The Disco Elysium devs were cooking the "most hardcore Disco since Disco" before management laid most of them off: "Everyone was looking forward to its development"

Disco Elysium
(Image credit: ZA/UM)

New details are emerging of the slow and painful death of the follow-ups to RPG masterwork Disco Elysium, one of which we're now learning would've been the "most hardcore Disco since Disco."

In a wide-ranging and often heartbreaking interview with PC Gamer, current and former employees of ZA/UM Studio described the creative vision and internally well-received demo for the now-canceled standalone expansion to Disco Elysium codenamed X7, the executive decision-making that allegedly led to its demise, the layoffs that affected most of its development team, and the aftermath of all this. The whole writeup is well worth your time, but what struck me the most is the way former X7 lead writer Dora Klindžić described the canceled project, which would've been headed up by Disco Elysium writer Argo Tuulik.

"It was something no one else but Argo could have done, and it would have been 110% authentic, most hardcore Disco since Disco," Klindžić said, adding that X7 "would have advanced the story, the emotional threads, and gameplay elements all at once to truly evolve the genre of psychological RPG as Disco Elysium started it ... For a while it seemed like miracles were possible, and with them, redemption."

PC Gamer's sources say X7 began development in 2022 and likely could've been ready to release in 2024 or 2025. An internal demo was passed around to other teams at ZA/UM, most of whom were impressed with what they saw. "Everyone was looking forward to its development," one ZA/UM developer said. "Its internal announcement lifted a lot of spirits after a rough time of bad press around the studio."

ZA/UM developers also thought X7 was "exactly the sort of game [the studio] needs to put out," thinking at the time that it could "reassure fans that ZA/UM is not a husk, that the IP is in safe hands and that the studio is full of talented people with a genuine love for the world of Revachol."

Ultimately, management canceled the project and laid off most of the development team in February despite clear assurances from ZA/UM president Ed Tomaszewski in December 2023 that the studio's strong finances would shield them from the industry's ongoing layoff crisis.

Disco Elysium

(Image credit: ZA/UM)

Despite releasing to universal acclaim in 2019, Disco Elysium is shrouded in a cloud of controversy seemingly stemming from the internal workings at the executive level of ZA/UM. Following a bitter split between key creatives in 2022, fired Disco Elysium devs traded serious barbs with the studio, with the former alleging fraud and the latter alleging toxic management. The story grew messier still with the release of a comprehensive 2023 documentary from People Make Games that digs deep into the complicated financial and legal situation at the company.

PC Gamer's story doesn't reveal a single conclusive reason for the cancelation of X7 and the studio's layoffs, not even from the perspective of the interviewed employees, but hierarchical murkiness seems to be one contributing element. Klindžić and Tuulik pitched the project together and nominally served as development leads, but neither was ever formally handed the reins.

Furthermore, every developer PC Gamer spoke to who worked on X7 attested that the project was never allowed a proper pre-production period, an unprecedented roadblock that Klindžić said was tantamount to dooming the project from the beginning: "Whenever we raised concerns about this and expressed we needed more writers if the deadlines were to be met, we were accused of not wanting to do our jobs."

The full truth of the reasons we'll never get to play X7, or the full sequel codenamed Y12, or the sci-fi game P1 led by Disco Elysium producer Kaur Kender, may never fully come to light. This latest splash of color will likely do little to numb the sting for a fanbase forever pondering what could've been, because what could've been sounds pretty great.

There's a good reason Disco Elysium made our list of the best RPGs ever made.

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.