There's something to be said of the resurgence of narrative-focused video games. Perhaps they never truly went away, but the last five years have provided a renaissance for the adventure game genre. With that being the case, Daedelic's State of Mind is the latest creation to grace this new wave of adventurous titles.
Unlike many modern adventure games however, State of Mind tells a coherent story with very little player choice and abilities to impact the story in a meaningful way. State of Mind is all about creating a single narrative, telling a meaningful and coherent story, which the developers believe is the best way to create an engaging interactive epic with strong characters and a lot of heart.
During our brief time with the developers, we learned that the game is based on a central idea and accordingly, centres itself on the post-modern concept of a fragmented dystopian society and terminologies surrounding transhumanism. The latter refers to the notion of humankind being able to upload their mind to a cloud database and transfer it to a digital world. A core theme of the narrative, therefore, is the duality of bridging realism and digitalism, similarly to what Ninja Theory's Enslaved: Odyssey to the West did on last generation hardware.
The game itself takes place in Berlin in the year 2048. Society is on the brink of war and digital escapism is the only way to break free from the horrors created by mankind's continuous strive towards new technologies and power. The protagonist, Richard Nolan, is a journalist who is trapped between the two worlds due to an accident where parts of his mind were lost in the cloud-based utopia, and hence has cognitive problems remembering and recalling details. Meanwhile, a character based on his fragmented self is created in the digital space, unaware that it belongs to a world outside. In a sense, the title State of Mind subsequently operates on a number of different levels. Firstly, the juxtapositional state of our real and digital selves existing in disparate universes. Secondly, it refers to Richard's need to restore his scattered mind. Lastly, it relates to the fragmentation of the state itself.
We keep reiterating the term fragmentation due to it being so essential to everything in the game, whether in the narrative or even the visual presentation. State of Mind is not a massive AAA production, and Daedelic consequently doesn't have the manpower or tools to rival the beauty of mammoths like Assassin's Creed, The Witcher or Final Fantasy. Yet, somehow the game still managed to be one of the most interesting looking titles at E3 due to the team's clever use of Unreal Engine 4. Everyone in State of Mind's Berlin looks as if they are slowly falling to pieces, degrading along with their own role in society and their state of mind. Beyond that, the futuristic, dystopian Berlin circa 2048 looks gorgeous, complete with classic landmarks such as the TV tower and Brandenburger Tor, and there's a dark atmosphere thanks to the towering and ominous buildings and melancholic lights. The digital world balances this perfectly with bright colours and a beautiful science-fiction cityscape.
Controlling Richard and his digital counterpart feels like you would come to expect from an adventure game, meaning more Jodie in Beyond: Two Souls than Nathan Drake in Uncharted. The player will engage in a plethora of conversations, constantly trying to tie various webs together in order to make sense of the narrative, characters, and world around them. Besides Richard, the game furthermore includes a number of flashbacks to other characters who aid us in understanding the events happening in and around Berlin. Luckily, State of Mind features an extraordinary well-executed world, which should prevent all the heavy dialogue and exploration from becoming stale or boring.
E3 2018 might have featured some of the biggest and most awe-inspiring AAA-titles in recent memory with Cyberpunk 2077, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Resident Evil 2 only the tip of the iceberg. Yet, there is something immensely intriguing about the story and world State of Mind presents, and that means for us it stood shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best games we have had the privilege of seeing in action at this year's E3.