Although I love the adventure genre, I’m not a Daedalic Entertainment fan. There’s something about their games I can’t get my head around and the humour 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 that’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.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.