"Vast leaps forward in technology has turned this already bustling metropolis into a perpetual festival of light, but there's a downside..."
The year is 2048 and it's night in Berlin. Neo-brutalist monoliths of glass and steel rise from the concrete ground to meet the endless rain, as a procession of flying cars navigate around them like a school of fish. Vast leaps forward in technology has turned this already bustling metropolis into a perpetual festival of light, but there's a downside: can an environment truly sustain itself when it becomes entirely artificial?
This is one of the many existential questions posed by State of Mind, the latest adventure game from Daedalic Entertainment. The main plot is set against the disparity between Berlin's cyberpunk dystopia and City 5, a utopic virtual reality that's become convenient escapism for a growing number of people. Between these two worlds walks technology journalist Richard Nolan. After suffering a head injury in a vague accident, Richard finds his wife and child missing, and his memories hazy. The prologue sees players guide Richard to find out what happened to himself and his family, but the full game promises a range of different playable characters between the both worlds.
Rendered in a unique lo-poly style, State of Mind is a fully 3D third-person adventure game. As Richard walks around the world, his augmented reality implant highlights hotspots which can be examined or interacted with. As I guided him around his home in search of clues, Richard is attended to by an overly accommodating android named Simon. Despite being a tech journalist, Richard is a raging technophobe; he treats Simon with nothing but contempt. The dialogue choices to interact with Simon ranged from abrupt interrogation at best to outright insulting him. Although it was jarring to portray such an unrelentingly aggressive character, Richard's personality came across as well-realized.
After some brief exploration, the demo was over as quickly as it began. However, Daedalic promises that some additional puzzles will come into play later; such as writing articles to influence the city, or the assemblage of previously gathered clues to form an interactive memory. State of Mind promises branching paths and a compelling mystery when it releases in early 2018.
"State of Mind looks like it was made by science fiction fans, for science fiction fans."
State of Mind is a love letter to science fiction storytelling. Whether it be with a thematic similarity or an overt reference, it is clear that the folks at Daedalic love the classics. State of Mind is full of nods to Blade Runner, Tron and the like. It is a sci-fi thriller that revolves around near future technology. While the gaming industry is chomping at the bit for virtual reality, State of Mind may act as a sort of cautionary tale.
State of Mind takes place in a near future version of Berlin where you play as a journalist named Richard Nolan. AIs have become commonplace and are meant to help humans, but they may hide a darker secret. The world is going to the dogs; resources are scarce and people have been looking for ways to escape the realities of life. Thankfully, scientists have developed a way to upload people's entire minds to a utopian, virtual world. When you do this, you disappear in the real world and you begin a new life in what is called City 5. Richard doesn't trust this system and something goes wrong with his upload, which causes a new version of himself to be created in City 5 while his original self remains in Berlin. The two begin to grow apart in strange ways and the game deals with themes like what it is that makes us who we are.
Richard's wife and son are successfully uploaded to City 5 and he begins to worry for them and wonder what really happened to them. Is City 5 even a real place? Is it worth giving up your humanity? Richard puts his journalism skills to the test by researching what really goes on in City 5 and what happens to the people who have their minds uploaded.
In typical adventure fashion, you gather clues by walking around town and talking to people. You also learn things by searching on the internet, but can you really trust everything you read online? You play as Richard and several other point-of-view characters to unravel the mystery that is City 5. Some of the characters you can play as are actually in City 5 and its bright-colored landscapes are in direct contrast to the gloom of Berlin.
State of Mind promises a deep narrative, supplemented by a stylish, low-poly graphical style. This game looks like it was made by science fiction fans, for science fiction fans. Virtual reality may be the current hotness, but State of Mind makes us stop and question whether we should be excited for it or terrified by it.