State of Mind is an adventure game by developer Daedalic Entertainment that tackles a digital age theme that has been rather popular with the media lately, named transhumanism. The story-driven game explores the idea that existence can go beyond the physical realm and continue to persist in the utopian virtual spectrum. It’s a theme that has been explored before in film and TV (Black Mirror, anyone?), but Daedalic has attempted to keep things fresh with its own spin on the formula.
Set in the dystopian cyberpunk city of Berlin, State of Mind revolves around the lives of two central characters. Players will alternate between the roles of Richard and Adam, two ordinary people leading seemingly normal yet problematic lives. Although the two have never met, there’s an underlying connection between them that eventually leads them to cross paths with one another. There are a couple of interesting twists along the way that helps players remain invested in the storyline.
While the story and setting play their part in keeping players hooked, the gameplay itself isn’t quite as interesting. As is the case with adventure games from the yesteryears, you’ll be traveling through a series of locations with limited exploration and objects of interest to interact with. Primary interactions involve engaging in conversation with non-playable characters, with multiple dialogue options to choose from. However, these dialogue choices seem to have no impact on the narrative itself and are merely there to gather additional backstory. As a matter of fact, the important dialogue choice is usually highlighted in case the player wishes to experience the narrative with minimal effort, much like a visual novel. Either way, there’s no consequence or path that leads to a state of failure, and hence, there’s no sense of urgency tied to the whole experience.
In addition to face-to-face conversations, you’ll also be required to make phone calls over the game’s Cloudnet service and engage in conversation with people of interest in order to advance the storyline. There’s also some basic inventory management, and you’ll be required to collect key items, such as an ID card. There’s also the odd mini-game or two thrown in for good measure. There’s one in which you’ll hack into terminals to take control of a drone in order to disable other drones and scan non-playable characters, and another in which you’ll re-assemble memory fragments from your character’s past by piecing together a picture. After a certain point in the story, players can freely switch between Richard and Adam by accessing the pinboard at their respective apartments.
If the story doesn’t hook you within the first hour or two, there’s not much else here to stick around for, except perhaps to admire the nicely realized cyberpunk setting and atmosphere. It’s a world that begs to be explored, but it’s only possible to do so within the limited confines of the game’s traversable regions. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself hitting an invisible wall that prevents you from going any further. If you’re looking to get a sense of discovery and to lose yourself in the game world, State of Mind is not for you.
The game does a fairly decent overall job in the audiovisual department, though not without a few glaring issues. Both the environments and character models sport a minimalistic, low-poly aesthetic, which feels fresh and gives the game its own distinct identity. However, character animations can range from stiff to laughably poor at times. Voice acting is nicely done, and it’s also great having the option to switch to Deutsch voice-overs for the sake of authenticity, given that the game is set in Berlin.
State of Mind is an experience solely focused on delivering its narrative. As a game, it closely follows the design fundamentals of adventure games from the yesteryears and, as a result, doesn’t do much to evolve the genre. Luckily, the storyline presents an interesting take on a mature theme that is likely to hook fans of dystopian/utopian science fiction.
State of Mind Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: State of Mind is a futuristic thriller game delving into transhumanism. The game explores themes of separation, disjuncture and reunification, in a world that is torn between a dystopian material reality and a utopian virtual future.
State of Mind delivers an interesting story-driven experience with a mature theme that is likely to hook fans of dystopian/utopian science fiction. However, it doesn't do much to evolve the adventure game genre.