Disco Elysium Guide for Beginners: Start Your Game Right

disco elysium guide

You are a detective with a case to solve. Unfortunately, you don’t remember much. How do you navigate piecing clues together in this dark grimy but utterly compelling video game? This Disco Elysium guide will help you start your game on the right track. Even those who have finished it admit that it can be confusing and complicated; so a little help wouldn’t hurt.

Maybe you’ve already tried and got lost in the game, and you’re here to start over. There’s absolutely no shame in that! And if you’re playing it for the first time, you’re in luck. These tips will save you a lot of headaches when playing Disco Elysium.


How to Start Your Game Right: Disco Elysium Guide

With your memory barely intact, starting Disco Elysium from scratch can be frustrating. You don’t know who to trust or where to start looking. Fortunately, you have abilities and tools at your disposal to help crack the case. You will also get helpful strategies in this Disco Elysium guide.

In the beginning, you will be asked to choose an archetype or character build. Each archetype gives you a set of skill points, with some higher than the others. Don’t worry if you don’t like the preset ones because you can customize your own, as discussed below.


The Beginning: Allocating Skill Points

allocating skill points
Screenshot from Steam

You are given 12 points to distribute into four skills: Intellect, Psyche, Physique, and Motorics. Intellect determines how well you gain insights from clues, crime scenes, and your conversations with people. Psyche has more to do with your emotional intelligence—how you influence others and how well you can persuade them to give up information during interviews. Physique, as the name suggests, dictates your physical strength, and Motorics dictates your agility.

It’s critical to buff at least two of these skills but make sure to leave some points for the others. Having high psyche points, for example, will make you very charismatic. It will be a piece of cake to convince others to cooperate with you. However, you immediately lose physical fights if you have a very poor physique.

You will then choose a signature ability on top of the four skills. Each of them gives you special advantages on skill checks. One of these is the Encyclopedia which allows you to pull up knowledge from your “internal voice” (more on this below) even without having a book open. Another one is the Suggestion which lets you influence non-playable characters (NPCs) easily.


Do These Immediately

Investigate the Body

On your first day, you will find out from the NPCs that the body of the victim is hanging on the tree right outside the hotel. You will probably not head there immediately because you’re looking for clues as to what happened. That is the right move, but don’t spend too much time talking to everyone. Head to the bar where you will meet a key character that will help you with this case. Head straight to the body after meeting that character. Time is of the essence so do whatever it takes to get all the clues you can get from that crime scene. You may have to ask for some ammonia from the gardener to help you not throw up while looking at the body.


Talk to These People

talk to people
Photo from Disco Elysium

As your luck would have it, it’s not just your memory that you’ve lost. You will also find out that you’re missing your badge and your gun! You won’t find out where they are right away but talking to these people will give you enough clues. Remember, this Disco Elysium guide will only walk you through getting started so remember these strategies as you move along.

  • The bartender/manager – some questionable events have happened in this hotel. The manager will tell you what impression people have of you and how they might react. This gives you an idea of strategizing how you want to approach the town folks.
  • The police department – you may want to make some calls especially with your badge and gun missing. This will not be a pleasant call, but they can connect you to a woman who will give you an insight into what you have really done the previous nights.
  • The woman on the phone – the police can connect you to the woman whose name pops up on your dialogue box while you’re talking to them. The bartender also mentions her. She will tell you what you did to your gun.
  • The gardener – depending on how you’ve built your character, you may be easily repulsed by the dead body and might fail the skill check to investigate it further. The gardener by the hotel’s backdoor has some ammonia that can help with that.
  • Joyce – she’s located somewhere near the docks and can provide you with substantial cash to cover some of the things you need to pay.


How to Get Cash: The Plastic Bag Conundrum

how to get cash
Photo from Disco Elysium

Speaking of cash, you are probably the most broke detective you’ve ever known. You need to pay for some damages you’ve done while you were drunk, and your hotel room won’t pay for itself. You also need money to get new clothing and accessories to improve your skills. The way to do that early in the game is to collect trash. That’s right, trash: find used bottles that you can sell. To collect the bottles, you need a plastic bag that a lot of players don’t even know where to find.

