A state of mind is often defined as the mental state or mood you’re in at any particular time. My state of mind when Daedalic Entertainment first announced they were developing a futuristic thriller involving transhumanism – the enhancement of human intellect or physicality via the usage of tech – could be described as both intrigued and excited. Now that I’m actually able to experience what the game in question, State of Mind, has to offer, will my mood stay the same, improve or worsen, as a result?
It’s a bit of all three throughout the entirety of the game to be honest, but that really doesn’t tell the whole story.
The year is 2048 and we awaken in Berlin, after some kind of explosion, in the shoes of an investigative journalist called Richard Nolan. This guy absolutely despises the technological advancements that have been made and implemented into daily life, especially seeing as the influx of humanoid robots have forced many out of work. Resources are in short the supply, the air is so polluted it isn’t worth breathing in, and crime is constantly rising. These are bad times, people are suffering and things are deteriorating. To make matters worse, Richard can’t remember what happened before the explosion and both his wife Tracy and son James have seemingly disappeared. What on earth is going on?
That’s a sentiment you’ll share with Richard, seeing the story unravelling piece by piece and creating masses of questions inside your mind – and his. There’s clearly something amiss in this world and the narrative does a smashing job feeding you morsels of information that are just enough to keep you hooked, without divulging too much at once. It makes you think, whilst also ensuring there are moments of tension, sadness and at times, confusion. Trying to grasp the concept could be a little tricky initially, however the more attentive you are, the easier it is to understand.
In terms of gameplay, State of Mind is minimalistic for large portions, requiring you to just guide Richard around, interacting with various points within each environment. It’s akin to a point-and-click in that sense and this is how you’ll advance the story as well as learn about life at a time when A.I. basically runs everything from surveillance and policing, to tidying up and cooking meals. Early on, everything’s a bit slow; over time though, as more characters become playable, the puzzling moments become more frequent.
You see, Richard isn’t the only character to be controlled, with a handful of others whose lives are inter-connected with his also eventually playable. This opens up all kinds of possibilities and introduces new areas to explore. I don’t want to spoil anything about these other characters, however the puzzling sections brought about alongside their introduction really bring a good change-up to the gameplay.
There are different types of puzzles too; one needs you to guide a drone through a maze-like route without garnering attentions from bots, whilst another has you hacking into cameras to clear a safe pathway to a destination. The mechanics for the action-orientated moments aren’t great though, so it’s understandable that there are more thought-based puzzles. Fixing memory fragments are a prime example of the latter, where you must pay attention to what’s being said before switching tiles around to create a whole picture related to it. As Richard is a journalist, it’s good to see a couple of puzzles involving the sifting through of documents to find data relevant to the problem at hand. These parts are especially engaging and you’ll come to realise that nothing is given easily – there’s an emphasis on the game leaving information to be found for some solutions, without forcing it upon you.
As mentioned already, the mechanics involved in rare periods of action aren’t the best, but the general movement of characters can also be troublesome. The turning circle is odd and getting whichever character is under your control facing the correct way to interact is occasionally a minor irritation. Nothing comes close however to the annoyance of being penned into a corner by a companion bot though, one who continues to block your way and is blissfully unaware.
Back to the good stuff and the voice cast is of a high quality, ensuring a believable world of inhabitants is created in the process. Conversing is a regular occurrence, so the voiceovers need to be good enough to keep your attention, as does the actual script, both of which are up to the job. And whilst it’s fascinating to gain insight into these characters and their lives leading up to this point in time – mainly through the medium of holographic phone calls – I do wish Richard could be more likeable. Most of it can be passed off as typical behaviour of a man whose life is in disarray, but he’s overly erratic and aggressive at times. You will grow to understand him, it just takes time.
On the visual front, and as an outsider, it’s easy to be put off by the low-poly style to the presentation and it’s not the best look for character models, however given the message trying to be conveyed here, they are suited to this fragmented world. In relation to the environments you’ll spend time in, the designs help in generating the tone of the piece. Whether it’s the seedy bars and shady streets of downtrodden Berlin, or the peaceful vistas of the VR place City5, the beauty is in the detail and the more notice taken, the more you’ll get a grip on the reality of it all – and the more Daedalic Easter eggs you’ll find within the art.
Overall and State of Mind is an intellectual behemoth when it comes to telling its sci-fi story of the way tech can affect the human population, for better or worse. The main character may need time to grow on you, but the complex narrative and the questions that arise in your mind will guarantee that you’re hooked in for a thrilling ride. Sure, it can occasionally be slow-paced, but nevertheless the puzzling sections keep things ticking over nicely. When Daedalic try to interject these with the action-orientated parts though, it only serves to highlight the flaws and basic nature of the general game mechanics. Just like the low-poly visuals, it’s not a deal-breaker and there are some minor issues that are easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things, to allow the storytelling to flourish.
My current state of mind is one of satisfaction and elation upon taking in such a clever tale, and you can share my mood by experiencing State of Mind for yourself. Go on, take the trip and uncover the truth!