Narration plays a huge role in Disco Elysium: The Final Cut, the spiraling detective simulator that was recently updated for consoles. As such, one might expect the man chosen to lend his pipes to such a project to be some sort of master thespian, or at least a veteran voiceover artist. But in reality, the developers at ZA/UM went the exact opposite direction.
Before being cast in Disco Elysium, Lenval Brown was best known for providing vocals to the London-based ska/rap fusion band Maroon Town. In a recent interview with PC Gamer, he described his path to video games as a “crazy, long journey,” facilitated by a friend who happened to meet Disco Elysium executive producer Kaur Kender in college.
“I always used to go around doing stupid voices,” Brown explained. “I’ve always had this deep voice. So I did a little test on my phone and sent it to them, and they liked it. And that led to me being offered to read some scripts for The Final Cut. It was like 200,000 words, but I wasn’t gonna say no! It was a job, no matter how daunting it sounded. Then, as well as the voices in Harry’s head, they wanted me to do the narration too. It was a lot, but I didn’t hesitate.”
The biggest change to Disco Elysium: The Final Cut comes from the addition of new voice acting, including Brown’s fantastic work as both the game’s ever-present narrator and the main character’s inner monologue. In-game, the personifications of concepts like Logic and Empathy constantly contextualize actions taken by the player and discuss the world around them. This amounts to around 350,000 words of dialogue, a daunting task even for the most experienced voice actor.
Interestingly enough, it was Brown’s background as a rapper that helped him establish the cadence of Disco Elysium’s constant narration.
“I rap and sing, so I have to write rhymes to fit into a bar,” Brown said. “I decided when I was recording the lines, I was gonna do it with rhythm, but not on the beat. I could easily take it and make it into a rap, but I pushed myself away from that, but still kept some of that rhythm. I was looking for a flow. I have to make sure I’m reading it right, to find the rhythm. That’s what made it easier for me.”
Having played Disco Elysium when it originally released on PC in 2019 and now on console with The Final Cut update, I have to say that Brown vastly improved a game that was pretty damn good to begin with. I already loved the voice acting present in the launch version, but Brown’s almost lyrical vocals add an additional layer of pathos to the crumbling psyche of the game’s protagonist. His work has further kept me from mindlessly skipping dialogue as fast as I can read it, which goes a long way in a game as dense as Disco Elysium. And it sounds like it was a good experience for Brown too.
“I’m really grateful for the game, because I wouldn’t have been doing much without it. [Maroon Town’s] got some gigs coming up, but for the last year, obviously, we haven’t been doing much. It hasn’t been a good year for a lot of people, but I got something out of it.”