Disco Elysium is a very good role-playing game that focuses on text, exploration, internal change, and occasionally being a disaster mess who inflicts chaos on everyone around him. Developer ZA/UM has come out with a couple of upgrades to the game, including ultra-widescreen support and a new hardcore mode.
Hardcore mode sounds especially interesting, as Disco Elysium doesn’t have many of the normal levers a developer can tweak to make a game tougher, like enemy health or spawn rates. Instead, ZA/UM has created a trickier mode with less resources and more experience.
The developer explains what hardcore mode in a post on the game’s store page, but the basics are that every check is more difficult, and you’ll fail more as a result. That means players will likely veer more towards being a hot mess, if only because they aren’t able to pass the tests society throws at them. if you’re not passing checks, you’re going to be very undignified. There’s less money in the world too, and pharmaceutical products cost more while doing less. Balancing that out is drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, which are now both more abundant and alluring to the protagonist.
In my first run of the game, I dressed my detective up to amuse myself. Now, equipment has stat bonuses that matter, and making risky rolls in terrible gear becomes a dangerous proposition. I also explored lots of stray thoughts in internal dialogue trees, but now thoughts solidify much faster, and wandering down one path to experiment could prove troublesome later.
There’s one big bonus to hardcore mode, and that’s more XP. Specifically, the player will get more XP every time they finish a task. This isn’t a monumental change; it’s described as a marginal gain by the developers. Still, it’s a welcome addition with all the other factors in play.
Hardcore mode sounds quite punishing, and so it will appeal to players who have beaten the game normally. New players should avoid a hardcore run, unless they’re willing to dive directly into the deep end in possibly catastrophic fashion.
Disco Elysium is already well worth a player’s time, if they’re into games with branching dialogue trees, fluid protagonists who change and adapt, and low-stakes settings with satisfying payoffs. Hardcore mode doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but it puts some more gas in the tank for a very satisfying ride.