State of Mind (PC) Review

By Tomas Barry 13.08.2018 1

Review for State of Mind on PC

In the last decade, there's been a significant surge in the popularity of titles that prioritise the telling of an interactive story above all other aspects of game design. The most prominent pioneers of this type of experience has been Telltale Games, with its episodic The Walking Dead series, as well as other projects like The Wolf Among Us. While Daedalic Entertainment hasn't conjured anything that's as high profile, it too has helped to shape this emergent genre, producing a wide variety of point-and-click-style adventures with a similar approach to storytelling. The Whispered World and its sequel, Silence, are perhaps the most renowned projects. More recently, however, it adapted Ken Follett's novel, The Pillars of the Earth, which released in a three-part episodic form. Its newest title, State of Mind, is the most ambitious creation to date, and aims to be amongst the very best of interactive tales.

Unfortunately, it's hard to critique State of Mind without getting into a debate about the nature of walking-sims and what it means for a videogame to be an interactive story. Examine the critical reception of any random handful of titles belonging to this niche genre, and it's clear that they are consistently divisive. Players seem to either be captivated by the narrative, to the extent that they will consciously suspend their expectations of gameplay interactivity, or they wilfully resent the fact that the story has been put on such a pedestal, given the restrictions that emphasis creates. Granted, this unique handling of storytelling in games creates new opportunities to immerse players in a world, but many gamers will contest that such an approach isn't right for a videogame. They might argue, instead, that the most powerful story-driven titles integrate narrative in a more lucid and progressive manner, sandwiched between aspects of real gameplay.

Screenshot for State of Mind on PC

In The Last of Us, one could argue the narrative is predominantly driven through Ellie and Joel's exchange of dialogue, whilst they sneak through dark corridors full of The Infected. Likewise, the story of John Marston, in Red Dead Redemption, is mostly conveyed whilst he's on horse-back, conversing with his comrades as they roam through the hills on their way to a mission. By contrast, in State of Mind, there's really no gameplay to speak of whatsoever, which means there's nothing to punctuate the delivery of narrative. Hence, whether you will enjoy State of Mind or not likely depends on how rigid your expectations are of a story-driven videogame. Apart from some fleeting and very straightforward detective work, the gameplay can be boiled down to following cursors and triggering dialogue. Effectively, then, the player is demoted to the very undesirable status of a passenger.

This is a massive shame for those unwilling to accept that demotion, since the actual story and themes that State of Mind explores are extremely interesting, to say the least. Set in a dystopian Berlin, in 2048, the player takes control of journalist and technophobe Richard Nolan. He's involved in a car accident, and wakes up at home to find nothing is quite right. He's suffering from memory loss, his wife and son have mysteriously vanished, and he's getting the creeps from a newly installed household robot.

Screenshot for State of Mind on PC

Richard's investigation leads him down a bizarre rabbit hole, in which he comes to realise that he's somehow linked with Adam Newman, who resides in a utopian virtual reality, called City 5. It's up to Richard to reconstruct and piece together his identity once more, discovering the true nature of this bizarre project along the way, with the help of a very compelling cast of five secondary characters.

It's very difficult to expand upon this without exposing plot twists and some genuinely exciting moments, but rest assured - fans of sci-fi, futurists, and those interested in transhumanism, will appreciate this two-fold. The shame of it, however, is how truly linear the narrative is. Although there are dialogue choices, they don't change the course of the story at all. This is a missed opportunity, given that the plot could deviate and morph in new directions at several crucial stages, which would also have granted the title some much-needed replay value.

Screenshot for State of Mind on PC

Ultimately, although the scope of the story is seriously impressive, exploring some extremely interesting issues and uncharted territory that humanity will face in the near-future, it feels like a huge waste of energy to submit it in videogame form. State of Mind would work as a book, it could be magnificent as a film, but its restrictive, inorganic, and drags as a videogame. It just doesn't provide enough interactivity for players to feel fully invested in its events.

State of Mind strikes up an interesting aesthetic, with a low poly art style that's unique and functional. It also further accentuates the nice juxtaposition between the dark, moody and low-lit dystopian Berlin and City 5's bright and more beautiful design. The title uses music in a minimal manner, with dashes of moody piano often being peppered in during meaningful interactions, but there are no grandiose crescendos during more significant moments, which is slightly disappointing. The player is often left in an eerie silence when exploring and investigating, which perhaps works quite well for the tone of the experience. For the most part, too, the voice acting is very well done, although intercepted interactions could do with a stronger air of spontaneity, as they often seem too concise and scripted. However, unfortunately, although protagonist Richard is by far the most intriguing character, his voice does become a bit irritating at times. His palpable sense of irritation comes to the forefront all too frequently, and feels a bit over-emphasised as a result - even when it's entirely justifiable.

Screenshot for State of Mind on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

State of Mind is an interesting project that prioritises its story beyond all other aspects of the experience. Unfortunately, while it does feature a very interesting narrative and a lot of compelling ideas, they are not executed very well at all. Even those acclimatised to the pacing and narrowness of other more successful 'interactive stories,' such as The Walking Dead, will find State of Mind to be inextricably rigid and overly linear. Everything encountered is positioned there to further the story. Both Berlin and City 5 lack proper secondary interactions and spontaneous encounters. Even the most linear of adventures cannot completely ignore the player's implied sense of possibility and wonder, without seriously affecting the immersion. For this reason, it's hard to feel engaged in State of Mind, despite its highly compelling story content. It might even be more enjoyable to watch a streamer play through it, than do it for oneself. Ouch.

Developer

Daedalic

Publisher

Daedalic

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Our member of the week

Really saddened by the outcome of this :/. I was interested in the Switch version, but now, I don't know anymore.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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