethal endings present in the game, only one of them ends badly for Harry. The difficulty of acquiring it comes from the fact that you need to make some major counter-intuitive decisions, specifically letting Kim to get hurt during the tribunal, and then refusing Cuno's help, while constantly drinking during work, and not internalizing "Wasteland of Reality": a thought that causes Harry to sober up. Do all that, and after passing his judgement Jean will refuse to take Harry back into the precinct, leaving him alone at the fishing village.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Of a sort. The game encourages you to act out and choose the more provocative, strange, or humiliating dialogue options when talking to people, reasoning that civilians are willing to put up with your eccentricities due to your position as a police officer. Consistently choosing the most inoffensive, matter-of-fact, dry dialogue options will label you as a Boring Cop and bring up the associated thought of Regular Law Official.
  • 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 (it is mentioned that some scientists believe it might have been at some point in the past, it is certainly not the case anymore). The isolas describe a fractured disc in "a dark grey halo."
      • The scientific study of the pale is called entroponetics, 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 spatial 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 for as long as they can.
      • Some theorize that pale is rarefied matter, while others speculate that it's rarefied time or memory. Nobody is certain because of the impossibility of getting any useful information from the pale, though its 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 the 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 cause instant evaporation into more pale, though the far pale apparently may be able to. Also, repeated or frequent exposure, such as flying through it, will damage the mind irreversibly. One case has the person becoming inflicted with chronic hallucinatory states, or possibly living out other peoples' memories in her head.
      • In the church questline, Harry puts forth the idea 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 from 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 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) drafted measures to contain further outbreaks of the pale without explicitly saying as much.
    • The Dolorian church on the coast is speculated to be, in effect, a containment facility for a 2-millimeter-wide hole in reality in it, which is nascent pale forming within the world. For now, it only swallows sound and occasionally information in a three-meter radius, but it is growing, and will one day consume the entire island. How the containment works has apparently been forgotten if it was ever truly understood, but human gatherings — religious and now anodic — are hinted to have something to do with it. Then you realize that the other six churches that were burnt or torn down may have contained similar phenomena in them...
  • 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 lapse into emotion when sufficiently developed; 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.
  • Epic Fail: The In-Universe Troubled Production and eventual failure of the game "Wirrâl Untethered" by Fortress Accident. With eighteen employees and a budget of 400,000 real, they attempted to make a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game with the isola's Two-Way Radio network. The staff were mostly concept artists, writers, and a single overworked producer, and the writers would often take three-hour lunch breaks or call in sick. But what really doomed the game was one of the designers coming up with an area where the main headless character could find 10,000 different heads, with traits that could be mixed-and-matched, and each head would be fully voice-acted by a different actor. After eight months of crunch time...all their data was lost in a mysterious data loss.
  • 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 don'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 genuinely clever plan on the spot that impresses Diodore, which is the same result you get if you choose to try to come up with a profitable business idea on purpose and succeed.
  • 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.
    • Like the skill check to dodge the last bullet in the Tribunal, there is one door that cannot be opened despite its skill check seemingly offering the possibility.
  • 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 than 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-exhaustive 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 up 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 appearances, 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 rise of nationalism and fascism throughout Europe, Red October, and World War II, with the 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.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Downplayed. Gunpowder and firearms are long-established, but Revachol has strict gun control: Civilians are outlawed from possessing firearms at all, while the police are restricted to using deliberately inefficient muzzleloaders. Kim (and possibly you) argues that these measures keep the streets from being even more of a bloodbath, but there's an underlying irony that it is enforced by factions that staged a bloody military intervention on Revachol, and who turn a blind eye to corporations sending in heavily armed mercenaries in response to labor dispute. This leaves you and Kim at a distinct disadvantage when forced to confront one such mercenary team before they commit a massacre in revenge for their Commander's hanging. The only reason you escape with your lives is because the mercs are all staggeringly drunk — and you get very lucky on top of it. Even then, at least half of the Hardie Boys die, if not more; you will be shot, and possibly Kim as well.
  • Fat and Skinny: Your gut makes you the Fat one, while Kim is the Skinny one and also falls neatly into the Straight Man role.
  • 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 trigger the detective's suspicions on their own if your skills are sharp enough, giving you 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 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. He is tasked with navigating a colorful cast of characters as he searches for answers using his wits and determination, and faces constant tests of his morality and character.
  • Fission Mailed:
    • Discovering the hidden compartment in the ledger 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.
    • Surviving the Tribunal leads to an uncomfortably long sequence of your apparently-mortal wounds that's similar to the deaths you can receive from your Morale or Endurance running out. No, you don't die - someone wakes you up two days after.
  • 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.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The conversation in the church with La Revacholiere reveals that a nuke is going to annihilate Revachol in the future, and implies that you're the only one who can stop it. Further, it's implied that anodic music is somehow key to averting this future.
  • Foil: The Krenel mercenaries and your former squad balance each other out. Both teams are led by their angry second-in-command after their leader got super drunk and left them, with a strange "expert" and one woman with less characterization. But while the mercenaries are violent psychopaths who abuse their authority, your former squad seem to be on the level and sincere about the work they do. It's reinforced by how, when you confront both groups, they are in different locations, but standing in the same positions (leader front-and-center, weirdo leaning against the building to the left, woman south of you). What's more is that when the mercs spill their guts, their description of the Hanged Man as your behavior shortly before your own mental breakdown, and your psychic death brought the precincts together whereas the literal death of the Hanged Men brought his subordinates together.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Right before you meet the Walk on Water Insulindian Phasmid you have a dream where you walk on water.
  • 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.
    • While your subconcious makes repeated unsubtle hints at your shameful desperation in trying to win the *ex-something* back, you have some moments in the early game that serve as a prelude to your Harassing Phone Call towards her on the boardwalk:
      • In the dream following Day 1, your imagined hanging body spells out that "she will hear about (your problems) on the phone."
      • In the event that you choose to hug the Working-Class Woman, a passive Inland Empire check presents a vague flashback of Dora yelling at you to stop calling her.
    • If you internalize the Hobocop thought, the narraration mocks you if you try to "dig in Hobocop style for extra content" in the Whirling-in-Rags' trash container, stating that you found fascinating items like an expensive amplifier and a 'nock cannon' (the game's catch-all term for anti-tank rifles), before cruelly stating that they aren't real, and that your imagination placed them in your mind as Schmuck Bait for looking. However, there is a real, tangible nock cannon elsewhere in the game; the one that Ruud the Killer tries shooting you with during the Tribunal.
    • When you meet Kim for the first time, Esprit de Corps may tell you that he's your half-brother. Later, when you meet Trant Heidelstam, Esprit de Corps may tell you that it feels that Trant's also your half-brother but it doesn't know why. It seems to be some Non Sequitur Brick Joke at first, but later it's revealed that Trant is the RCM's Major Crimes Unit consultant. Esprit de Corps means "fellow cop" when it says "half-brother".
    • After passing an Inland Empire check while examining the Hanged Man's corpse, he will talk to you in your imagination and say, among other things, that "communism killed me, but love did me in". Lely, the hanged man, was shot in the mouth while having sex with Klaasje. The shot came from the rifle of Iosef Dros, a Shell-Shocked Veteran from the Commune of Revachol.
    • When looking up at the stained glass of Dolores Dei in the church, a series of successful passive checks results in Half Light mentioning that she doesn't care about you. The particular way he says it, in that she cares about her sovereign's orb, silk robes, and getting to the aerodrome, is an exact description of the dream you have in the sea fort of the *ex-something* leaving you. This also hints that this particular dream is a recurring one for Harry.
  • Friendship-Hating Antagonist: The true culprit Commissar Iosef Lilianovich Dros is a bitter old man who spent most of his life fighting as part of a communist revolution. Years of isolation and being unable to move on from the death of his comrades have warped Iosef into a bitter man who hates all social connections and cannot stand the idea of people enjoying their lives, seeing it as escapism when they should be rising up in revolution. Despite all this, he'll gladly confess that he was the true culprit due to a combination of old age, a belief that he's legally protected by the Wayfarer Act, and that the Phasmid has left him.
  • 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.
  • Game Music: The game's sounddtrack was created by British Indie Rock band Sea Power.
  • 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. Some supplemental material also implies that he has skills exclusive to his own character sheet, such as Volta do Mar for FYS, which is implied what he uses to predict your movements as he follows you around as well as being able to adjust on fly to whatever role you need whenever you attempt to pull off a Good Cop/Bad Cop act, and Kinetic Dressage for MOT, which suggests that either Kim has unseen Badass Driver tendencies in his Kineema, or he is consistently capable of taking back control of a moment that's going Off the Rails in a way comparitive to driving, such as during a failed opening conversation with Evrart.
    • 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.)
    • Joyce has a stronger Composure than Kim and high Empathy for a ultraliberal, making her able to take any wacky antics you throw at her in stride and giving you information of the world without issue. She has really low Authority, however, as both the mercenaries and Evrart couldn't care less about her in their schemes even though she is a board member of a company not shy of hiring highly armed mercenaries if you become a problem. Her time in the pale appears to have made her nostalgic of the past, which might have a thing to do with her compassion.
    • Ruby's high Half-Light allowed them to detect a potential danger and prepare for the inevitable confrontation impressively well. The only problem? It was completely unnecessary; their overactive paranoia drove them to the wrong conclusion. Their fear ultimately overpowers them to the point they believe their only escape is death, unless you convince them otherwise with a difficult Rhetoric check.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • The ending shows the detective limping and having to be supported by Jean to the car, despite the fact that they were walking, running, and possibly even dancing just fine prior. Possibly justified with the painkillers and/or adrenaline finally running out with the case solved.
    • In the final meeting with your detective's colleagues, he will be told that he is drunk, even if you have kept him off booze for days. Unless he has firmly committed to the path of sobriety by internalizing the "Waste Land of Reality" thought or never consuming alcohol during the whole game, all his possible responses all acknowledge that he is drunk, with no options to deny it. It's implied that the Detective's long history of drinking, combined with the sheer amount of alcohol he binged on over the course of his bender in hopes of either killing himself or obliterating his mind and only narrowly avoiding the former, was sufficient enough that even days sober isn't enough to fully purge the aftereffects from his system, and he's operating on a slightly drunk level even on a 'sober' run, which contributes to his disjointed mental state.
