Everyone likes a good sci-fi conspiracy-driven thriller, right? Whether it’s in the likes of Blade Runner, The Matrix or The Minority Report, it’s easy to find yourself absorbed into these technologically advanced worlds where those ‘advancements’ aren’t always for the benefit of mankind.
That’s the situation in State of Mind, the new futuristic narrative-focused title from the team at Daedelic Entertainment that shows how advanced technology doesn’t necessarily equate to being part of a happy world. Neither does playing as a bit of a vile protagonist either, but somehow both come together nicely to make for a genuinely enjoyable experience.
State of Mind puts you in the shoes of Richard Nolan, a vicious journalist who, after being involved in a car accident, finds himself in the middle of a huge conspiracy that involves the kidnapping of his family and the existence of a superior artificial intelligence. The world he’s a part of also just so happens to find itself in a troubled state, with resources running low and a technologically advanced government (and corporations) ruling over its citizens.
There’s also the fact that his consciousness has formed a new persona in a virtual landscape known as Adam Newman, who rather than following the often-horrendous traits of Richard instead takes on a kinder approach to those around him. Why exactly Adam exists and what his true role in the world is might not be necessarily clear at first, but it’s part of the grander mystery that you’ll work to unravel.
You’ll find yourself switching between Richard and Adam as you progress through the story, though there’s a lot more going on throughout that’ll open your eyes to the world you’re a part of – there’ll be moments where you’ll actually follow smaller tales of individuals throughout the city and find out not only how the world itself affects them, but also how something that Richard has done might have hurt them too. It adds an interesting twist to the formula that shows that the world doesn’t just revolve around Richard, but also those that he’s affected.
It all comes together to make for a very interesting tale, albeit one that doesn’t necessarily feel highly original all the time. Whilst State of Mind presents its ideas in an enjoyable and genuinely intriguing way, it’s clear that it has been very heavily inspired by an assortment of sci-fi movies and books from the over the years. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad thing, but there’ll certainly be plenty of moments throughout the game where the inspirations clearly click into place and you’ll have an ‘a-ha’ moment as you sense the familiarity.
One thing I loved about State of Mind’s story was just how unsettling it could be. It tackles a lot of dark and mature themes (some of which could easily be a reality for some) that aren’t often touched upon in video games and it makes the whole thing feel all the more believable. Sure, a lot of the sci-fi stuff can feel a little run of the mill, but there were more than a few underlying plotlines and scenes in the game that made me feel a little uncomfortable but in a very effective way.
Then there’s also the fact that protagonist Richard Nolan is a bit of a dick, but not in the anti-hero/Deadpool lovable way, but in the way that’s he’s an awful person who’s having an affair and treats most people around him like utter garbage. Video games often cast you as a villain, but rarely as someone who just so happens to be horrid and so easy to root against. I didn’t though, and I actually enjoyed playing the role of the asshole. It’s refreshing and actually makes you hope that things might not necessarily work out perfectly for him in the end…
There are moments throughout State of Mind’s story where you’ll have to make some choices, but somehow they don’t make you feel like you’re that involved in what’s going on – there’s a linearity to it all with an almost fixed narrative being told, so whilst you might make a minor difference to an event that’s playing out you can almost guarantee that the conclusion of it would’ve stayed the same regardless. There’s no doubting that the story being told is a tense and intriguing one, but I can’t help but to think that if your choices had stronger repercussions it would’ve made for a much more involving experience. It does help maintain the pace of the game though, with the linearity ensuring that the tale never stalled and that I was always seeing something new.
The gameplay pretty much boils down to just exploring the environment, examining and interacting with any objects you find, and talking with the world’s many (and sometimes unusual) inhabitants. If you go into State of Mind expecting some action-packed experience, you’re going to be left disappointed – the thrills come with the narrative and how each twist and turn skews your view of the leading cast.
There are a few puzzles thrown in for good measure as well as the occasional mini-game, and whilst they do add variety there’s no doubt that the story is the star of the show. Fortunately, it does a good job of telling it, though if you prefer a real hands-on experience when playing your games as opposed to simply seeing them unfold then State of Mind’s eight-hour adventure might be something you’ll want to steer clear of.
Visually, State of Mind has a distinct look that’s very heavy on the polygons – that might not sound like the most appealing of artistic styles, bit it’s actually pretty unique and I was a fan of it throughout. It’s very retro-esque with the character models themselves feeling like they could have come from the PSOne era, but with this extra degree of sharpness and detail that helps them look modern and fresh.
The environmental design is pretty impressive too, with the sci-fi setting proving both pretty and wondrous in equal measure. Sure, you have your occasional dull interior setting thrown in for good measure, but for the most part State of Mind’s world isn’t only great to look at but also wondrous to be a part of. It all looks impressive on the Nintendo Switch in both the docked and handheld mode too, with technical issues at a minimum throughout.
State of Mind’s tale is a genuinely intriguing one and I easily found myself hooked in and eager to find out where each twist and turn would take me. Sure, it didn’t always have the most original of ideas and its sci-fi inspirations were clear throughout, but it did have enough interesting characters in troubling situations to see me caring about what happened.
It’s just a shame that the story felt so linear in its approach. There were a few moments where the player is able to put their oar in about the outcome of an event, but the choices you get to make never feel all that important in the grand scheme of things. The instances of gameplay aren’t that involving either, with simple puzzles and mini-games doing little to make State of Mind feel like more than an interactive narrative at times.
Still, at least the narrative is a very good one and it’ll certainly keep players hooked in all the way through to its conclusion. There’s a genuinely tense sci-fi thriller on offer throughout that I think fans of the genre and deep narratives are going to appreciate.
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC