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State of Mind review for PS4, Xbox One, Switch


Platform: PS4
Also On: PC, Switch, Xbox One
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Medium: Digital/Disc/Cartridge
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

I’m trying not to be too flippant or dismissive when it comes to State of Mind, but I’m finding it really hard.

This is because it’s a stupid, shallow game dressed up in technobabble and pretending to be smart and insightful. It’s the kind of game that confuses surliness and angst for character development, and that never met a trope it didn’t like. It labours under the delusion that because it’s long, it has something to say. Basically, it’s the video game equivalent of a first-year philosophy essay written by someone who’s not anywhere near as intelligent or clever as they undoubtedly think they are.

That’s not to say State of Mind doesn’t have any ideas — it has plenty of those, involving AI and transhumanism and privacy and corporations. Unfortunately, all of these ideas have been presented in more original ways with more interesting and insightful things to say by media ranging from Blade Runner (the obvious touchstone here), to the Deus Ex series, to VA-11 HALL-A, to The Matrix.

What really bothers me about the game is its complete lack of subtlety. State of Mind is the kind of game where the Kurtz corporation is omnipresent, and where a suspiciously clean, shiny-looking main character is named Adam Newman. I appreciate that the game’s creators are proud of themselves for having a passing acquaintance with Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now and The Bible (not to mention the other media listed above), but I don’t think it’d be possible for them to telegraph the game’s intentions any harder.

Worse still, having established very, very early on how the story is going to unfold, State of Mind then proceeds to spend 12 hours or so telling its story in painfully dull detail. I get that people want to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth, but there’s a lot to be said for the ability to tell a story in a succinct manner — doubly so when the alternative is, apparently wandering around a point-and-click adventure that’s two or three limes longer than it needs to be, and triply so when one of the other main characters, Richard Nolan, is an obnoxious jerk.

I really can’t emphasize that last part enough. Even if everything else about State of Mind were perfect, Nolan is unpleasant enough that he would single-handedly drag the game down. As fun as antiheroes can be, there’s a fine line between charming rogue and total douchebag, and there’s never a moment in the game where Nolan even comes close to falling on the right side of that divide.

If State of Mind has any kind of saving grace, it’s that it has one heck of a visual style. I don’t know if it was a deliberate stylistic decision or merely a cost-saving measure to hide the fact the developers didn’t have the budget to create a dazzling world of the future, but for whatever reason, the game looks like a vision of a world where the polygonal games of the PS1/N64-era didn’t give way to smoother 3D graphics, but rather just started looking smoother. In the wrong hands, it could’ve made the game look incredibly dated, but, impressively, State of Mind’s developers managed to imagine a futuristic polygonal world that looks kind of cool.

That said, not even neat visuals can hide the fact that everything else here ranges from the insipid to the insidious. State of Mind is smart enough to borrow heavily from all kinds of other, better media, but nowhere near good enough to come close to putting a fresh spin on those ideas. You’d be better served taking the dozen hours this game expects of you, and putting them into some combination of Blade Runner, Heart of Darkness, The Matrix, and Deus Ex.

Daedalic Entertainment provided us with a State of Mind PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: C-