    • Similarly, Kim's comments about you in the final meeting can be somewhat innacurate, since they only take into account if you did some actions or not, disregarding the frequency which you did it. For instance, if you smoked just one cigarette during the whole game, Kim will imply that you were compulsively smoking.
  • 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, and you're Sherlock Holmes if he talked to his tie and thought he could teleport.
  • Genius Loci: Invoked. La Revacholiere is the (alleged) spirit of the city of Revachol, which implies that the city 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 correspondent and isolated cases may give Shivers a level of credence...
  • Genre-Killer: An In-Universe example. It is mentioned in an off-hand comment by Encyclopedia that the Disco genre effectively died in '38, and what is considered its deathknell was when the single "Et Puis Du Sang" failed to crack the Top 20. The fact that '38 was the same year where a major scandal surrounding Disco superstar, Guillaume le Million, and his accidental death from Erotic Asphyxiation rocked the music industry probably also played a role.
  • Golden Ending: Solving the case with flying colors by catching the true murderer and determining their motive, killing all the mercenaries at the Tribunal with the smallest number of Hardie Boy losses, talking Ruby out of suicide, keeping Kim out of the hospital, and doing all of the above without once getting drunk or high (or at least internalizing Wasteland of Reality). Oh, and finding the Insulindian Phasmid. This results in the police taking you back and possibly recruiting Kim or Cuno.
  • 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 (libertarian capitalism) is about cruelty towards the impoverished, communism relishes in mass murder, and moralism (centrism/neoliberalism) doesn't act upon problems, causing their exacerbation. Try 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, the Paledriver and Tiago drop in the occasional line or word in their native Mesque (a combination of Spanish and Portuguese). Boiadeiro, 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.
    • The Horrible Necktie will consistently refer to The Detective as bratan (братан), basically calling him "bro" in Russian.
    • "Tare" is used to refer to recyclable bottles the Detective can collect and turn in for the deposit, from the Estonian "taara" (also тара in Russian).
    • If you commit to the "classy new name" Raphaël Ambrosius Costeau, you gain a bonus in the two skills that happen to have foreign names: Savoir-Faire and Esprit de Corps.
  • 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 carabineer 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 Italian: The description of the Insulindian Miracle thought mentions you remembering of a poem about the discovering of the Insulinde that you forgot the translation and then the entire poem follows, in Italian. The translation is only revealed after you finish internalizing the thought.
  • 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 Wales, 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.
    • The capital of Vesper, itself the Latin-derived word for "evening", Advesperascit means "Evening comes." It was there that Dolores Dei was coronated as Innocence, and began her campaign of modernization — her reign is indelibly associated with the spreading pale, and thus the end of the world.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Antecentennial Revolution or World Revolution, crushed fifty years ago in Revachol, 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:
    • There's a minor character (Mysterious Pair of Eyes) that you can meet only in Day 1 and to find him you need to have 9 or more in Perception. Which means that, for this to happen (without cheating), you likely will need to have maxed out Motorics in character creation and dumped at least around 1-3 skill points in Perception (depending on the skill bonuses you have).
    • The Torque Dork thought requires you to fail a passive Encyclopedia check at the very beginning of the game but succeed at a Logic check shortly after, requiring your starting Intellect to be within a narrow range (none of which the default character builds provide). You then have to perform an extremely specific sequence of actions, upgrade your Encyclopedia to 4, and then, on Day 2, you'll get a thought orb when walking past Kim's motor carriage that will finally give you Torque Dork.
    • Acquiring a certain interactable item (Topping Pie) from Gary, which has an achievement attached to it, requires you to have 6 or more in Authority, less than 6 in Conceptualization, 4 or more in Composure and 6 or more in Endurance when talking with Gary for the first time. Oh, and you also have to make sure to pick the right dialogue options while at it. Needless to say, it's nearly impossible to achieve that without following a guide.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: The main character can hold up 2 pistols, and 2 rifles, at once in his inventory, as he even can bring them out during the last part of the game, where he is being asked for his official RCM issued side-arm.
    You: Gun? Behold *all* my guns. If anything, I need more *hands*! (show him your two pistols and two rifles)
    Jean: I don't care about your collection, you hoarding freak. (he waves your arsenal away without looking) Is one of them your service weapon? I only want to know about that *one* gun.
  • Handshake Refusal
    • When Kim Kitsuragi pulls out his hand to greet you. You can refuse his handshake, he will be unfazed, while Empathy notes that he is "A bit annoyed at your rudeness." but he lets it go as there are more important things to tend to.
    • You can also refuse to shake hands with Joyce Messier when meeting her. Kim Kitsuragi will also react to this if you refused to shake his hand before, chalking it up as an explanation of "I'm afraid my partner doesn't shake hands. Please don't take offence." While they both proceed to exchange handshakes, she is not offended in the slightest as she responds with "None Taken."
      • But if you did shake hands with Kim Kitsuragi, she would just shake hands with the lieutenant while saying that she is glad that the RCM is here. EMPATHY will once again chime in to say that as Kim Kitsuragi. "She is unfazed by your rudeness, probably chocking it up to local custom."
    • And the last one is Titus Hardie, when you are done interrogating him, he will finally pull out his hand to greet you, which you can also deny, as he calls you an "Asshole till the end, huh. Well, fuck you too, then!" but he doesn't sound that angry, despite shouting. Lieutenaut will also react if you didn't shake hands with either him or Joyce, as he dryly notes, "He is right, you know?" as he congratulates you for the work, but the not shaking hands thing is a little odd to him.
  • Hardboiled Detective: The In-Universe Dick Mullen book series features one of these. As an actual Defective Detective with extensive experience on the job, you can spend a lot of time dissecting the one book in the series you get to read and objecting to how inaccurately it represents the life of a real working detective, and noting that Mullen casually breaks several laws and regulations about proper police conduct over the course of the story, and that if he actually brought in a suspect, his behavior would be more than enough to let them to get Off on a Technicality several times over.
  • 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.
  • Haunted House: More like a haunted mall or business park, the Doomed Commercial Area is an Abandoned Area where all businesses within are cursed to failure. Subverted in that it's really just a side effect of the risks inherent to starting any business, let alone in a poor district of an already depressed economy like Revachol. Double Subverted when you and Soona jointly discover the 2mm hole in reality in the church which may in fact have real effects on entropy in the region. You can suggest it may be responsible for the DCA, and warn the remaining business owners.
  • "Have a Nice Day" Smile: The yellow smiley face is new to Elysium, or at least you and Kim have never seen it before. Anodic dance kid Noid placed the sticker on the padlock on the church doors. He didn't originate the symbol, but he and his hardcore colleagues are apparently skipping straight to the Nirvana-esque, Xs for eyes "smiling dead guy" interpretation. It's the most modern thing your Conceptualization skill has ever seen.
  • Heart Symbol: Not quite, but it's because of the influence of Dolores 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.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Invoked by name by Chester McLaine to describe your relationship with your partner Jean Vicquemare, though you never get to see much of said relationship in-game.
  • Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: Keep talking about how föreigners and wömen are ruining Revachöl, and your Endürance will get in contact with you about embracing fascism, complete with gratuitoüs, härd cöre ümlaut action.
    Endurance: It's clear you like the hard stuff, bröther.
  • High-Five Left Hanging: If you succeed in using your markmanship skills to shoot the cargo strap keeping the Hanged Man attached to the tree, Kim shows what is perhaps his first serious sign of being Not So Above It All, and exicitedly holds up his hand for an "Aces High". You are then free to invoke this trope with prejudice by choosing to not respond to it.
    Empathy: You *left him hanging* on an Ace's High?! What is wrong with you, you sharpshooting asshole?
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: The game doesn't shy away from the fact that the Detective's heavy smoking, drinking and drug use have made him a train wreck of a human being, and any use of these substances in gameplay (outside of smoking) will disappoint Kim. Nevertheless, in-game, the use of these substances is encouraged through giving stat bonuses at the cost of a loss of morale or health. Snorting speed may be just the thing you need to pass that tough Motorics skill check.
  • 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.
  • The Horseshoe Effect:
    • Starting from Day 3, passing a check near a bullet-riddled wall will have you reconstruct a Revolution-era war crime. Both Kim and your brain comment on the fact that you can't tell who did it: Communists excuting prisoners of war or anyone who disagreed with their opinion, or Moralists killing suspected communists and anarchists (and those who disagreed with their opinion).
    • Evrart Claire's Dockworkers' Union seems less like an actual union and more like a power-hungry megacorporation with corrupt dealings, not unlike the corporations they're striking against. It's likely not a coincidence that the Tribunal consists of rogue mercs who serve as the muscle of the corporation and rogue dockworkers who serve as the muscle of the union. However, Rhetoric and Empathy strongly suggest Evrart Claire is genuine in his beliefs, and there's a general suggestion that, unfortunately, Communism must wind up playing by its oppressor's rules, and/or that no ideology can escape its negatives.
  • 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.
    • Further possibly-canon in-universe speculation posits that humanity's swift advancement and the pale are by-products of a bizarre timestream that sends concepts of non-natural innovations - mostly tech, but politics and art, too, among other things animals can't do - to people receptive to said timestream. In essence, all humans - some more than others - are receiving components of some kind of eldritch concept.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: When Idiot Doom Spiral tells the tale of a famous graphic designer, he will mention that crucial part of the story is that the designer, like most people in his field, was hopelessly addicted to "nose candy". You can ask him to clarify, triggering this little bit:
    You: What — nose candy?
    Idiot Doom Spiral: You know, Tequila. (he taps the side of his nose) Nose candy. The white railroad. Party powder!
    Kim: The kids on the street also call it "snow day"...
    Encyclopedia: Or "Irmalan Gold", for the plateau on which most of the world's supply is grown and harvested, typically by slave labour...
    Idiot Doom Spiral: "Sinus salt", "the white knight"...
    Kim: "Count C", for its popularity amongst the aristocratic classes of the prior century...
    Encyclopedia: Along with a number of more banal street names: Blow, of course, but also flake, powder, pearl. Really, anything that is white will work...
    Electrochemistry: HE'S TALKING ABOUT COCAINE.
    You: Ohhh, you mean cocaine.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Harry can yell at others about breaking the law, drinking, drugging... and do all those things himself. He was like this before the amnesia, too.
    • If you're a Communist, it is strongly implied "she" - Dora - got you into revolutionary thinking and communism. In the end, she leaves you for a rich man in Graad.
