Published on August 28th, 2018 | by James Coles
State of Mind Review
Summary: Like a sitcom with the occasional bad episode, instead of keenly anticipating what I'll uncover next in the story, I began to just long for the finale.
In a present where we have the likes of Elon Musk and SpaceX, developer Daedalic Entertainment’s version of our future might not seem so far fetched.
With their latest release, sci-fi adventure State of Mind propels us thirty years into a dystopian future where, among other things, autonomous Tesla-esque vehicles are the norm. Furthermore, robots and automated AI are commonplace throughout households, as are food dispensers that can make any dish via the press of a button. And while all of these contraptions are intriguing enough; it’s a future where virtual reality can provide people with their most sought-after desires that State of Mind directs our attention.
Set in the year 2048 and located principally in Berlin, Richard Nolan has just survived a severe accident and awoke to find that his wife and son are missing. Seemingly in a different city on the other side of the world, Adam Newman has also come away from a similar mishap, and it’s from here that the two journalists eventually become acquainted.
Suspicious and reluctant to help Richard uncover the truth about his family at first, Adam soon realises that everything around him is not exactly what it seems. Trapped in a utopian virtual world known as City5, he must use his journalistic skills to recover and search through Richard’s memories which present themselves in the form of data fragments. As Adam uncovers each one, a conspiracy begins to reveal itself including revelations about Richard’s family, Adam’s existence and a scientist named Dr Kutrz.
Void of any real action, State of Mind is first and foremost a point and click adventure. Each location consists of a variety of yellow triangles which prompt you to initiate conversations with people and robots as well as inspect objects and solve puzzles. Switching between Richard and Adam is possible via a pinboard located in each of their apartments, with this board also providing a place to view all the scraps of evidence they have uncovered.
Additionally, both Richard and Adam communicate via a device called iCloud, which in lamens terms, is a futuristic version of an Apple product not yet ready for pre-order (funnily enough, Dr Kurtz bares a striking resemblance to Steve Jobs himself). It’s also through this iPhone 70 (we’re on iPhone 10 so 2x phones released per year plus thirty years?) that Richard can send over the data fragments for Adam to decode.
Now, since State of Mind is so story-driven, it’s difficult to say much more about the plot without mentioning spoilers. That said, there are two fundamental issues I have with the game, the first of which is that to get the most out of it, you must have some empathy toward Richard and his situation. Unfortunately, and certainly not without trying, he didn’t resonate with me at any time during the story. His thorny character and overall demeanour just rubbed me up the wrong way.
Initially, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he’d just come off a severe accident, so perhaps one could forgive him for his short temper. However, as the story unfolds and once you begin to delve deeper into his past, you start to realise that Richard, for me anyway, is unlikeable.
The second problem I have is that State of Mind requires you to take control of other characters during scenes that don’t add any real substance to the overall story. With the plot primarily centring on both Richard and Adam’s predicament, I feel as though it’s with these two that the focus should remain with at all times. The occasional sidestep away from the pair feels unnecessary and for the most part, steers you through too many dull and inconsequential moments.
For example, early on in the story, you assume the role of Richard’s wife Tracy in a data fragment flashback. It’s one of several mundane scenes which could have potentially worked had we instead taken the reigns of a younger Richard, and perhaps learnt what was going on inside his head when he first spotted his future wife on a rainy night in Berlin.
Another sequence sees you assume the role of Simon – an AI straight out of the movie iRobot – from his creation to when he first joins the Nolan household against Richard’s wishes. Again, these scenes failed to hold my attention and eventually drained my enthusiasm toward State of Mind’s narrative.
Honestly, I can see why the developer went this route with the storytelling, and perhaps these scenes work for some, but I feel as though the story could have benefited from omitting most of these moments. Like a sitcom with the occasional bad episode, instead of keenly anticipating what I’ll uncover next in the story, I began to just long for the finale.
Graphics / Audio
It’s not all doom and gloom though as the best thing about State of Mind is its visuals. And while this dystopian steampunk world isn’t entirely on the same level as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, there’s still plenty to appreciate here.
There’s a touch to the environments that fully propel you into the future and although the level design is not dissimilar to other Sci-fi adventures such as Deus Ex, State of Mind has a unique aura. However, the polygonal character design does seem a little out of place, especially when in contrast to the environments. Where the landscapes are slightly jagged, the characters that populate them are virtually rigid. This, though, isn’t a huge problem and isn’t enough to ruin the ambience.
Like the visuals, the audio is also well crafted. That said, Richard, voiced by Geralt of Rivia himself, is possibly the weakest aspect in the sound department. When in conversation, it doesn’t seem like there’s an awful lot of enthusiasm emitting from his voice, but that may be due to the dialogue, for the most part, being somewhat flat.
My attitude as I advanced through State of Mind’s chapters was akin to me going to my girlfriend’s parents’ house for a Sunday dinner: It’s something I don’t want to do, but I may as well do it anyway. It’s a shame as I wanted to enjoy this but aside from a few fleeting moments; I can’t say that I did.
State of Mind does have some redeeming qualities, but ultimately, the enjoyment – or lack thereof – to be had here is dependent on your feelings toward Richard Nolan. If you resonate with him, then you’ll take more positives than negatives away with you once the credits begin to roll.