You can find one in the plaza right across from the book shop. To sell the bottles, all you have to do is deposit them in a vending machine. You will have to look for a convenience store that has one. It will then dispense cash in exchange for the bottles.


Succeeding in Skill and Dice Checks

dice checks
Screenshot from Steam

In this Disco Elysium guide, you will also learn how to succeed in skill and dice checks. Your success in some of the game’s activities involves rolling dice. When learning how to play Disco Elysium, it’s important to remember that your skill points affect your dice rolls. If you are proficient in a skill related to the check, you have higher chances of rolling the required number. These dice rolls are invisible to you. If you pass the check, you will be given extra action and be able to use your unique abilities.

There are two types of checks:

  • White checks – allow you to reroll later in the game.
  • Red checks – can only be done once.

The key here is to only try the red checks if you have high proficiency points in that skill. If you fail, something really bad may happen. What you can do to counter this is to increase your skill points first before going for the red checks.


Increasing Your Stats With Clothing and Accessories

Screenshot from Steam

As you get more cash, you will be able to buy some clothes and accessories. You can also loot them along the way. Each piece of clothing adds stats to your character. Clothes also help increase your success rate in skill and dice checks. Make it a point to dress as fancily as you can!

Where can you find new outfits? You can find your initial clothing in the clutter of your hotel room. As you progress and explore the world, try looking through alleys, shops, containers, and other unusual places. Try on hats, gloves, ties, new pairs of shoes, and find the fit that matches your playstyle.


Internalizing Thoughts to Improve Skills

internalize thoughts
Screenshot from Steam

At some point during the game, you will be interrupted by “thoughts.” This Disco Elysium guide will teach you how to use them to your advantage. These thoughts are often dark, pushing you to question your choices, and sometimes luring you to cross “the other side” and die. However, they can also work to your advantage. Some of these thoughts can buff stats of your choosing. So if you started with a low physique, you can build it up as you go along.

To use these thoughts, you have to “internalize” them. You can access your thoughts by clicking on the icon of a head wearing a headphone over it on the lower right of the screen. This is the Disco Elysium Thought Cabinet. It will show you the name of the thought and the option to Internalize it can be found at the bottom. It may take some time before you completely internalize a thought so that it can increase a stat. Take note that buffing skills using thoughts may decrease some of your other traits so make sure to balance them at all times. You can also remove thoughts later by using a skill point if you find that you don’t want or need them.


Understanding In-Game Time

You will notice that there’s a clock somewhere on the top of your screen. Time is important in Disco Elysium, and it works differently from most games. In Disco Elysium, time only moves when you interact either with objects or NPCs. There are also some tasks that you can do only at a particular time on a particular day. The way time works in this game can be good and bad because there will be times where there’s nothing left to do but wait. However, you can make the most of the idle time by engaging in some activities. For example, you can sneak out of your hotel room at night without being noticed by your police partner. This way, you can take side quests or look for other objects without the other officer objecting to your choices.


Building Your Detective Personality

build your personality
Photo from Disco Elysium

As mentioned in this Disco Elysium guide, choices matter a lot. Each time you interact with an NPC, your responses dictate your personality as a detective. You can choose to be a respectful cop or become the most annoying and indecent cop that town has ever seen. This, of course, affects how they respond to you and whether they will cooperate with you or not. However, playing the good cop will not always get you far. There are times when you need to intimidate people to get the information you need. You also need to command respect as a detective so being passive all the time is far from ideal.

Sometime through the game, you may see a popup that will ask you to confirm if this is the personality you would like to take on. You can say no to that if you want to build your character more. It will appear again later, asking you to make a choice.


Shortcut Keys

These Disco Elysium shortcut keys are applicable for those playing on a Mac and PC. Most of the navigation is done with the mouse, but there are some useful keys that will help you speed things up.