    • Also as a Communist, the two uni students you can talk to constantly complain about would-be communists gatekeeping and buying into materialism. It's a bit understandable - one of them has a mom who works as a custodian in La Delta. He really wants a good life for her, and what better way than a life of luxury?
    • The Deserter himself. He's angry that Revachol capitulated - but deserted to save his own skin. He snarls about how Revachol and the Moralintern cling to the past, while screaming about modern music. He rolls his eyes at religion, but then speaks about "Iblis", an angelic being, in the same breath. He calls liberals pederasts, but freely admits to smoking his brand of cigs because "he likes the boy on the front". He thinks every communist was a sell-out, but deserter status aside, he takes money for killings. He mutters that modern society is backwards and racist, but casually tosses out racial slurs.
    • As Kim points out, Revacholian nationalists don't have a leg to stand on. Revachol has only stood for four hundred years, and is a massive melting pot of people from all over the world, on top of its nobility paying service to Sur-la-Clef - not only are nationalists immigrants in themselves, they're pledging allegiance to a state that exists to prop up another state. Further, it's implied one of the ways nationalists act patriotic, pronouncing "Revachol" with a hard C, is an admission that Revachol was built by foreigners, because the pronunciation is more or less how the English (in this case, Vesperians/Messinans) would say it. On top of that, it's implied a lot of the nationalists you meet are immigrants themselves - only two have "Revacholian" accents, and one is from a country colonized by Revachol and thus should know better.
  • 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 Wirrâl (the local stand-in for Dungeons & Dragons) is occult magic and therefore bad, in addition to the game itself being an RPG...
  • 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 and even unlocks a perk that increases your authority.
  • Idle Animation: There are a handful of fidgets for you and Kim on your own, but notably, there is an animation of you and Kim lifting each other up over your backs if you wait long enough. If Cuno joins you on the investigation in the late game, there is also an animation of you lifting him up on your shoulders.
  • 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.
  • I See Them, Too: Various factors present when spotting the Insulindian Phasmid have your character question his sanity and whether he is really seeing something real — not hepled by another character saying that he sees nothing there — but your partner assures you that he can see it, also.
  • 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, meaning you always have a 3% chance to pass or fail a check at lowest and a 97% chance to pass one at highest. 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.
  • Inspired by…:
    • The working title for the game was No Truce With The Furies, from the poem of the same name by R. S. Thomas. Harry can be made to quote the poem at several junctures in the game as though making them up on the fly; when he is asked to name the Anodic nightclub, "No Truce With The Furies" is one of the available options.
    • Hard-boiled detective fiction of the sort created by Raymond Chandler is a stylistic influence throughout the game
    • The premise - a detective investigating a murder while grappling with debilitating murder loss caused by a mysterious trauma - is strikingly similar to that of Memento, down to the bespectacled assistant trying to keep the protagonist focused. The specific type of amnesia - induced on purpose after a heartbreaking separation - is closer to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
  • 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 the game 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.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: The game has a day and night cycle and a calendar of the days that pass. Game time passes when you are in dialogue and talking to people, and jumps through triggering certain events. The clock will, however, freeze at 2am the next day, and you will need to sleep to advance the clock further. Certain events will also happen on certain days.
  • 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.
    • You can specifically invoke this if you call Kim a racist slur and subsequently try to justify yourself to him. You can insist you're a good guy underneath it all, but if that good guy never comes out, as Volition points out, is there really a good guy?
  • Jukebox Musical: Soundtrack by one band variant. The entire soundtrack was composed by 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. It 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 Sea Power. The backing strings from the original SP 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Numerous characters, including the protagonist, have the potential to get away with some serious crimes and bad behavior in the endings.
    • Klaasje is guilty of a mountain of obstruction of justice and actively hinders the search for Lely's killer in her desperate attempt to prevent herself from being wrongly accused of it — not to mention the corporate espionage she claims to be on the run for. Nonetheless, you have the option to not arrest her in spite of all this, instead giving her time to get her affairs in order before coming in willingly — and sure enough, choosing this has her flee the country just before the game's climax, escaping justice for any of it.
    • Ruby is a drug trafficker for Evrart Claire, helped Klaasje cover up the cause of Lely's death, and nearly kills the protagonist due to a paranoid suspicion that he's a Killer Cop here to rub her out for local mob boss La Puta Madre. No matter what you do, she ultimately gets away — assuming you even manage track her down, she ambushes you and Kim with a sonic torture device, incapacitating both of you to the point that you can't really do anything to stop her from running; even if you manage to destroy the device she pulls a gun and either shoots herself or flees while you and Kim are recovering.
    • Evrart can wind up as this. Depending on how you do things, you can get completely hoodwinked into convincing Wild Pines to concede to his terms and getting the fishing village to sign away their land, giving him everything he wants with nothing you can do about it. You can wind up putting a warranty on it, however, if you successfully wring Iosef for information about his past killings, implicating Evrart in multiple assassinations, and forge the signatures of the fishing village's inhabitants, opening him up to headache-inducing red tape at best and outright fraud charges at worst.
    • Then there's the protagonist himself in the good endings. While he's a very talented detective who does indeed solve the murder (and potentially many other outstanding achievements along the way), his antics prior to the opening include drinking and doing drugs on the job, drunk driving, wrecking his $40K police car, destroying the harbor's water gate, reckless firearm usage in public, repeated threats of (and some outright attempts at) suicide, and selling his police-issue pistol to a pawnshop — and this is just the past three days. This list can potentially get longer over the course of the game's events, but the fact that the other officers in his precinct are (nominally) his friends means that as long as he proves himself sufficiently competent, they're willing to sweep most of this under the rug and keep him on the force.
  • 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 actively encourages, if not masterminds, 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.
  • Killer Cop: The more impoverished areas of Revachol have a lot of gang violence and organized crime, so most RCM officers have had to kill in the line of duty. Kim makes special mention, however, of a certain breed of cop who use their position as an excuse to kill as a kind of 'ghoulish game', without much interest in actually solving cases. Naturally, he has a low opinion of these officers. Your own record shows that you were decisively not one before your amnesia. While you have three confirmed kills in the line of duty, Kim makes a point of noting that it is a exceptionally low number for an RCM officer, especially when considering the precinct you're working in and how long you have been with the force, so everything strongly indicates that you were always trying your hardest to solve any confrontations you were involved in through — if not outright peaceful means — then at the very least by using as little lethal force as possible.
  • Listing the Forms of Degenerates: Measurehead will do so if you succeeded at his skill check of agreeing with his theory. They are devised into different categories, with the last one being the most sub-human to him, and if you try to start with it first, he will force you to hear about the other categories first instead.
  • 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.
    • The resolved version of the "Regular Law Official" thought takes the cake:
      When someone says something political, the first three thoughts in your head are a ludicrous hodgepodge of communism, fascism and stock tips. When they ask you why you did something, it's superstardom, apocalypse, or the *mea culpas* of a flagellant cop monk. It's not easy, reaching for the fourth option — the normal one. But you have.
  • Left the Background Music On: During the boat ride late in the game, you have the option of blasting a "Sad FM" song on your "boombox". The same song will play regardless, but if you do, it will be diegetic: Another character will remark that he heard you coming because of it. If you don't, it will just be background music.
  • Legacy of the Chosen: The innocences are chosen ones of a kind, associated with the holy Founding Party. They are said to be embodiments of the World Spirit, and have an inhuman quality about them. Each one has substantially changed the world in some way, and the international legal system is built to accomodate innocentic rule, should a new innocence ever be discovered. The most recent was Dolores Dei, who lived three hundred years ago, and was responsible for the discovery of Insulinde.
  • Lethal Joke Item: Many of the clothes sold by Siileng at the intersection, despite being cheap, tacky garbage, provide useful bonuses and can be acquired right at the start of the game. In particular, the Amphibian Sports Visor requires you to fail a check to search his wares, but it's actually statistically better than what you get on a success: It gives +1 Perception (a universally useful skill) with no penalties, making it a good default choice for headwear throughout the game.
  • Libation for the Dead: When Kim and you examine your records with the RCM, and see you that you have three confirmed kills in the line of duty, and you have a bottle of alcohol in your inventory, you can chose to pour it out on the ground in sympathy with and honor of the dead.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: The outside world all seems to be one object, and every building or room seems to be a separately loaded object. Some rooms lead to other rooms (loading), and some parts of the world are only reachable by moving through buildings (loading). Speaking to Klaasje is a particularly annoying example: go from the street into the ground floor of the Whirling-in-Rags. Load. Klaasje's room is on the upper floor, which is a separate object. Load. Her room has two levels, and the upper level is a new room. Load. You speak to her on the rooftop patio, which is part of the outside world. Load. That's up to four loading screens to speak to one person.
    • The Jamais Vu update finally addresses this by greatly reducing loading times, at times dropping them from 25-30 seconds to as low as 3-5 seconds.
  • 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.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Depending on your choices during the endgame and how truthful you think several characters are, not only is the world inhabited by cryptids with supernatural powers, they — and the rest of the world, animals and plants included, including sea and deep-sea creatures like cnidarians, starfish, etc. — are terrified of the fact humanity is the cause of the pale, an eldritch phenomenon that's deteriorating the world and may be made of human thought and history, which in itself is alien and frightening to the plants and animals. The Phasmid admits to being terrified of Harry himself, and says that he or anyone could accidentally snuff out all existence because they blinked and experienced non-consciousness for a short time.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Klaasje slept with the majority of the Hardie Boys, among others, during her winterlong stay at the Whirling-in-Rags. While she set clear boundaries and made it clear these relationships were only temporary, this didn't stop some of her past lovers from becoming jealous as her relationship with Lely, the future Hanged Man developed into something more serious.
    • Titus Hardie bears a lot of rage toward Klaasje and the Hanged Man. He's the driving force behind the coverup, the most adamant in maintaining that Klaasje was raped by a 'war criminal' and is repressing her trauma — rather than accepting the possibility that, as she herself states, Klaasje genuinely felt something for Lely, and everything between them was consensual.
    • Another of Klaasje's flings is a Red Herring — Klaasje claims Ruby was obsessed with her and uses this to try and misdirect you away from her, but Ruby says it was never more serious than a few makeout sessions, and it's Klaasje's paranoia, not a real motivation to protect the murderer, that makes her say this.
    • One of these actually plays a very central part in the murder. Iosef, an elder communist deserter, was hopelessly in love with Klaasje, and his murder of Lely was at the very least partly motivated by jealousy. Iosef only ever stalked her from afar, however — the two never even spoke. Klaasje never saw him to recognize him.
