Tuesday, 21 August 2018 11:00

State of Mind Review

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Daedalic Entertainment’s State of Mind is a bleak dystopian take on technology’s evolution and its impact and integration into human society. There’s very little actual gameplay, and the narrative is linear, making it an intentionally uniform experience for every player. Its relentless pursuit of abstract concepts is pleasantly offset by very real, very believable character scripting, but ultimately State of Mind can’t save itself from its greatest weakness of being, simply, unoriginal.

Amelia, the Fisherwoman

It’s Berlin, the year is 2048, and you’re Richard Nolan, a journalist who’s just been through a mysteriously incomprehensible vehicular accident. Your memories are unreliable and uncertain, and when you return home, your wife and son are missing. You’re struck first by Nolan’s gruff, hostile personality and lifestyle, and its contrast to the later parallel story of mild-mannered Adam Newman, whose place in Nolan’s universe is only identifiable at first through his similar experience of being in a car accident.

The world is a different place in 2048. Helpful androids occupy spaces in homes, on streets, and in companies, performing services that would normally be done by humans. They range from cleaning bots, like the one in Nolan’s apartment, to high-functioning humanoid “assistants.” Nolan disgustedly finds himself the owner of one such assistant when he returns home, but being in close proximity with the android his wife purchased without his consent quickly becomes the least of his problems. His primary problem? The aforementioned wife, and his son, have vanished.

Dialogue Your Way to the End

The pursuit of Nolan’s wife and son is the initial catalyst for your adventure through State of Mind, but it becomes immediately evident that more disturbing, and more universal, conspiracies are at play here. As you navigate Nolan’s futuristic world in search of answers, you’ll be occasionally halted for a brief mini-game, often consisting of a puzzle that could barely be called as such, with some more complex mini-games sandwiched into later gameplay.

You do have the freedom of movement for the most part, so you’ll need to follow a trail of breadcrumb clues to continue engaging and progressing with the plot, but these are easy to discover and even easier to predict. You also have a handful of options for dialogue as you interact with the Berlin of 2048, but they don’t cause branching narratives. If you decide to be offensive to one person rather than conciliatory, don’t worry. It’s not going to come back and bite you in the rear, like it might in some other narrative entries.

Likably Dislikeable Characters

It’s not easy to craft a character that’s dislikable, and yet somehow interesting enough, and believable enough, to keep you wanting to know what will happen to them next. In this, State of Mind succeeds marvelously. Its array of characters aren’t the most respectable types, and Daedalic’s ability to keep you hooked, despite causing you to furrow your brow at much of their questionable decision-making, is undeniable.

The art, on the other hand, is often hit-or-miss. The rough-hewn geometric style of the human faces is perhaps a play on the equally ambiguous faces of the human-esque androids, but it regularly feels stilted and dated, rather than unique and memorable. However, many of the areas that State of Mind takes you through, in Berlin and otherwise, look superb, and do a wonderful job of creating atmosphere. These areas are made all the more real because State of Mind allows — and requires — you to explore them in order to progress through the plot.

A Worthwhile, but Derivative, Experience

State of Mind is a harrowing, and fascinating, tale that unfortunately feels exceedingly familiar at every twist and turn. It has enough polish to make it a presentable package for the sci-fi enthusiast, but its lack of notable gameplay and new ideas, paired with its unremarkable stylization, keep it from rising into the ranks of the honorable few. Regardless, you may find yourself following along just to see what the disagreeable and disrespectable Richard Nolan will do next, as he interacts with the chaotic dystopian world unfolding before him.


The Verdict: Good

State of Mind is a dystopian rehash of digital dysfunctionality that’s neither new nor complex enough to distinguish itself from the horde. It redeems itself with character writing that feels barbarically realistic, thoughtful world-design, and the occasional stunning vista. State of Mind works hard to provide a serious discourse on the impacts of technological revolution — the only problem is, we’ve already heard most of it before.

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Taryn Ziegler

Taryn is a digital content strategist with an avid appetite for literature and gaming. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Culture, Literature, and the Arts, and since then has been engaged in copywriting for businesses from AutoNation to DirtFish Rally School. While she'll happily play most games set in front of her, Taryn heartily prefers a good ol' turn-based strategy RPG, such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Divinity: Original Sin.


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