  • Tab – highlights the interactive items on the game. These can be anything from clues, clothing, and loots. Make use of this often to avoid missing anything from any location.
  • Space – lets you activate your Thought Cabinet instantly. This will save you time especially when your character is moving around and you don’t want to interrupt your movements.
  • Number pad – can be used to select an option during dialogues.


Don’t Expect a Perfect Gameplay

When learning how to play Disco Elysium, it’s important to remember that this is a story-driven RPG. This is not a game where you aim for the highest score and finish the game as quickly as you can. The point of RPGs, even online ones (MMORPGs), is to allow players to explore the world within the game and the story it was built upon.

Go roleplay the personality of the cop that you aim for your character! Make choices according to what a cop with those character traits would do and not just because it seems right. Don’t worry about making mistakes or missing some clues. If you follow the tips in this Disco Elysium guide, you will be off to a good start and avoid fatal mistakes later in the game.


Investigation Tips

disco elysium investigation tips
Screenshot from Steam

These tips will help you a great deal as you progress in your detective work. You have to be creative and find other ways to get clues and succeed checks when doing them the traditional way would not work.


Hold On to Some Skill Points

You’ve learned how to allocate skill points at the beginning of this guide. However, there is a pro trick in Disco Elysium that can up your game to a new level. In most RPGs like Elder Scrolls, it’s best to spend skill points as soon as you get them. That rule doesn’t necessarily apply for this game. As you gain more skill points, know that you don’t have to spend them right away. You can hang on to them and use them for dire circumstances. This is an advanced maneuver that can prove to be extremely useful when you’re faced with impossible choices.

There are two uses of unallocated skill points:

  • Redo checks – when you fail some skill checks, you can spend a skill point to redo the checks that are not ordinarily redoable. Remember that skill points don’t come easily so do this sparingly and only when you really need to pass the check.
  • Delete or remove a thought – you only have a certain number of slots on your Thought Cabinet. If you want to internalize new thoughts and don’t have space for them anymore, you can spend a skill point to delete or remove a thought. You may also find that some thoughts do more harm than good so it’s good to have the option to remove them.


Unlock Checks Without Dice Rolls

Some days, you’re just not as lucky as you want to be when rolling dice. In these cases, you can use other ways to unlock or succeed checks without a dice roll. One way is to talk to relevant NPCs. Some characters may offer you either information or money that can help with your case. Instead of doing a skill check, you can talk to them to bypass the dice roll.


Increase Your Odds

Completing the internalization of some thoughts can also give you an advantage on your checks. While this does not bypass the rolls as does the above tip, you will have ultimately higher odds of succeeding.

Some actions also increase your chances of succeeding. Remember, choices extremely matter in Disco Elysium. You can find out which actions affect your chances by hovering over the checkmark in the dialogue box. It may say “talked to this person” or “gave this item to that person.” You will then see a banner or popup that tells you if doing so increases your chances of succeeding. In some cases, these actions may even unlock white checks without you having to use a skill point!


Be Thorough With the Small Circles

At the beginning of the game, the short tutorial will tell you that interacting or clicking the little circles gives you clues. The problem is there are way too many of them and most of them aren’t very useful. However, some of these circles are gold! So as annoying as it can be, it’s better to be thorough when investigating a scene. There are even times when they can complete thought internalization instantly. They can also make objects appear that weren’t visible before you click on the circle.

Clicking on some circles may also sometimes give you extra experience points (XP). While it only gives you one point per click, the fact that there are so many circles or bubbles means that they stack up and eventually become worth the trouble. One XP can also make a huge difference when you’re aiming to gain a skill point.


