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State of Mind: Daedalic disaster?

Although I love the adventure genre, I’m not a Daedalic Entertainment fan at all. There’s just something about their games I can’t get my head around and the humour within them falls flat. I haven’t played a title by the developer since Silence last summer, when the promotional material failed to explain that it was a follow up to 2009’s The Whispered World and the storyline was spoiled as a result.

It therefore probably seems strange that I was drawn to State of Mind at the Rezzed event in April 2018. Unfortunately the stand was busy every time I stopped by and I didn’t get the chance to try the demo there, but there was something about its futuristic low-poly world that intrigued me. The fact it was a release by Daedalic did put me off however and so it sat in my wishlist for over a year after being added – until I needed something new to play and received a Steam notification about a discount last month.

Almost 12 hours later and I was pleasantly surprised. I’d finally found a Daedalic title I’d actually enjoyed. I considered this over the following week, trying to figure out why this was the first that had really appealed, and then I realised: it wasn’t like any other the developer’s earlier work. Instead of being a story about a fairytale, cartoonish and full of saccharine, State of Mind had a much grittier feel and a narrative where there were no entirely happy endings. And best of all, there was no humour to be lost in translation.

Bias is a curious thing. No matter how much we try to remain unmoved by our preferences and past experience, it still has a funny way of creeping in there; even the most open-minded person will categorise in a way that influences their decision-making. I consider this post to be a simple discussion about a game I played recently rather than a ‘proper’ review. But if it was a critique, I’d likely be focusing on the way State of Mind kept me engrossed for an entire weekend and how it kept me guessing who the real villain was until the very end.

A lot of other people don’t agree with that opinion though. A quick search on Steam at the time of writing reveals a ‘Mostly Positive’ rating at 71% along with a score of 69 on Metacritic. While looking for discussions about the game’s ending, I found numerous reviews giving it two or three stars out of five and commenting on bugs, confused narrative and limited challenge. For example, Lewis from A Most Agreeable Pastime called it ‘a reasonably interesting story thatโ€™s hamstrung by poor pacing and character development, and a glaring lack of things to actually do’.

And you know what? I don’t disagree with him. It wouldn’t be unjustified to call State of Mind a walking simulator (although I hate that term) with a light sprinkling of puzzles on top. Most of the gameplay consists of traversing to one point of interest to another and having conversations where your choices don’t impact the title’s direction in any significant way; and when challenges do appear they’re not all that, well, challenging. There’s therefore little to keep you hanging on for more if the story isn’t gripping you.

As for the narrative itself, it covers a wide range of futuristic subjects from social division to transhumanism. They’re fascinating individually but combining them all within the same video game means that none are given appropriate focus before we’re moved onto the next. The characters have to make huge leaps in logic in order to connect numerous subjects and sometimes it feels as though they’ve draw conclusions out of thin air. As a result, I found myself asking ‘But why though?’ several times throughout my time with the title.

I therefore still have a number of outstanding questions – the reason why I was searching for discussions about the ending, as mentioned above – and their answers would probably make interesting games in their own right. It feels as though Daedalic attempted to do something similar to The Longest Journey series and give us a story about conspiracies, technology and control but sadly missed the mark slightly. Whereas Red Thread Games’ project gives you all the explanation you need, State of Mind leaves you hanging.

So do those negatives make the opinion I gave earlier in this post less valid? I don’t think so, because I genuinely enjoyed it despite the release’s many shortcomings; but it’s certainly worth noting how bias could affect my view in some way. Previous experiences with the developer’s work haven’t been great and so this release, being so different in its nature, caught me off-guard. Was it that I enjoyed being surprised by the change in style and subject matter rather than State of Mind itself?

And more importantly: does that even matter if I was entertained and this post is in no way meant to be a proper review? Whatever the answers to all these questions are, there’s one thing I’m sure of. I’m more excited to see what Daedalic does next than I’ve ever been before.