  • Made Myself Sad:
    • Say enough leftist things and you'll gain the "Mazovian Socio-Economics" thought, which allows you to identify as "the last Communist" and set about restoring the Commune of Revachol nearly half a century after it was crushed by the Coalition. Actually completing the thought, however, just leaves you in a funk at how impossible the task you've set yourself truly is.
      Mazovian Socio-Economics: 0.000% of Communism has been built. Evil child-murdering billionaires still rule the world with a shit-eating grin. All he has managed to do is make himself *sad*. He is starting to suspect Kras Mazov *fucked him over* personally with his socio-economic theory. It has, however, made him into a very, very smart boy with something like a university degree in Truth. Instead of building Communism, he now builds a precise model of this grotesque, duplicitous world.
    • Also becomes a gameplay mechanic with the "Revacholian Nationhood" thought, which is unlocked by saying fascist things. Once internalized, saying more fascist things harms your morale and brings the Detective closer to a mental breakdown.
  • Manly Facial Hair:
    • As part of being a disco throwback Casanova Wannabe, the protagonist sports an impressive mustache along with huge mutton chops, and is noted as looking the part of a lantern-jawed, broad-shouldered tough guy... albeit well past his prime. Your skills even note that you look more like a sad old man than any badass cop.
    • Pursuing the Communist quest will allow you to read a book claiming that plasm gave communist men excellent facial hair. You can stroke your own in agreement.
  • 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. And then you find out that the 2mm hole in reality in the church might be the real reason why everything in the Doomed Commercial Area is, well, doomed, thanks to the bizarre effects of the pale. It's complex.
    • 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 possibly 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 entroponetic 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 (and, at higher levels, Authority) allows the protagonist to visualize what happened or is happening in several places in Martinaise and the whole city of Revachol without actually being there. If it's something paranormal or just his imagination remains ambiguous, especially as Shivers and Authority reveals read much like passages from poems or police dramas. One step further is the female voice you hear with Shivers, claiming to be Revachol herself. Are her pleas to save her and a vision of a nuclear strike on the city just a demented madman's dream who's seen too much death and destruction (you explicitly pass out right before talking to her), or does the city actually speak to you?
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Many place and character names, in a variety of languages, some ironic, some punny, occasionally obscure and often poetic. For instance Caillou, the island on which Revachol rests, is the French word for pebble — one of nearly a hundred tiny islands making up the Insulindian archipelago; the River Esperance — French, and old English for "hope" — runs through the middle of disgraced, long-suffering Revachol.
    • The protagonist is revealed to live in an area called "Perdition". Even the nicest Harry is tempted to call it Hell, and it certainly was for Harry, even before the love of his life moved out - it was a shitty, cheap apartment crawling with mold and drink.
  • 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 what partner accompanies you in the final stretch, if any.
  • 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.
  • Mutually Exclusive Power-Ups: The Reflective Construction Vest and the Specialist-Grade Headset are the rewards for the Communist and Moralist quests, respectively - only one can be acquired in any given playthrough. Also, the RCM Lieutenant's Pants will appear in the protagonist's hotel room on the final day of the story, but only if the Pinball Maker's Coat was never picked up.
  • 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 
  • Namesake Gag: The Frittte sells pale-aged booze, which initially seems to refer to the real-life "pale ale": however, the "pale" in the context of the game universe is a feature of the world and as the name implies, pale-aged alcohol is made by aging it in the pale, while real-life "pale ale" refers to the type of malt it's made from.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: One of the trailers showcases cutscenes where Kim arrives in Martinaise and clips from your three-day bender where you destroyed your hostel room. Neither sequence shows up in the game proper.
    • The "Final Cut" trailer also does this, adding dialogue you never hear in the game:
      Kim:' If you could only find your gun.
    • Dialogue that doesn't make sense in context:
      Evrart Claire: (known for his inability to walk) Sure thing, Champ! Lead the way!
    • And oddly intercut characters and scenes, such as The Pigs doing a demonstration in front of the Scab Crowd, or the water lock being blocked by a collapsed billboard advertising "SAMARAN BUTTER".
  • 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 the 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 Antagonist: Ultimately, the story has no traditional Big Bad for you to overcome:
    • Evrart Claire forces Harry and Kim to run errands for him in exchange for finding Harry's gun and is revealed to have hired the victim's killer to murder the previous union leader to take her place. He does ultimately deliver on his promise of finding Harry's gun, and beyond deliberate needling and petty power plays he never outright threatens or antagonizes the detectives, and had nothing to do with the merc's death.
    • Klaasje is deliberately deceiving you and will send you on a wild goose chase in order to get you off her trail, but she's ultimately only doing it out of self-preservation, and was not responsible for the merc's death. She's actually the one who called the RCM in to investigate the death to begin with. She'll make a run for it should you choose not to arrest her, but to make up for it will leave you one final clue that'll lead you straight to the actual culprit.
    • Ruby and the Hardie Boys only got involved with the cover up of the merc's death in order to protect Klaasje, and in the former's case only decided to go into hiding because she was frightened of you, being convinced that you're actually a Killer Cop on the payroll of an infamous drug lord sent to kill her.
    • The Scab Leader/Raul Kortenaer is the closest the game comes to an opposing force to you, and the confrontation with him at the Tribunal is the closest the game has to an action climax. However, he only acts after several days of waiting once he's decided that your investigation is failing to get results. Until then he is content to remain incognito while you try to find the culprit your own way.
    • When you do confront the killer in the finale, he's revealed to have had no role in the unfolding story beyond the murder which set off the events of the game. He'll surrender to you without resistance when pressed, revealing he'd been planning to do so as soon as he heard your boat arriving on his island.
    • Finally, the personal demons that have been hounding your sleep for the duration of the game, culminating in your final dream of the ex-something prior to the game's finale, are ultimately just figments of your imagination: The real person left you years ago and the only reason she's haunting you is because you refuse to let her go and move on. The only way to overcome her is to go out of your way to avoid remembering her in the first place.
  • 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 by insisting on wanting to arrest the lot of them after they confessed to the lynching as a group and they'll gang up and kill you and Kim and make you disappear.
    • If you shoot disturbed little girl Cunoesse as she taunts you through your attempt to shoot the body down, the investigation ends in scandal and disgrace.
    • If you attempt to sleep in the dumpster behind the Whirling-In-Rags, you get a fourth wall-breaking one telling you off for trying to game the system.
    • When confronting the Hardie 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 before you go to bed each night.
    • 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.
    • In the Vision Quest for moralism, if you tell Coalition Warship Archer about the two-millimetre hole in reality, the Moralintern are apparently not only aware of the phenomenon but are keeping tabs on similar holes elsewhere, with a procedure in place that sees a shuttle immediately dispatched to your location to scoop you up to brief the committee they've set up to deal with it. If you go with the shuttle, the game ends, and according to the headline you haven't been seen in weeks and Coalition representatives have declined to comment on your status.
    • During the Tribunal, if you don't manage to dodge/absorb Ruud the Killer's shot and the wound drops your health below zero with no healing items, the Krenel mercenaries carry out their massacre successfully, killing you, Kim, the Hardie Boys, and Elizabeth while walking away unscathed.
  • Noodle Incident: The RCM raid on the church, an incident which occurred many years ago and left many inhabitants of Martinaise wary of the police. There are some hints that you were involved in the raid, but to what capacity and exactly what happened during it are left unexplained. Jean will confirm in the finale that you and he were part of the raid, but will refuse to divulge any further information until you've gotten back to Precinct 41, leaving that side of the story unresolved.
  • 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 whenever 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.
  • Nostalgia Filter: This is arguably the true cause of all the troubles that take place in the game. Many of the issues that take place are due to people waxing nostalgia for the past and how much better it was than it is today, but more often than not it's at the expense of either stopping people from moving on or even putting the past on a pedestal of lies while also outright ignoring all the terrible things that happened as well.
  • 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 at 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.
  • Obfuscating Postmortem Wounds: Heavily downplayed — the Hanged Man has a lot of post-mortem wounds, thanks to rough treatment during the hanging and by local wildlife (and Cuno), but none of them add particular doubt to the cause of his death.
    Kim: Fatal injury by seagulls?
    You: No — the great skua.
    Kim: Those are mean, yes. But not that mean.
    • Of course, finding the bullet lodged in his brain reveals the hanging itself is a case of this. The Hanged Man was already dead and the Hardy Boys 'lynched' a corpse in order to cover up his real cause of death, and most importantly to take the heat off Klaasje who is trying to avoid police attention.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: Revachol has been controlled by the Coalition, five foreign nations who have divided the city between themselves, ever since the failure of the Revolution a half century prior to the game. Most people you meet have never known anything else and seem resigned to the situation, but from your interactions with a number of characters it's clear there is a lot of simmering resentment that may explode into open resistance in the near future.
  • "Open!" Says Me:
    • As seen in the title trailer, at one point the protagonist attempts 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.
    • You can internalize a thought called the Jamrock Shuffle after being called out for frequently, and sometimes obsessively, opening any locked door and grabbing any "evidence" you find laying around. In universe this is a holistic detective approach for exploring an area to find new angles to a case.
  • Orphaned Etymology: The game in a completely fictional world with different cultures, people and history. Even an entirely different dating system (centuries are named, for example, the game is set in the year '51 of the Current Century, where as another century is known as the Doloranian Century). Days and months are named what they are in the real world, despite the fact that the cultures from where those names came from presumbly didn't exist. Could be justified with that a lot of the cultures in the world do share the same language as their real world counterparts, just named differently.
  • 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, parthenogenetic 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: A large number of quests, items, and conversations can become permanently inaccessible depending on your actions and the results of your checks. The game warns you about some (but not all) of these instances.
    • When you ask Kim to take the body to Processing, he'll be gone for the rest of the day, leaving you to fly solo until tomorrow. Any tasks you choose to work on will thus be done without his input or assistance, which can make things a lot more difficult for you (and potentially rob you of a lot of dialogue with him). If you have tutorials enabled, a message will warn you about Kim's departure and advise you to take care of anything important on your agenda before sending him away. You can accelerate his return by investigating the contents of your ledger compartment, if you really want him back.
    • Two clothing items, the "Amphibian" Sports Visor and the Itchy Pants, can only be obtained from Siileng if you fail two checks while rummaging through his wares (since they are white checks, the items you can find from succeeding the checks are not mutually exclusive).