Connect the Dots No Matter How Small

connect the dots
Photo from Disco Elysium

You’re a detective, and your job is to connect the dots—big and small. There are times when you would interact with an object that seems like a waste of time. It may even cause you damage. But later on, you may find that there is something in there that’s relevant to your case. Just like a real detective, you sometimes have to go back to a scene you’ve already looked at in case you missed something. Follow your instincts and always look at your journal and inventory. Why is that object there? Is it really just a random thing in a random location? You will be surprised how things are intricately connected. You just have to use deduction, common sense, and trial and error to piece them together.

However, it’s also good to go in blind and try something out of the ordinary without a solid basis every now and then. This is what your detective instinct is for. If something feels like it’s connected to something, don’t ignore that feeling. In real life, your instincts are there for a reason and serve the same purpose. The key is to balance it with evidence and not rely too heavily on one or the other.


Go Back to Places That Were Previously Inaccessible

go back to places disco elysium guide
Screenshot from Steam

Some areas like the river down south are inaccessible at first. This just means that there is some other task that you need to complete before you can access it. Take note of these places and come back to them time and again. The game will not give you a clue whether it’s already accessible or not; you would have to find out for yourself. And since time is important in Disco Elysium, this is also an important factor.

The river that we mentioned, for example, will only be accessible on a Wednesday. Cross the bridge over that river and it will lead you to a small town where you can find lots of loot and useful items to purchase. You may even find cash and free lodging. Though this Disco Elysium guide is meant for the start of the gameplay, this particular tip will prove useful to you through the end.


Do Side Quests

It may feel counterintuitive but doing side quests give you advantages in solving your main case. After all, it’s impossible to crack the case right away. Doing side quests will help you level up. Each time you do, you gain new perspectives and thoughts that you can add to your Thought Cabinet. Side quests also help you unlock new areas in the Disco Elysium map. Don’t worry if it takes time away from solving the main murder; the body isn’t going anywhere and you can always go back to it.

Not all side quests are connected to the murder, but they can provide context to what’s really happening in that town. Sometimes, the NPCs you talked to during the side quests may offer new information when you approach them again later.



One of the most annoying things about Disco Elysium is that the character moves slowly. It’s almost like you’re always taking a leisurely stroll. You cannot even do an auto-run like in most games. But you can force your character to sprint to a location by double-clicking an area. It’s still not as fast as running but it will get you there quicker. To do a sudden stop while sprinting, hit the spacebar.


Breaking Locks

break locks with tools
Screenshot from Steam

You may encounter doors or containers that are locked. Depending on how you built your character, you may not have the skill to unlock them without special tools. You can find tools in your partner officer’s car and equip them to help you break locks.



In Disco Elysium, you take damage not only from physical fights but also from dialogues. That doesn’t make sense, you may say. But actually, it does. When you engage in intense encounters with some NPCs, you may get insults, difficult questions, etc. As mentioned again and again in this Disco Elysium guide, choices matter a lot. If you respond in a way that makes you weak in terms of character and personality, it will hurt you. You may have a decrease in Morale, making it difficult for you to win verbal arguments. You may lose Perception points, mental strength, and other important stats.

To heal from physical damage, you can buy medicine from the drugstore by the hotel where the game starts. As odd as it is, that is also where you can get items to boost Morale and heal other mental damages. You can check your healing items by accessing your stats on the lower left side of the screen.


Avoid Manual Saves

First of all, it’s really hard to choose a point in the game where your saves will be optimal. You don’t know which next action will hurt you or if a choice will be good or bad. Saving a game may overwrite the auto-save that would have otherwise been good for you. But more importantly, this game is meant to be a simulation of detective work. As in any job, mistakes are part of it. And guess what: sometimes these errors may lead to new discoveries! The point of this RPG is to explore the world, make choices, commit mistakes, and learn from them. Let the story unfold by itself and make yourself a part of it instead of manipulating it. You will be surprised how much more fun you will have by going with the flow.


What to Do When Stuck?

Speaking of mistakes, getting stuck in Disco Elysium is inevitable. Just like real detectives get stuck in their cases, you will hit a dead-end at times. When that happens, your Journal will be your best friend. The best thing to do is to go back to your journal and read the information again on each quest. You can access your journal by clicking on the notebook icon on the lower right. Review each task and see which ones you can go back to that may offer clues for your main quest.

