Disco Elysium, the phenomenal adventure game by developer ZA/UM in which players are put in the role of a comedically disastrous detective consumed by his inner monologue, has been out for just under five months. Fans are still enamored with its world, especially when it comes to one mysterious achievement.
“Palerunner” was added to the Disco Elysium achievement list in late January alongside the game’s hardcore mode update. While the achievement’s details are hidden until you unlock it, achievement websites originally suggested that Palerunner would be awarded to players who “Phase-shift for 60 seconds.” As pointed out by freelance writer and editor Chris Priestman, this set off a flurry of research within the Disco Elysium community as players tried to figure out what phase-shifting is and how you do it.
In the world of Disco Elysium, the Pale is a vacuous, insubstantial space between realities. It’s mentioned at various points throughout the game, but not in any way that indicates how the player could interact with it. The existence of phase-shifting is similarly obtuse, appearing only once as a sarcastic response in the game’s expansive conversation system.
Disco Elysium players have used the scant clues at their disposal to formulate multiple strategies. An in-game book, “Medicinal Purposes of the Pale,” makes mention of a Pale-related ritual that must be performed naked, leading players to strip the main character and walk through various portions of the game to try to trigger something. Some suggested dancing for 60 seconds in the church. A Steam user called xyrilyn tried to make sense of the achievement by studying its artwork and digging through the Disco Elysium code, to no avail. At one point, ZA/UM community manager Danielle Woodford stepped in to offer encouragement, but nothing players did seemed to earn the achievement.
On February 2, a player known on Steam as Sam Dreamurr claimed to have received the Palerunner achievement after encountering a glitch. Sam Dreamurr wrote that by saving during the loading screen and then loading that saved game file, they found themselves in a “black abyss” and unable to move. Restarting the game caused a door to appear, and three seconds later, the main character was teleported back to the game world. Afterwards, Sam Dreamurr was notified that the achievement was unlocked. They shared their save file with several other Disco Elysium players, who confirmed that they too were given the Palerunner achievement after experiencing the same series of events.
Since the Pale is supposed to be a sort of ephemeral space outside the tangible world of Disco Elysium, breaking out of the game’s confines would certainly qualify as “palerunning.” Players also found that the achievement’s description mentioned phase-shifting for three seconds, not the full minute that had been reported previously; it’s unclear whether Palerunner’s time requirements were altered at some point after the bug was discovered or if the initial 60 second requirement was incorrect. Many suggested that ZA/UM was aware of the bug Sam Dreamurr brought to the community’s attention and used the achievement as a way of cheekily referencing something they couldn’t fix before release. A few, however, considered using the bug to get the achievement to merely be an accident and not the true way the developers intended players to unlock Palerunner. Kotaku has contacted ZA/UM for more information.
Since then, the Disco Elysium community has continued to experiment with ways to get the Palerunner achievement without using Sam Dreamurr’s save file. The only attempts that have been successful, however, have also involved using tricks or third-party tools to get out of bounds at a certain point in the game. The developers haven’t said anything publicly about whether this is how they meant for players to unlock the achievement or whether continued research is on the right track. Until then, Palerunner remains yet another mystery of this enigmatic game.
(Updated 3/3/22 with new details)