Transhumanism, infidelity, artificial intelligence, surveillance, pornography. These are just some of the themes explored in State of Mind, Daedalic Entertaniment’s futuristic sci-fi thriller. State of Mind takes notes from story-rich adventure games such as Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain and Dontnod’s Life is Strange series, serving up a narrative that had me captivated from start to finish, as well as a brilliant cast of characters that are fleshed out and superbly voice acted. State of Mind is a textbook example of how to craft a narrative-heavy video game.
So often in narratives, the protagonist is an individual who you may find relatable and/or likeable. State of Mind’s main character Richard Nolan is far from your normal cookie-cutter protagonist. It is almost immediately obvious that Richard Nolan isn’t the greatest human being; he’s arrogant, self-centred, and a technophobe, a stance that in the constantly connected digitised future is unpopular to say the least, he’s vehemently against the idea. Despite the crux of the narrative being the search for his recently missing wife and son, he’s been lying to them, seeing another woman in secret with the hope of being with her. Yet, despite his unfaithfulness and wrongdoings, Richard finds himself desperate to track down his wife and son, and so we are whisked away on a futuristic journey.
Richard Nolan isn’t the greatest dude
The story of State of Mind is the greatest aspect of the game. As the aforementioned Richard Nolan, you desperately seek out answers of the whereabouts of your missing loved ones, uncovering insane conspiracies and plans that threaten the world around you. You realise early on that Richard Nolan has been subject to a failed mind upload. Instead of being fully uploaded in to this virtual reality project, he has been split in two, with half of him residing in reality, and the other in virtual reality. Memories have also been lost, so in order for Richard to essentially become whole again, he must track down his alternate self in this VR world, a world he soon suspects may have something to do with his family’s disappearance.
Who could it be?
State of Mind is constantly reinforcing the notion that reality is dystopic and that virtual reality is utopic. The reality of 2048 Berlin is bleak and depressing. The real world is drab and grey, only really brightened by the neon-clad architecture. Many are homeless, as AIs continue to advance and take the jobs that humans once had, and wars are being fought between the East and West, with stories of terror constantly blurting out of news station speakers. City 5 on the other hand, the virtual world in which an incomplete version of Richard resides, is a bright, pristine and beautiful utopia. Everything seems perfect, but the perfection feels unnerving, and it’s evidently clear that things aren’t quite right. These worlds also look amazing, with the unique low-poly character art contrasting against the highly detailed cityscapes.
At the end of the day, it is particularly hard to go deeper in to the machinations of the story without spoiling it. There is so much to see in State of Mind, with so many twists and turns and shocking moments sure to keep you binging through the 10-hour-plus story.
2048 Berlin is inherently depressing
Gameplay wise, State of Mind isn’t overly deep. Much like the previously mentioned Dontnod and Quantic Dream games, State of Mind is largely concerned with its narrative, with gameplay offering players to explore and gather information on the world. There are puzzles and little action moments through the course of the game however, which are great changes of pace. There are drone segments that task you with navigating maze-like areas, as well as segments in which you are given multiple pieces of information, with your job being to disseminate the documents to help make sense of what exactly you’re looking for. There’s even a moment in which you take control of a bunch of lasers and are tasked with taking out drones, which manages to turn the game momentarily into a tower defence third-person shooter. These short departures from the main gameplay are perfectly dispersed throughout the game, ensuring that the main gameplay loop of walking around and interacting with objects never gets too stale. There isn’t a great deal of gameplay depth in State of Mind, but it executes its role perfectly, serving as the device to keep the stellar plot rolling.
The drone segments are a welcome change of pace
Despite the incessant gushing over the story this game tells and the topics it delves into, I do have a couple issues with State of Mind. The first would be that the game doesn’t really have any indicator of your current objective, meaning it is easy to end up cluelessly meandering around the areas available to you, interacting with everything in the hope of pushing the story forward. It can be argued that not explicitly telling me where to go encouraged me to interact with things I may have otherwise avoided, but it does feel like a small oversight that could easily be alleviated by adding a current objective indicator. It also needs to be said that controlling your character can sometimes be a bit odd and finicky, but this only occurs in small instances, mainly when you’re stuck in a narrow area.
It’s easy to get lost at times, but at least the game looks pretty
The biggest complaint I have regarding the game however, is both of the endings you can get at the end of the game. Both endings, despite having an awesome build-up and great choices to choose from, sadly fail to give enough resolution. Loose ends that you hope to see cleaned up aren’t resolved, and the ending just feels particularly flat and drab. Part of me feels that this ending is intentional, as it fits perfectly with the overarching message that the narrative is trying to assert, but it just left me a little sour that the carrot left dangling before me throughout the whole game, was abruptly whisked away with no solid explanation. The ending of State of Mind is agonisingly disappointing, but it doesn’t make the story that State of Mind tells up until that point not worth your time.
The ending sadly leaves you with no answers and a million questions.
State of Mind may just about have one of the most engrossing and well written narratives that I have ever experienced in a video game. From unexpected twists and turns, to exceptionally well voice acted characters that ooze emotion in tense and dramatic scenes, I found myself binging on the game as I would with a season of one my favourite TV shows. It does occasionally get a little too convoluted as many sci-fi narratives do, but when it did, I always found myself intrigued enough to delve deeper to determine what exactly was going. State of Mind is a crazy adventure full of mind-boggling conspiracies and two vastly different technological futures, and it’s a journey I wholeheartedly recommend you take.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher