E3 2018: State of Mind Explores Transhumanism While Being a Cool Thriller

A man awakens, confused. He knows who he is, what he does and pretty much everything there is to know about the world he inhabits in the year 2048. He can recall in vivid detail the machinations of the new Cold War that has bent society back into the full throes of paranoia. What he can’t remember is how he got to hospital he finds himself in, nor the location of his wife and child. Such is the predicament of Richard Nolan, one of the two main characters, and six playable characters, of Daedalic Entertainment’s upcoming State of Mind. Players will learn what happened really early in the game (spoiler: it’s really interesting), but that is just the entryway into the rabbit hole that is this game.

As Daedalic Entertainment is the developer and publisher, one can excuse assuming that State of Mind will be another point and click adventure with item combination, puzzles that skirt the bounds of logic, and arcane actions to progress. That is not the case with this one. Built with Unreal Engine 4, this is going to be a modern adventure/story game set in a fully realized universe. Puzzles will still pop up, but they are secondary to the tale that is begging to be told.

Knowing a bit about what happens already, but wanting to avoid any real spoilers, we’ll tread lightly upon the set up. Players are placed into a yarn that revolves around transhumanism, what it means to be a person, and philosophical ramifications of consciousness. What does it it mean to be alive? Is this reality even real? It’s all rather heady stuff meant to engender deep thought and reflection.

Despite this, it is careful not to talk over the potential audience’s head. Characters are given real personality and relatable foibles. Richard, for example, hates technology for unspecified reasons, and is finding his life crumbling around him. Using his skills as a journalist, he’ll need to piece things back together. Then there is another character, Andrew Newman, who seems to have a mysterious connection with Richard. The thing is, he finds himself inhabiting a world that is perfect to an almost unsettling degree.

All of the characters are flawed, as humans can be, but with motivations that beg for empathy. This story philosophy will allow State of Mind to be enjoyable as a playable science fiction thrill for those not wanting to broach the metaphysical themes in play. Those that do can rest assured that this is meant to inspire thought, not misery.

The story itself is linear, with a planned beginning, middle, and end. Player behavior will still affect dialog and relationships, though. The endings can change in drastic ways even if some of the broader beats remain the same. Built into the story is as much or as little ancillary background story as the player wants. Daedalic estimates that a regular, mainline playthrough will take around ten hours. A person interested in the history of this future world should expect around fifteen. This isn’t counting subsequent plays to see other ways the story can shake out.

Those who have seen the footage or screenshots can’t help but remark about the graphics. The look was an intentional decision on the developer’s part. They could have attempted to go a hyper-realistic route, but knew that what they could produce would be outmatched. The graphical style was considered and they landed on the triangle theme that is in today. Evocative of a fractured digital future, the appearance looks great in motion and adds to the tone of the story in a subtle but important way. Had they gone for a cel-shaded, pixel or other style, it just wouldn’t work as well. One could describe it as the prettiest PlayStation 1 game ever made, but it feels like more than that. The retro future appearance is absolutely a selling point here.

There is plenty of reason to be excited for this one. Telltale’s output has dominated the modern adventure genre and they need new and strong competition. They will find it with State of Mind. This is one of those games that I cared little about before seeing it at E3 and knew that it was going to be a day one purchase when I left. I will devour this title with aplomb. Look for it on PC, Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on August 16.