Release Date: August 15, 2018Platform: PS4, XBO, Switch, PCDeveloper: Daedalic EntertainmentPublisher: Daedalic EntertainmentGenre: Adventure
Just behind superheroes, it can sometimes seem like cyberpunk has been pushed to its absolute limit lately. State of Mind is a new graphic adventure game looking to challenge this notion, however, letting players loose within a futuristic setting in need of saving. Its emphasis on exploration and character makes this a story worth experiencing, even if its new ideas don’t quite live up to the tall order sci-fi veterans have come to expect.
While the fantasy of leading a double life in which one can experience the world as their perfect self might only be a dream for many, technophobic future journalist Richard Nolan finds himself in the unique position wherein that temptation is a likely reality – virtual or otherwise. This is just one of many profound conundrums the ill-fated protagonist of State of Mind is forced to ponder throughout this 10-12-hour adventure. But to be fair to the man, he has his reasons.
Taking place in an alternative Berlin approximately 30 years into the future, this narrative-driven thriller opens at a time when Richard’s life is in disarray. He’s a recent victim of a car accident, his marriage is on the brink of collapse, and the techno-capitalist world surrounding him is quite literally falling apart. State of Mind might owe a lot to the lofty themes explored in other celebrated works of sci-fi fiction – ideas like AI rights, transhumanism, and cloud-based utopias are all touched upon – but where it shines is in the very human story developer Daedalic Entertainment keeps in clear sight.
This large emphasis on narrative means that a lot of your time in State of Mind is spent exploring various neon-laced spaces and environments, talking to characters in a bid to learn more about a global conspiracy concerning the idealized virtual world of “City5.” It’d be easy to compare what’s here to your standard Telltale release. Yet, what could have easily boiled down to just rifling through drawers and opening emails to give players the mere impression of investigating is thankfully replaced with a fair mix of suitable objectives and activities that aren’t ever as rudimentary as other games of this ilk.
An early section in a nightclub, for instance, sees Richard disable a series of drones via hacking before he can meet up with a confidant. Other instances will see players needing to line up photo tiles in order to relive another character’s memory that is key to advancing the story. All the tasks in State of Mind outside of the usual bout of exploration never outstay their welcome. The existence of most of the elements in State of Mind makes logical sense in such a futuristic setting. Hologram phone calls? Sure. Robot butlers? Of course. You get the idea!
Much will be said about State of Mind’s unique choice of art style, but in general, the low-poly character models and pastel environments work well, hearkening back to the retro-futuristic aesthetic of the materials it’s paying homage to. The overall stiffness doesn’t help the game’s cinematic moments or action set pieces, but considering this is from a small, independent team of developers whose background is largely in 2D point-and-click adventure games, it’s quite beautiful and you’ll never confuse State of Mind with anything else currently out there.
Towering megastructures overhang and are appropriately intimidating, the scantily-lit rainy streets of downtown Berlin are a cyberpunk aficionado’s dream, and the fittingly picturesque virtual world of City5 hits all the right notes of what a utopia — with a hint of seediness — should look like. Despite being small and contained, there’s a good variety to the environments State of Mind lets you dig around in. You’ll do so not only as Richard, but a variety of characters who each offer up multiple perspectives to State of Mind’s central question of “Who or what am I?”
Saying too much about who those characters are or the scenarios they are placed in would be giving too much away, a sin considering the importance of story here. However, just know that, as the game continues to unfold, you’ll be experiencing it from the viewpoint of many, rather than just a world-weary, grizzled journalist on a quest for the truth.
For all of State of Mind’s willingness to venture into complex ideas, though, anyone who grew up on a healthy diet of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson novels will likely see the plot’s twists and turns coming a mile off. The game is often guilty of rallying themes and concepts as more earth-shaking than they actually are for anyone with a passing interest in this stuff. This means that when the final story revelations do eventually come, they can be a little underwhelming.
Ultimately, the tale State of Mind sets you on is a classic case of “it’s about the journey, not the destination.” This may come as a disappointment to some, but when it takes place within a world that’s as full of intrigue, as well-realized, and unique-looking as this one, it’s hard to take issue with the narrative’s shortcomings. State of Mind might fail in its ultimate ambition to explore the deeper themes of humanity in any meaningful depth, but it’s one fulfilling journey of cyberpunk mystery.
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