    • 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. Obviously, if you send the body to Processing before getting the boots, they're gone forever.
    • 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.
    • The Sunday Friend has a little information about the case and a lot of information about the world at large, but you only get one chance to talk to him; the instant you leave the Smoker on the Balcony's apartment, he's gone forever. He warns you explicitly that he's leaving soon the first time you attempt to end the conversation, giving you a chance to double back for any dialogue options you might have skipped over.
    • A short quest line about investigating Lilienne's twins somehow being able to hear Speedfreaks FM's radio signal inside their heads can only be found if you fail the Shivers check to figure that Ruby is hiding in the Feld Building twice. To add more to it, the quest can also net you a unique clothing item, but you can only get this if you have high enough Reaction Speed to unlock an option to ask DJ Mesh to send you some Speedfreaks merchandise by post when you are on the phone with him.
    • 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 (with Tommy and Siileng being the only exceptions to the latter group), 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 or having him tell you about his loose relationship with the Union.
    • 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.
    • Several thoughts are mutually exclusive or require making choices that can't be revisited. Most notably, Torque Dork can be locked off on the character creation screen (see Guide Dang It!, above).
  • 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.
    • Once you cross the bay to get to the Sea Fortress, you are locked into the game's final sequence and can't go back to any of the previous locations or characters (you do come back afterwards, but you only get to move around for a bit before the very last conversation starts). You get a warning this time around, too.
  • Police Are Useless: Revachol is occupied by the Moralintern, which depending on 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 hands tied by the 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 used as 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, he just makes himself look like an idiot trying to justify his hatred of you in medical/science-based reasoning.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: The climax of the game is either the mercenary tribunal or the confrontation of Iosef, the actual killer, depending on how you look at it. But the very last confrontation, after you solve the case, is with your old squad, and is the very last thing you do before the credits roll.
  • Postmodernism: if you've had a look at the horseback statue of Filippe III by the time you meet the Deserter, you can attempt to change his mind on the subject. The Deserter believes it was re-erected by cynical advertising execs as a way of mocking the unsuccessful revolution (which is why he shot it through the heart as a retort). Harry can convince him it's not a monument to the previous statue but a monument to the explosion of the statue by revolutionaries - the statue is, notably, unfinished, with sections of both king and horse missing. The old man then becomes pleased to think of secretly Leftist execs erecting a covert Communist statue.
    The Deserter: We did always have the prettiest posters...
    • Succesfully convincing him can also lead him to entertaining the notion that Harry is a fellow Communist - if not buying it completely.
  • 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, if you attempt to get it with a flashy move and fail the skill check (if your stats made you a One-Hit-Point Wonder to begin with).
  • Press X to Die: The game occasionally gives you choices that will obviously kill you with absolute certainty. Each of them results in a Non Standard Game Over.
    • The "Finger on the Eject Button" thought. The only reward it offers upon completion is giving you the option to kill yourself every evening.
    • You can threaten to shoot yourself in front of Titus, then actually go through with it. To "make a point".
    • Drinking the Spirit Bomb (which is a molotov cocktail made with pure medicinal alcohol).
    • A non-lethal example is that, if Ruby commits suicide during your confrontation, one dialogue option afterwards has you voluntarily quitting the force.
    • Notably, of the four "Political Vision Quests", Moralism/Centrism is the only one that leads to a Game Over state, leaving it ambiguous whether Harry has become an operative of the one world government or been silenced/executed by them. This is meant to symbolise the arresting effect of Moralism - moments before Harry disappears, Kim points out to him that if he does so he will never solve the case - and if Moralism really is effective, because no one can tell if you've been killed or work for the Moralists, and either way, it's like you never made an impact at all.
  • Pretentious Pronunciation: Upon meeting Gary, a Cryptoozoologist's assistant, you note he pronounces 'Revachol' with a hard C (like 'Revakol'). This is apparently a very fancy, old, and extremely nationalistic way of saying it, and the nationalism it signifies is apparently even more so than "Welcome to Revachol". You can mock him for it.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Subverted. Klaasje leads you to believe Ruby is one, and that she killed Ellis out of deranged sexual jealousy. However, this is a Red Herring; talking with Ruby reveals her to be a level-headed individual whose motives were completely unrelated to her crush on Klaasje.
  • 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 stat checks 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 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 cover 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In the event you fail a specific Authority check in the church, resulting in you calling Kim a racial slur, it's possible for Kim to deliver an absolutely blistering one if you refuse to apologize, particularly if you've been acting like a racist the whole game.
    Kim: For the sake of the investigation... I'll stay.
    You: So, you're giving me another shot?
    Kim: No, you fucking asshole. This isn't a game and you're not the hero. You don't get infinite chances to do the right thing. That's not how the world works. I'm staying because I have to protect the investigation from you.
  • Recurring Dreams: Not in the game proper, as all your character's dreams are fairly different, but the final one you have is stated to be a recurring dream you used to have 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 her telling you "See you tomorrow", recognizing the cycle has begun again.
  • Red Herring: Several, to the point where solving the mystery is more about getting rid of the incorrect clues than understanding the correct clues:
    • The biggest one is the hanging itself, which was staged by the Union to look like a politically motivated hanging to cover up the fact that the man was shot. The Union's bragging is more misdirection, as is the heavy duty cargo strap used to hang him.
    • The racist mug you can find early on near the body and wave in everybody's face is just there because a racist neighbor used the nearby garbage bin. That said, the mug does have some tangential relevance to the crime, in that said neighbor, Gary the Cryptofacist, was the one who disposed of the victim's clothes and stole a part of his armor, and by using the mug (which you can find was originally part of a set, if you entered his apartment on Evrart's orders) as evidence to tie him to the crime scene, you can force him to admit to his interference, meaning another loose end is tied up by it.
    • The detective's mania, extreme political positions, impressive job history, and borderline magical ability to connect the dots to the case paints him as a possible suspect as the story progresses, with convenient amnesia to give plausible deniability. He has nothing to do with the murder, the amnesia is unrelated to the case, and his ability to solve the case is just because he's really good at his job.
    • 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.
    • The tire tracks for the car that knocked down the fence leading to the backyard where the body was found look like signs of a getaway vehicle, but it was just your car that you drove into the fence during the nadir of your bender.
    • 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 carry 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. (An extremely high level Rhetoric passive will point out that the real reason you have to "teleport" is because "climbing it would be too expensive. The animations your body needs to make, interacting with the ladder, are beyond your capabilities at this moment in your career.")
  • 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 involves meeting her and desperately trying to mend things with the ex-girlfriend, who's looking like Dolores.
  • Retcon: The year a Sacred and Terrible Air takes place has the end of Revachol occuring due to the Pale finally overtaking the nation. In the future you potentially glimpse, a nuclear explosion wipes it out instead.
  • 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.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Discussed if you internalize a thought for how to beat mercenaries with Fairweather armor. The game makes it clear ceramic armor and automatic firearm against union workers with rudimentary weapons is going to be really one sided if you don't think fast on how to prevent it.
    Thought Cabinet:Remember that weakness you were looking for in the ceramic armour? Like: maybe it can only stop small, fast projectiles, but a large, slow-moving prybar would shatter it? Or: if I run an electrical current through it, maybe it will melt? Or — personal favorite — frequency something-something, radio weapon?! None of that would work. You need to shoot the part of the enemy that doesn't have Fairweather T-500 on it, because the armour itself is invulnerable. Good news is — so are the armour pieces on you!
  • 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. Anything remotely resembling conflict is instead handled through the dialogue and skill check system used for every interaction in the game. Even in the context of this, the closest you can get to physical fights are trying to punch out Cuno or Measurehead, manhandling the Racist Lorry Driver, and throwing balls of dirt at a seagull. The Tribunal, which erupts into a gunfight between you and Kim against the Krenel mercenaries, is the sole "proper" battle in the entire game, and even its combat, like you throwing a Molotov, is handled identically to the skill checks of the rest of the game.
  • 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... a description not too dissimilar to that of a disco ball.
  • 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; Morell 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.
  • Scenery Gorn: Martinaise is a bombed-out ruin and a shell of its former self, having been neglected by the ruling Coalition and left to sink into urban decay. Yet despite this, there is an eerie beauty to the district, which many of its inhabitants acknowledge.
  • Schmuck Bait: It's hard to know when it's just your skills' 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 skill 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 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 deliberately inefficient muzzle-loaders. This makes the rogue Wild Pine Mercenaries, all decked out with automatic rifles and completely bulletproof armor, all the more dangerous.
  • Scotireland: Ubi Sunt? (question mark required) is a really weird mashup of "things near England that aren't England": it's near Vesper-Messina (the UK equivalent), moves about often (like the old Irish myth of Hybrasil), is frowned on as dirt-poor (the Irish), warlike (the Scots), obssessed with farming (the Welsh), and a penchance for rebellious Communism (the Irish again). The one Ubi Suntian? you meet has a Scottish accent and happily talks about orphanages (an indelible part of Irish history).
  • Scully Syndrome: Our hero can make up some really wild theories about everything, best exemplified in the Inland Empire and Shivers skills. Thoughts like the Remote Viewers' Division (wherein the protagonist belives there's a secret division of psychic cops, and he's part of them) or the Col Do Ma Ma Daqua (where the protagonist makes a cryptid his spirit animal) are consequences of this. Events like mysterious bankruptcies or strange gaps in hearing don't help. While most of these have rational explanations, no matter what, the Phasmid IS real, and is actually partially responsible for the murder, albeit by accident.
  • Second Season Downfall: An In-Universe version happened to the Saint-Batiste Dinghy Races. While planned to be a recurring biennial event, the second race was plagued by bad weather and and controversy over the winning teams using performance enhancers and getting stripped of their titles as a result, leading to the city deciding to cancel the event indefinitely.
  • Secret Test of Character: For a communist Harry, Evrart's general shitty and capitalistic behaviour was a test, part of it to see if Harry would still commit to being a communist even with all the scumbag shit the Union pulls, partially to see if Harry would still do his best to help Martinaise out, and partially because he was banking on Harry to not trust Evrart and snoop around for Joyce, which uncovers information that forces Joyce to back off and allows the Union to shore up its defenses for the real showdown with the corporations.