Pro tip: your journal has a Map that will show you the skill and dice checks that you failed. See which checks you can retake and try to do them again. They may help you progress in other tasks whether they’re for main or side quests.


What Is Disco Elysium?

what is disco elysium
Photo from Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium is one of the best story-driven games out there, released in 2019, and has since retained a Very Positive rating on Steam. It’s an open-world roleplaying game (RPG) where the player takes the role of a detective off to solve a murder mystery. What’s most special about this game is that choices matter. Make a wrong move and you may lose access to things critical to your case. You are asked to choose between actions, dialogues, and items throughout the game. Each choice affects how your personality and skills develop. You can only choose your base skills once at the beginning of the game. After that, you’re on your own. You cannot reallocate your skill points that you’re going to have to work for. Nevertheless, it’s a challenging and thrilling adventure that RPG lovers will enjoy.

The game was developed and published by ZA/UM—a video game development company started by novelist Robert Kurvitz. It’s no wonder that it has such a complex storyline and mechanics. Disco Elysium is available to play on PC and Mac.


Story Overview

disco elysium story
Photo from Disco Elysium

As mentioned briefly, you as the detective have suffered partial memory loss. Your department is counting on you to promptly solve your case. But how will you do that when you don’t even remember your name? It also has some dark aspects where you hear a disembodied voice that takes you into moments of interdimensional travel. Don’t worry, though, because this voice will help you as you play through the game.

The story unfolds around the block of your hotel where you have woken up from a nasty hangover. There are plenty of NPCs to interact with. Some of them may have useful information and others are a waste of time. As you progress, the mysteries get stranger and stranger, and it’s up to you to piece whatever clues you can gather to get to the root of this murder.

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Why Play Disco Elysium?

Aside from being an intensely mentally stimulating game, Disco Elysium is one of those RPGs that offer something new each time you play it. It’s a game you can replay over and over and each gameplay will give you a different but similarly thrilling experience due to the choice-focused aspect of the game. You may choose to do things differently the next time around. You will also find a lot of secrets that you did not uncover on your first run. Disco Elysium has won several awards precisely because of this and was named the Best RPG in 2019.


How to Download Disco Elysium

how to download disco elysium
Screenshot from Steam

Disco Elysium is available to download from Steam. It follows the same procedures for purchasing any Steam game on PC or Mac. If you’re new to Steam, you will need to install the Steam client, create an account, and purchase the game with a credit or debit card. You also have the option to run the game from an external hard drive.

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Similar Games

If you think you’ll enjoy or have enjoyed Disco Elysium, here’s a guide on similar games that you can try.


Divinity Original Sin 2

original sin 2
Screenshot from Steam

They’re not completely identical, but Divinity Original Sin 2 has a lot of aspects of Disco Elysium in it. It has a high emphasis on storytelling and is one of the most popular story-driven RPGs. The difference is that it has a more complex combat system.

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Planescape Torment

Screenshot from Steam

This game took a lot of inspiration from the tabletop RPG, Dungeons and Dragons. It’s similar to Disco Elysium in a way that it can sometimes be dark and occasionally transports the player to terrifying dimensions. The protagonist has also suffered some memory loss like the detective. Choices matter a lot and the character’s personality changes as the game progresses.

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Pathologic 2

pathologic 2
Screenshot from Steam

If you liked Disco Elysium for its dark elements, this game will be just as enjoyable. It’s a fascinating horror RPG that delves into strange diseases. You do a lot of detective-like work by uncovering what causes these illnesses in the town.


Final Word

Disco Elysium is truly an immersive open-world RPG that will get you hooked for hours on end. And while it can be complicated, this beginner’s guide will help you start your game right. So put on your detective hat, gather clues, and solve the murder-mystery case of a lifetime!

Disco Elysium Guide for Beginners: Start Your Game Right

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