Story-driven games are my absolute favorite to play; add in some serious moral dilemmas that test the boundaries of humanity, and I’m hooked. However, that is not all it takes for me to like a game; the story’s plot has to actually make sense, the characters have to be believable, and it has to be enjoyable to play. I found all of that with State of Mind, a futuristic, story-rich adventure game that dives into the idea of transhumanism and casts a critical eye on humanity and technology.
State of Mind takes place in two different cities, the first being Berlin in the year 2048. While giving off serious Blade Runner vibes, it is polluted, crime-ridden, and overall on the brink of war. Technology is so intertwined in its society that the government and large corporations paint it as the salvation for a broken humanity. The second city is the beautiful utopia of City 5; everything there is shiny and happy–seriously, that is the focus of everyone–and it’s almost too good to be true.
We begin in Berlin by waking up in the hospital as Richard Nolan, a technology-hating journalist who can’t remember the accident that put him there. While Richard is intelligent and resourceful, he’s also a bit of a jerk: he lies easily, takes his anger out on those close to him, and he’s cheating on his wife. After returning home, he finds his wife and son missing, having left a household robot in their place. To find them, Richard uses his contacts and resources but becomes tangled with an extremist group who shocks Richard by telling him that humans are being uploaded to a virtual reality called, you guessed it, City 5. They believe that part of Richard has somehow been uploaded to the city and is the key to taking down the company behind the project.
Adam Newman, Richard’s alter-ego in City 5, is really on the opposite end of the spectrum of who Richard is: he is kind, calm, and devoted to his son and wife. When he is contacted by Richard, he is deeply troubled to learn the reality, both literal and virtual, of his situation. It does begin to take a toll on Adam, because isn’t he human after all? From there, the men must work together to piece together information and old memories to uncover what ties their worlds together.
State of Mind is extremely cinematic, from its sweeping cutscenes, to how the story’s drama unfolds. These aspects are only matched by its score, which provides the perfect backdrop to the dreariness of Berlin and the eery perfect calm of City 5. The game literally kept me glued to my screen because I needed to find out the next layer in the game’s mystery. The domestic dramas connected completely with the game’s futuristic, sci-fi conspiracies, to give a thorough examination of what it means to be human.
The other characters are complicated, and you learn much more about what drives them as you place. From Tracy, Richard’s former supermodel wife who is bitter and resentful after an accident disfigured her face, to Lydia, the younger woman with whom Richard is having an affair, and who has troubles of her own. Through various memories, I was able to play as multiple characters–each one complex and dynamic–and was given the different puzzles pieces to figure out how everyone is connected.
Gameplay is fairly simple: you can explore and interact with the game’s different environments in order to get a better sense of its reality and its characters. There are slight variations as to how you can interact with different objects in the world. My personal favorites include having Richard drink whiskey to turn the tone of one of his articles from serious to sarcastic, and a sort of 3D food printer that you can use to make food for your son, and I desperately want one.
At the same time, you have to piece together different bits of information that Richard uncovers. It reminded me of Life is Strange when Max has to create the correct combination of evidence in order to find the barn in the middle of nowhere. Different puzzles and obstacles come up, and you get to manipulate a few drones as well.
When talking with other characters, there are also slight changes in your answers, such as tone, or different questions you can answer or avoid. As this is a non-branching game, choices will not necessarily change the outcome of State of Mind, so its replay value is low. Despite that, I would replay it again just like I’d rewatch a season of Westworld, to see if I can see some foreshadowing taking place. The pace of the game is quick enough to keep interest, but State of Mind definitely fleshes out its story and characters, making it an enjoyable experience.
As far as graphics and visuals go, the environments in State of Mind are extremely rich. The low-poly characters are a sharp contrast to their environments, and while it was a little distracting at first, I think that it really does add to the game’s themes of separation and being caught between the contradictory worlds. It gives a sense of humans being unfinished fragments that I also find fitting. At times, however, the facial animations can be awkward and void of emotion, and the lips often don’t match up with dialogue. Character movement also be awkward, especially when trying to change direction when walking. For some reason when changing direction with the mouse, characters would continue walking the wrong way before adjusting.
State of Mind explores transhumanism, fiction becoming reality, and the separation between the two. It looks at what it means to fragmented, and not whole, which really is the essence of humanity. It also explores how the strive for perfection through technology, may truly be the downfall of what it means to be human. The game is story-rich and cinematic, with layers upon layers of truth to uncover and figure out how it all fits together. It kept me glued to my screen like it was a TV show I was binging. Like Blade Runner, it left me reeling with questions and conspiracies as only a thrilling adventure that examines what it means to be human can do.