  • Self-Deprecation: The entirety of Fortress Accident's 'Wirrâl Untethered' feels very much like meta-commentary on Disco Elysium's own development, and is portrayed as a group of developers with absurdly ambitious aims for their game who waste a lot of money, miss deadlines, have difficulty showing up to work on time, and when things start falling apart blame everything on capitalism. The development team is also from Estonia, and random things in the game suggest that Igaunija is the Fantasy Counterpart Culture equivalent of Estonia, about which Encyclopedia can tell you this:
    Encyclopedia: Igaunija — a god-forsaken (and tiny) territory in Graad that has not once, but twice wasted its independence on microfascism. The less said about Igaunija the better. Matter of fact, let's stop saying things about it right now and continue what we were doing.
  • 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, with various skills assuring you that you will get your chance to catch the man behind them fairly soon. If you pass a passive Shivers check at the end of the game, a short Flash Sideways has a man loading a gun with a square-shaped barrel somewhere in Revachol, in anticipation of spring being just around the corner...
    • 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 high Reaction Speed or Rhetoric 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.
  • Serial Killer: One of your previous cases, "THE SQUARE BULLET HOLE MURDERS" had you trying to track a "sequence killer" (sometimes said to be an early form of the term, before the FBI categorized series/sequence killings and/or mass murders into serial killers and Spree Killers — possibly a Shout-Out to Mindhunter, fitting the game's '70s-inspired setting). The killer got away and the case remains open, mostly because the murders just seemed to suddenly stop. Though it is repeatedly hinted that the killer is just waiting for spring to come again before he starts anew.
  • Shadow Archetype: A lot of people are just like you, Harry.
    • Kim Kitsuragi is a highly logical Consummate Professional who disregards the insane ramblings of the insane people around him, with Authority off the charts - but he can play along with these antics if it gets him an edge. This isn't too far off from a Logical, Boring Cop high in Morale who ignores the stupid shit his brain has to say to him.
    • Garte is an asshole trying to hide his fuckups and constantly irritated at the world falling to pieces around him, and eventually figures out he's not afraid of death after doing something monumentally stupid. He also has a tendency to claim he doesn't care for people; it's implied one of the reasons Harry joined the RCM was because he gave a shit, and with high enough Empathy, Harry can note Garte really WAS trying to protect the rest of the people inside the hostel as best as he could.
    • Idiot Doom Spiral changes his background on a dime, makes bullshit up (and also hides the fact his downfall likely hinged on things besides his keys), pushes people away, and is powered on alcohol. One of Harry's thoughts sarcastically notes that this chain of events couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
    • Rene Arnoux is a spitfire, but frail fascist holding on to the glory days, his long-dead lover, and calling everyone he doesn't like a communist. This isn't unlike a Fascist Harry who romanticises the past, especially that bit about his lover, and Harries with very low PHYS are heavily implied to die soon after the events of the game, if not during it. Whatever your choices, Rene dies on Day Five, stubbornly trying to do his job.
    • Klaasje's a drug-addicted mess who is still very, very good at what she does - not far off from cops with high Electrochemistry, or Harry before the amnesia. In addition, the ID you find is implied to be her real ID, but using an outdated photo - just like Harry's.
    • Evrart Claire is fond of saying stupid shit, playing along with the stupid shit of other people, mocking people to their faces, and dealing in corrupt bargaining. This is all in service to a genuine goal and idea, especially for Communist Cops, and especially for players who take the weirdest, most nonsensical options and find that they open up their targets better than a straight examination would.
    • Measurehead is a meathead who believes in extremely illogical race ideas and enforcing them with force. - which a Harry who believes in racism, nationalism, strength, and stupid things like The Remote Viewers' Division can believe in, too.
    • Alain is all too eager to prod back at you, and it's clear it's to try and get people to expose themselves, similar to what Harry was like as "the Human Can Opener", talking to get people to overextend themselves and reveal weaknesses. Post-Tribunal, he can very likely end up like Harry and Ellis: a sorry, guilt-ridden drunken mess of a man who'll die soon, either at his own hands or due to his antics.
    • It takes a lot of talking and bonding, but Joyce Messier is, deep down, just like Harry. She longs for her past and is implied to long for a romance she had in Martinaise, just like Harry and "her". Even Boring Cops will have their brains talk to them to encourage them to do dumb shit - and Joyce's admission that her sanity is just a mask isn't that far off from the justification a Boring Cop can use. Both of them avoid talking about the pale, with the implication that they've both been exposed to it for too long, and that the both of them know there's not enough time left - either for the world, or for their sanity. If you suss this out, you two can share a knowing goodbye before she leaves.
    • Who's the Crab Man? A middle-aged man involved in an everyday trade and a potentially criminal past who suddenly began a violent downward spiral and came out the other side babbling about nonsense and worshipping "her", due to pale exposure.
    • The Hanged Man has all the facets of every possible Harry. He was a violent drug addict threatening to kill everyone and everything in the name of racism, political ideas, or even because he can, just like Harry. He was in a slow, destructive, world-ending spiral prior to the game beginning, just like Harry. Despite his flaws, he attracted a woman who saw past his tough exterior and left him all the same, just like Harry. Art Cops will note Raul claims Lely dabbled in the arts. Human Can Openers will hear Raul say that if Lely was here, he could have talked them all down, despite everything pointing to failure - not unlike Harry being able to open up a blustering Titus and his Boys with only a few words. Apocalypse Cops will heed the fact that his drunken, genocidal ramblings about the world coming to an end sound quite a lot like theirs - on top of the fact it's HEAVILY implied both Lely and Harry were screaming into tape recorders the night of the murder. Druggie Cops will be pleased to hear that he loved his booze and drugs to drown out the world and loved the ladies, too. Corrupt Cops will empathise with the fact his unit worked for the just-as-corrupt Oranjese megacorps. And if you take the bad thing that happened at the Church that involved Harry at face value, you're potentially an atrocity-committing wreck, just like the Hanged Man leading the horrific violation and murder of a Semenese woman.
    • Speaking of The Hanged Man, the rest of his unit qualifies.
      • de Paule was one of the mercs investigating after the murder and uses every piece of evidence available in the encounter. When she first speaks, the narrator notes she is oddly stoic. She's not far off from Kim in these regards.
      • Ruud is an incomprensible, sorry mountain of a man. If you have high perception, it's heavily implied his whispering is him quoting literature - not far off from an Art Cop or someone with high Inland Empire - and is heavily implied to have been grieving Lely's death by drinking himself to near death, not unlike Harry's decades-long attempted suicide after "she" left. Raul can further reveal Ruud was one of the most brutal people on the unit. So was Harry in his Precinct.
    • The Deserter, a violent communist all too eager to blame everything on the "ruling class" and kill them, too. What's more is that it's implied he can hear not only La Revacholiere like a Harry who has, but also other Cryptids like a Harry who ascribes to the Col Do Ma Ma Daqua Cryptid, and, finally, a devil figure - Iblis. "Shaitan". The total opposite of the Messianic Dolores Dei.
    • During the ending, Jean will compare you and him to Torson and McLaine, two cowboy cops who're "an iconic duo" like you two - except Jean will quickly point out you two are iconic for being clinically depressed men, and they are not.
    • Titus Hardie is a brutal, misanthropic, hostile man who, deep down, really does give a shit about Martinaise and Revachol as a whole, despite not knowing if his "policing" is actually making a difference. He's also very physically fit and a little obsesed with guns, not too far from former Gym Teacher and/or high-PHYS players who need to find their service weapon.
    • Underneath her insane unfiltered id-spewing antics, Cunoesse is a deeply traumatised foreigner who needs to have her even more insane ideas reigned in by a relatively more level-headed partner-in-crime and a secret lust for death, made obvious if you try to shoot her.
  • Shameful Strip: Discussed. Because the Hanged Man is found partially naked, you can float the theory that his killer(s) forced him to strip down before killing him in order to humilate him. It turns out that he was already pretty much naked when he died, but of his own volition, as he was killed mid-coitus. Not only that, but before his hanging he was re-dressed by the "lynch mob", only to be re-undressed as locals stole his armor.
  • 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. Klaasje, being a corporate spy, also narrows down the shot trajectory near-perfectly with nothing but string and spare time. It's also implied she was somehow aware of the Deserter at a distance due to this.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: The game uses loud static noise in place of homophobic slurs ("f***t") during dialogue, which can end up being as horrific as the word itself. Going by the one time the word is uncensored, wannabe gang member "Pissf***t" describing the origin of his name, it's deliberately obfuscating the fact that in Revachol, the equivalent term is "flaubert" — the jacket's item ID in the game code is "jacket_pissflaubert", and with the Homo-Sexual Underground thought researched, Pissf***t says "Pissflaubert" uncensored and out loud in the Final Cut. The Jamais Vu update allows you to convince Kim to wear the "Pissf***t" jacket, whereupon he muses over it in the second time the word is said uncensored, and this time Kim says the actual non-equivalent word in question.
  • Sigil Spam: One symbol you'll see repeatedly in graffiti is the white, inverted pentacle-and-antlers. It represents communism in this universe.
    • Another prominent symbol seen throught the game's art is that of an abstract orange-red rectangle reprasentative of the shipping containers in the dock, which appears in the portraits of all characters affiliated with the Débardeurs' Union. Even characters with incredibly vague connections with the Union, such as Gaston, Gorący Kubek, Acele, and Ruby have a hint of this symbol in their portraits due to their vibrant, warm-colored jackets making similar shapes, or hiding it in other parts of their art's backgrounds.
  • 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.
  • Silliness Switch: While the game is ridiculous enough on its own, the Jamais Vu update adds a specific one you can turn on on command: after finishing the Dick Mullen book and finding out that there's no way to actually know how it ends, the Detective can insist that Dick Mullen was the murderer afterall and by wearing the Dick Mullen hat and Pinball Maker's Coat, you get an additional thought orb that gives him the ability to embody Mullen fully. This takes form by adding a "Modus: Mullen" dialogue prompt to the book, which instantly changes the weather to rainfall and thought orbs that read like Mullen's inner monologue to pop up constantly for the next minute or 2 when selected.
  • Split Timelines Plot: Implied. During the Moralist Vision Quest, you encounter a bit of entroponetic crosstalk of where Kim talks about a cold winter and someone keeping some wiring maintained, something which Kim doesn't remember having said. It turns out that it is because it is not something from the past, it is actually a glimpse of the future; when you and Kim later investigate the island, he says the line about the generator in the bunker, and Inland Empire freaks out, because it notices the connection. But, more interestingly, if Kim has been shot and Cuno has stepped up as your sidekick for the last part of the investigation, Cuno instead comments on the fact that the generator is cold, and Inland Empire freaks out at this point too, because it notices that this wasn't how that part was supposed to happen.
