Richard Nolan is a tech journalist at The Voice in Berlin. The year is 2048. While people upload themselves to an utopian simulation in virtual reality and terrorism groups grow bigger by the day, Nolan ends up in the hospital with amnesia. To his surprise, both his wife and son are missing when he returns home.
His counterpart, Adam Newman, is a writer for The Present living with his wife and son in City 5, a digital place where food comes out from a machine after pressing a few buttons and everyone seems to be living their best life. He’s been in an accident, too. And no, he doesn’t recall exactly what happened either. At least the family isn’t missing.
The concept of transhumanism has been present in several games throughout history. By now, you’re probably wondering if State of Mind is a typo and I’m just talking about any of the recent work from David Cage, and I thought the same during the first hour into the game. Dialogue like “I’m a journalist, my position is the truth” certainly didn’t help. But, thankfully, there’s a lot more going on in the story, and the environment isn’t shy to showcase it to the player.
Not that long after he comes back from the hospital and starts gathering the first few clues for the upcoming investigation, Richard receives a message from his editor asking for his usual column. Under the name of “The Human Perspective”, the game lets you select between a serious or an ironic paragraph for the introduction, main text and conclusion of the article. Everything was going as expected until I noticed the “Drink Whiskey” button, which displays a cutscene of Richard drinking a shot and saying “much better.” This can only be done twice, unfortunately.
In another moment of the story I was playing as Lydia, a cyber-sex worker. One of her clients makes her look and act like a doll, demanding silence. In NieR: Automata fashion, the bedroom transitioned into a pitch white space with only the bed where she was laying. The client grew increasingly menacing. I logged off before reaching the final moment. Lydia still received pay for her work, but not as much as she needed for rent.
State of Mind’s characters don’t excel in terms of writing, nor I was able to connect with them in a meaningful way. Still, there are moments in which they truly shine, and it’s thanks to the game presenting an interesting universe from which to draw stories from.
It’s a different experience from the ones we’re so used to. The intentions to deliver a compelling story in State of Mind make themselves present if you invest enough time to get past some of its weakest moments. The low poly art style suits the game, along with a decent soundtrack and gameplay that avoids the more annoying aspects of point-and-click adventures, and the mystery around the story never fades away, even after you meet the inevitable “choose your ending” dialogue, from which there are two main decisions. It’s a different take on a near future mankind, and while rough on its edges, it’s worth it to pay a visit to both Berlin and City 5.
I almost forgot: Richard Nolan is voiced by Doug Cockle from The Witcher series. So if you ever wanted to see Geralt of Rivia becoming a tech journalist fighting who fights against the system in a low poly world, this might be the closest it gets.
Yes, if cyberpunk noir isn’t yet completely dead to you.
Main takeaway: While rough on its edges, it’s worth it to pay a visit.