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

12 thoughts on “State of Mind: Daedalic disaster? Leave a comment

  1. Every time I have played a Daedalic game, I felt a bit disconnected. They were not bad games, it was more like when you take a slice of pizza, and the point is still connected to the “main pizza” and some of the topping falls off. The pizza is not ruined by any means, but you cannot help but feel a bit sad (Quietschisto, master of analogies, striking again!) Finally, I think I know what caused this, and it is probably a part of why you don’t like them.

    As you probably know, Daedalic is a German Studio. Most of the games I have played, I played through twice, in English and in German. At least to me, it seems as if the games were originally produced in German, but the thought of an English translation was ever-present. As a result, there are a lot of scenes where you feel “lost in translation”, but both ways around! Fun fact: In Italian and Spanish, those problems don’t seem to be as prevalent. Those languages are just translated afterwards. Or I just don’t speak those languages well enough to understand all those nuances and complexities.

    German comedy is pretty straight-forward, as far as I can tell. You have a joke or a funny story, with a clear punchline, then you make a pause, people laugh, rinse and repeat. Most of the time, the goal is just to make people momentarily laugh, and nothing else. Sorry to all you North-Austrians I have just offended (even more so by calling you “North-Austrians” xD ), but I’m ready to have my mind changed. Back on track, now: There’s nothing wrong with straight-forward, no-message comedy, and it works for a two-hour show. But in a 6+ hour video game? It just does not bring the complexity you need, there is nothing to unveil at the end, no “what we learned”, not even a combined punchline for the game. Just one final laugh and then it’s good-bye.

    As a result, I have found that most Daedalic games I’ve played start off strong and funny, before losing their steam about half-way through and leaving you with a feeling of “wait. That’s it?”, although the game was generally enjoyable.

    One final thought about bias: It’s impossible to be completely unbiased, but knowing that you’re influenced is an important step. It’s important to always ask yourself “Why do I think the way I think?” and regularly try things that you think you know that you don’t like. You might be pleasantly surprised!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yupp, totally agree. They start out strong, but then somewhere it feels like they ran out of budget or their deadline was approaching, or had no ideas on how to continue. However, there are some really great ideas there, I think and they all seem like nice people. When I played Edna and Harvey I was deeply disappointed in how it ended (no spoilers here). I don’t know.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Here are the Daedalic games I’ve played:

        – Edna and Harvey: The Breakout – stopped after a few hours because I didn’t enjoy it
        – The Whispered World – completed it but really hated the protagonist
        – Silence – completed it but it was spoiled
        – Deponia – another one stopped after a few hours
        – The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav – same again
        – The Night of the Rabbit – kept crashing right at the end so I couldn’t complete the last ‘boss’

        State of Mind was the first one I actually finished and enjoyed. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

        Liked by 1 person

    • Your explanation about the type of humour in the Daedalic games does make sense. They make me feel like they’re almost trying too hard to be funny… so much so, that they’re not. I also find some of the puzzle solutions really illogical and just can’t seem to wrap my head around their releases!

      Liked by 1 person

      • To be fair, most adventures have the problem of illogical puzzles. *cough* monkey wrench *cough*
        Or the example with the love-stricken octopus in Discworld? Or the “hit this certain spot pixel-perfect” puzzle in Full Throttle?
        Those are just the ones that gained popularity.
        In Daedalic adventures most of the puzzles were fairly logical, in my opinion, but there often were a lot of options that should have worked as well.

        Like

        • Yeah yeah, someone had to get a mention of the monkey wrench in there somewhere! ๐Ÿ˜‚

          The Daedalic puzzle that annoyed me the most was the one with the mouse and pantaloons in The Whispered World. I hated that – but not as much as I hated the protagonist.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The monkey wrench scarred me for life! I played the game as a kid! And in German! I literally only solved that puzzle because I started using every item in my inventory with every POI on screen.

            The horror. The HORROR!

            Like

              • Oh, I’d be up for that! There are tons of dumb puzzles, probably enough for 20 people to write about them ๐Ÿ™‚

                Just tell me what to do, if you want to, you know my e-mail-address ๐Ÿ™‚

                Like

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