  • Smash the Symbol: Martinaise's statue of the old king was blown up by the communists during the revolution. A cynical yuppie design agency then rebuilt it, in a deconstructed form, representing the moment of its destruction. The Deserter then shot it in the chest, as a symbolic re-killing of the king. It can be further defaced in the course of Harry's political development - covered with posters by Cindy and the student communists, turned into a radio transmitter by Soona/Noid and potentially have the horse's head fall off if you fail a red skill check to boost the signal by adjusting it, or repurposed as a high-concept billboard advertising Harry by Idiot Doom Spiral.
  • 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.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Electrochemistry certainly thinks so. The sales pitch it makes to you to start smoking again is that a cigarette in hand can transform even you from a boring old man into a suave, sophisticated intellectual, or even a Cowboy Cop mimicking the boiaderos of old.
    Electrochemistry: You're too old to be cool now, but find cigarettes, smoke them — blam! Instantly a cool renegade man, a mystical red dragon with smoke rising from his nostrils!
    • Electrochemistry also reacts to seeing Kim smoke with an admiring statement about how devastatingly cool he looks.
  • 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 affected 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 Celtic counterpart culture of Ubi Sunt? 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.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: In order to intimidate the Hardy Boys and get them to tell you what they know about the murder, you can pull out your gun and threaten to shoot, yourself. And depending on how things play out, you my go through with it.
  • 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 8 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 entroponetic 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. Wirrâl is poked at for being a Standard Fantasy Setting that's wish-fulfillment for maladapted nerds. The former two are, in-universe, formulaic dreck with dozens of titles to their name, and the third game had an adaptation that turned into Development Hell.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Even if you succeed 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 in front of you 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 and remind you that you're not going to be able to go through ''every'' door in Martinaise.
      • 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 luck out and Dodge the Bullet once during the Tribunal, you can't do it twice. Kortenaer's Last Breath Bullet will hit you no matter what.
    • As it turns out, getting sober when you're a long-time alcoholic/addict is neither quick nor easy. Even if you try and commit to it, several of your associates express skepticism that you'll stick with it, saying that you've tried several times before only to fall off the wagon once again. The Wasteland of Reality thought makes no bones about the fact that recovery is not going to be a glamorous process, and inflicts a skill penalty to reflect the short-term symptoms of withdrawal.
      Full recovery will take years, though. It'll be depressing. And it'll be boring. Don't expect any further rewards or handclaps. This is how normal people are all the time.
    • If you end up provoking The Pigs enough for her to to shoot you with your own gun, it turns out it's not loaded. After all, not even a shady pawn shop owner would willingly sell a loaded weapon, especially to someone not of sound mind.
    • Talking the Monster to Death only works when the monster is willing to be reasoned with. The mercs at the Tribunal are drugged out of their minds, out for blood, and used to killing with impunity. No matter how persuasive you are, they will start shooting and people will get hurt or killed. The best you can do is distract them enough to get an upper hand in the inevitable firefight.
    • Successfully solving the case doesn't have anything to do with the interviews you do or the interpersonal drama between people connected with the case. Instead, it's solved almost entirely by forensics. You just locate the bullet, determine possible trajectories, and search all the possible places it was fired from, eventually finding the murder weapon, its owner, and potentially a boatload of other evidence. While you can interrogate the suspect for motive, and even extract a confession, neither is required to make an arrest — so long as you've gathered sufficient evidence, Kim concludes you've got more than enough probable cause to take him in. While perhaps not as dramatic and narratively satisfying as the tense social conflict and psychoanalysis common to police procedurals and detective stories, this is how most murder cases are solved in real life.
    • The final confrontation with your old squad. While you can get away with saying absolutely deranged things for most of the game (with one loading tip even encouraging you to do so), Jean has no patience for your antics, and you will receive scathing criticism for any unprofessional behavior.
  • 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 is criticized rather ruthlessly.
      • Communism is jabbed for its naive if idealistic goals, the means of reaching those goals often being brutal violence that hits the working class it attempts to benefit, and how it tends towards self-destruction because none of the avowed communists can agree on what communism even is and spend more time in self-righteous pissing matches over who is or is not a communist than actually compromising on larger points for the purpose of unifying into a coherent ideology, and that's if the communists aren't psychos in it to kill people under the guise of being a revolutionary.
      • Fascism is attacked as a refuge for "nationalists" with a bad case of Nostalgia Filter, and all of the characters who identify with it are either socially backwards, deeply insecure, virulently racist, or all of the above.
      • Ultraliberalism (Libertarianism) is looked down on for its dog-eat-dog mentality of gaining wealth no matter how much pain is caused to the less fortunate.
      • Moralism (Centrism) is knocked for enforcing the status quo and leaves both sides of a debate unhappy, and the progress it supports happens so slowly that those who need help will never receive it in their lifetime. In addition, the story criticizes centrist thought for its warmongering tendencies in pursuit of the status quo, and moralism is continually hinted to have a very malicious edge to it.
        Thought Cabinet: Look up at the sky, at the dark shapes of the Coalition airships hanging there. Ask yourself: is there something sinister in moralism? And then answer: no.
    • 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.
    • There is absolutely no practical reason to shell out extra money for “premium” alcohol when all of it is equally likely to get you drunk to the exact same degree. The only effect of a price tag is on the player’s self-respect.
    • Sixteen Days Of Coldest April is a jab at Russian classical literature, a Doorstopper of a Misery Lit book that damages both your Health and Morale just by reading it. Your Pain Threshold skill loves it.
  • Take That Us: The entire Fortress Accident storyline is one giant self-mockery quest. Game writers are depicted as whiny, edgy, and/or over-sensitive slackers who either fall apart at the merest sign of trouble or instead double-down on tasks they simply don't have the resources or manpower to accomplish in the first place by getting even more idiotic pie-in-the-sky ideas (at one point, when it was clear having one voice actor serving as a game master or as a few NPCs was prohibitively expensive, the writing lead instead decided to have all characters have unique voice actors, even for minor NPCs, and inevitably blame mental health and decide to practice "self-care" (i.e.: abandoning the project entirely and claiming every time they shirk work is for "wellness" reasons). The game programmers are, on the other hand, are socially-inept geeks sneering at the plebs who can't understand code, stubbornly refusing to be "emotional" or "illogical" despite being helped by people who can emote better than a rock in trying to find a reality-warping glitch (unless it's about whatever nerd bullshit they like).
  • 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. On Day 5 René is revealed to have died so there is also some kind of time limit on getting certain information from him and Gaston.
    • Time only passes in the dialogue interface. You can spend as long as you like wandering around and exploring or navigating the area, as long as you don't initiate dialogue. This also means that players in desperate need of money can go around collecting tare without wasting precious time.
  • 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 mildly Shakespearian 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.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: Mr. Fabron, who wasn't a very good taxidermist but managed to make one truly terrifying ice bear fridge before killing himself by huffing taxidermy chemicals at the behest of his supposed "vision beast".
  • Taxidermy Terror: Stuffed animals are among the various oddities lurking in the shadows in the "haunted" Doomed Commercial Area. Subverted with the taxidermy seabird you broke as part of your Alcohol-Induced Idiocy in the Whirling-in-Rags, as no one other than you seemed to have a problem with it. Finding a replacement is a minor quest.
  • 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.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball:
    • During the Moralist Vision Quest, you end up trying to cut through entroponetic crosstalk — bits of the past, not necessarily broadcasts which can be picked on the radio. You hear Kim talking about a cold winter and someone keeping some wiring maintained. Kim doesn't remember saying it — because it's actually from the future, if and when the two of you go to the island. Inland Empire remembers, but neither you nor Kim notice enough to comment.
    • Possibly non-canon art by some developers (and explicitly stated to be in-universe speculation) is that the Innocences and similar historical figures are being sent non-natural concepts (mostly technology, and it's implied anything NOT technology-related, like philosophical revelations and new political thoughts, is sent in service of developing technology, like politics causing war causing technological progress) from the future. The pale is a toxic by-product of the process of humans deciphering the concepts and said concepts being sent back in time. It's why electronics can pick up past conversations from any source, why the pale seems to focus on nostalgia, and why Innocences are "subtly terrifying" and inevitably attract a lot of enemies - the last Innocence who was responsible for the most modern advancement was killed by a terrified guard who realised that the concepts should have come naturally to humanity. Furthermore, it's implied the Schizo Tech and strange time-period mashup is a result of these concepts being sent back; for example, the first computer existed in the cultural equivalent of the 1800s.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Many of the trailers feature the Tribunal, an important endgame event.
  • Translation Convention: Possibly, although never explicitly stated. At one point Kim can tell you the language you're both speaking is Suresne, as Revachol was once a colony of the Kingdom of Suresne, which became the nation of Sur-La-Clef, and which is heavily implied to be the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of France. Many characters who are explicitly stated to be natives of Revachol speak with a French accent, and unsubtitled French is quite common in both dialogue and the environment, without any sign anyone has any difficulty understanding what's being said.
  • 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.
  • Tutorial Failure: Collecting dice will open up certain white skill checks again (because of "luck"), but the game only tells you this if you read a given die's description after acquiring it, and it doesn't make it clear which skill checks are affected. Without knowing this, it makes the dicemaker's inclusion in the game seem arbitrary and the option to pocket the die after opening the Wirrâl board game bewildering.
  • 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.
  • Unions Suck: The game's Crapsack World skewers all forms of organizations and ideologies, with unions being no exception. The Debardeurs' Union that controls Martinaise is basically just a Neighborhood Friendly Gang, led by the corrupt Evrart, and sustained by an illegal drug trade, along with dosing their workers on drugs to increase output and instilling fear and order by snooping on everyone who comes through Martinaise, and especially their own employees. Their saving grace is that they have imposed some form of order and law in the deteriorating town and the corporations they oppose is also corrupt and morally bankrupt. That said, for Communist playthroughs, it is heavily implied that the corruption is partially a pragmatic ploy to throw off the corporations, and that the workers are dead serious on going to literal war when the corporations inevitably send in their security forces. They're implied to be competent enough that your precinct might be joining them on their uprising.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Though on night one if you run out of money there are a variety of ways to get out of being unable to pay for a room, on night two there are no such luxuries. If you can't pony up your rent, your game is over and you're going to need to reload a much earlier save.
  • 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.
    • The Jamais Vu update adds an option for the Detective to harrass a seagull by throwing dirt at it with the excuse of practicing his aim: if you keep doing so, the seagull flies off, the sky becomes blanketed with them and they all proceed to rain massive amounts of shit on him, causing him to pass out with a Black Screen of Death and when he wakes up, a 10 feet diameter area around him is covered in bird shit with his thoughts telling him that he got what he deserved.
  • 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.
    • According to Shivers, crime lord La Puta Madre - whose name is so feared, even cops only speak it in whispers - wears a white suit.
  • Vision Quest: Invoked:
    • Mr. Fabron the taxidermist was apparently compelled to drug addiction and ill-advised projects like the ice bear fridge by his "vision beast". The Detective can wonder out loud if a Horrific Necktie can also qualify as a vision beast.
    • In the Final Cut, each of the four political alignments has its own "vision quest" starting on Day 4. Each involves that alignment's associated skill somehow guiding you to meet up with like-minded people, ending on some kind of reckoning or epiphany.
  • 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 and you're suffering from a severe hangover from a 3 day bender. Kim barely manages to hold on.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: If you succeed at shooting down the hanging corpse, the Player can choose this dialogue.
    You: Who's laughing now, you little shit!?
    Cunoesse:' Fuck you, *kyrpäle*! (despite her words, her tone seems celebratory)
  • Warts and All: The player character is a legend 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?
    • In one failed check, Logic quotes the novelty song "Witch Doctor" (originally by Ross Bagdasarian/Alvin and the Chipmunks, but probably better know to modern audiences through the cover by the Danish band Cartoons), even if it doesn't really know where the words are coming from:
      Logic: Sorry. You're not coming up with anything. Again, the pieces are there: she could have done it, somehow, something else, wala-wala-bing-bang — it's just not coming together.
      You: Walla-walla-bing-bang?
      Logic: I don't know what it means, but it felt like the most appropriate thing to say. That's what the *Witch Doctor* would say, at least.
    • 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:
    • The game works a number of Manic Street Preachers lyrics into the text and dialogue:
      • As soon as you leave your room, you meet Klaasje, dressed in her silver disco jumpsuit and mentally dub her Miss Oranje Disco Dancer. The album Know Your Enemy takes a sudden swerve into disco with "Miss Europa Disco Dancer".
      • When you admit your amnesia to Lena, she acknowledges that you do look dazed, "like a stunned fox", from the chorus of "Epicentre" ("Like a stunned fox — with memory loss / A sad numb creature — I worship the painkiller").
      • The Deserter quotes the old Communard marching song "La Revacholiere", actually lines from "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next". "The future teaches you to be alone, the present to be afraid and cold..." When he expresses frustration that he can't remember the rest of the song, you can respond with the next lines: "If I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists."
  • We ARE Struggling Together: When instigating the Communist Vision Quest, Rhetoric will tell you to go find other leftists to have spirited debates with about Communist theory with, though it expects that these debates will actually mostly be about complaining about other leftists. When you respond how this seems rather counter-intuitive to the Communist cause, it responds that internal squabbles and complaining about other leftists is a core part of the Communist experience. At the conclusion of the Vision Quest, one point you can bring up to the reading club is why even bother if we're going to fight like this?
  • Wham Episode: Eventually, the Krenel Mercenaries will initiate an armed standoff in the streets that ends up killing several named characters. Your intervention will potentially 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, which generally sticks to 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:
      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.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?:
    • Exaggerated. At the start of the game, the Player Character wakes up an amnesiac in a trashed hotel room after a three day bender, not remembering his name, profession, or just about anything about the world around him. Even the concept of money temporarily eludes him, and you have to piece together the mystery of who you are while trying to solve a murder at the same time. Harry can claim he's remembered everything during the Tribunal, but it may be the ramblings of a desperate man OR someone admitting the truth on what they think is on their deathbed.
    • Later, post-Tribunal, you and Kim can go through what happened last night. Part of it is stuff you can pretend to not recall, and part of it you genuinely do not know due to the fog of war and getting shot at.
  • Whole-Plot Reference:
    • Kim's backstory. An East Asian (equivalent) cop, whose parents were killed in a war against revolutionary Communists, and whose career as a cop was based on exploiting his youthful appearance to go undercover with juvenile delinquents - it's all a riff on Harry Ioki of 21 Jump Street.
    • A broken down Crapsack World of poverty and institutional corruption, in which cops investigate a hideously corrupt dockworker's union operation that is funding its strike action with drug materials... it's a reference to The Wire.
  • What the Hell, Player?: The game revels in it and encourages you to take the dumbest, most non-sensical actions. Even then, at times you can take things too far:
    • After begging for Gaston to give you his sandwich, you can pass a non-trivial skill check to start talking about the most delicious sandwich ever made in an attempt to have him give it to you. At the very end of the dialogue tree, you can throw away your hard work, sigh wistfully, and say it's impossible to make such a sandwich. Gaston bemusedly and sadly asks even why did you ask in the first place.
    • Confronting the Instigator on their relationship with Klaasje has them yell at you that, no, they're NOT going to go into detail about their lesbian relationship with a suspect in the case "for you to jerk off later". Volition tells you to drop it. You can ignore it and say that you really want you to know. Kim makes a Herculean effort to fight off the fact you're both being microwaved alive by a combination of entropy, human memory, and anti-matter to express his utter disbelief that you're asking for details. Ruby's inclined to agree, and so is the game, which immediately punishes you with health damage for being dumb enough to do this.
    • Failing a check while talking to the Dicemaker results in you trying to take off your pants in front of Kim and the poor woman. Even your brain is utterly confused as to how and why you came to this conclusion.
    • Upon first meeting Kim, you can claim the body he was sent to investigate is TOTALLY down from the tree. The dead body that he was explicitly sent to help with because it's been hanging there for a week. The dead body that is definitely not down from the tree because of the detective skirting the question. Needless to say, you wind up exhausting the options protesting that the body is not in fact down from the tree if you try to do this.
    • You can randomly harass the Working-Class Woman about nonsense regarding your political alignment, then hug her for no reason. It gets more serious when you later find out that you subconsciously knew that she was worried sick over her missing husband. The hug actually did help.
    • Fail an Authority check with the Hardie Boys during the interrogation, and one option is pressuring Kim into giving you his gun so you can threaten yourself with it, then shoot yourself to "assert dominance". That'll show 'em.
    • Fail another Authority check with Acele, the woman recording stuff outside the church, and her casually saying "fuck the hat" when you offer her one immediately has you explode into a really weird and angry monologue about ungrateful civilians like being rude and demanding that culminates in you screaming at the top of your lungs that she asked you to give her an "ice-cop-hat-fuck-show", before you then finally break down and start bawling your eyes before her. Afterwards, a concerned Kim takes you aside and asks what happened back there.
    • Failing a Composure check while sitting in Evrart's chair has you do your best impression of a Salvador Dali painting as you suddenly slide off it, trying not to cry. Even Evrart is genuinely concerned.
    • If you don't have much INT while talking to Joyce, you can, for some reason, decide to keep repeating "Mr. Evrart is helping me find my gun". Joyce, Kim, and your brain all panic and try to figure out why you decided to keep saying this over and over. If you do have enough INT, trying to initiate the loop has your brain ask why you're trying to do this and stops it for you.
    • On a more serious note, during the Tribunal, you can:
      • Pin the blame on random people, yourself included. If you can't back this up, this gets Elizabeth, the Gardener, killed.
      • Not bother to alert anyone about, say, the mercenaries about to murder them. You can get Kim very likely fatally wounded for this.
    • While dialing random numbers on the payphone, you can choose to prank call a man by telling him you are having sex with his wife. Doubling down on it in the face of his mounting anger leads to him genuinely believing you, which results in him violently confronting his wife for her apparent infidelity while she tearfully denies it, all of which you can hear. You'll wind up taking emotional damage after hanging up, realizing you've ruined the marriage of a complete stranger for no reason other than a sick desire for personal amusement.
    • Another random payphone number results in you calling Dora, the ex-wife who haunts Harry's dreams, despite her having moved on from him. The experience does nothing but make both of you miserable, and gives you constant Morale damage the longer you let the call go on.
    • You can point a loaded gun at a demented delinquent child (or go even further and actually shoot her, which leads to a Non Standard Game Over). Even the child's buddy, who is normally extremely off his rocker, recognises you were seriously aiming and considering shooting his adopted sister. Kim won't let you forget this.
    • Prior to the check allowing you to try and prevent it, you can vocally allow Ruby, the instigator, to kill herself. Though you're forced to progress onwards afterwards, the game still throws you a meta version of this if you choose to wait to attempt the Electrochemistry check for removing The Expression until after the Tribunal, in which a +1 modifier is added because of the sobering fact that you either weren't able, or chose not to save Ruby.
  • Wiki Walk: The Encyclopedia skill is very prone to getting sidetracked and taking you along for the trip. It even eventually notes it'll chime in with facts at the most inappropriate times. A skill later allows you to get paid for this.
  • 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. He's also the only character in the entire game who you have the opportunity to claim is the murderer who doesn't even try to defend himself against your accusations, first asking if you're joking and upon being told no, he instantly becomes pissed, plays the You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With card, refuses to talk to you anymore and tells you to leave, failing the task to talk to him about his whereabouts during the murder.
  • 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 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. The only reason you stand a chance against them at all when The Tribunal inevitably commences is because they're all too drunk, off their rockers on combat drugs, and deep in mourning to act effectively, which can buy you just enough time to get the drop on them before they can start. Even if you play all of your cards right, they'll still wind up killing half the Hardie Boys before being taken down.
  • A World Half Full: The detective is a broken wreck on the verge of death from substance abuse, Martinaise exists in an oblivion of poverty, the Coalition that dominates the world is completely apathetic about anything but maintaining control, and the world itself is slowly but surely headed towards being engulfed by the Pale. Yet hope is a Central Theme of the game and there is a strong message that even when everything seems broken beyond recovery there is still joy to be found in the world and things worth fighting for.
  • You Can't Make an Omelette...: You can have a discussion with your skills about building Communism. It ends like this:
    You: (Roll up your sleeves and start building Communism.)
    Rhetoric: Oh yeah! Get the firing squads and the animal wagons ready!
    You: Wait, what? Firing squads? You didn't say anything about those.
    Rhetoric: Too late to back out now. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few million eggs!
  • 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 fires 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."