Daedalic's upcoming game features transhumanism, dystopias and the voice of Geralt of Riviera.
Reality is unravelling in Daedalic Entertainment's State of Mind. The story-driven game is set in a futuristic vision of Berlin; a city torn between a grim reality and utopian promises of digital technology. It's a world with all the sci-fi trappings of Blade Runner, from rain-sodden cityscapes to humanoid robots, but its creators want to go deeper than surface-level cyberpunk. According to the studio behind the game, State of Mind “explores the existential drama that develops in a society on the brink of post-material existence”. Not exactly Tomb Raider, then.
In the game, players take on the role of Richard Nolan, a journalist who wakes up in hospital to find that his wife and child have disappeared, kickstarting an investigation that will take Nolan between “real” Berlin and a virtual world. Of course, all of these transhumanistic ponderings play out in the game's own virtual world, an aspect that hasn't been lost on its creators.
“I've been making games for 20 years,” says Martin Ganteföhr, creative lead on State of Mind. “Only recently have I realised that we're living in a world where the concept of reality is disillusioned.
“There's augmented reality, there's virtual reality... Are those new realities? Are they part of our reality? Will they replace it? I think video games are the only real representation for that type of topic. Reality and virtuality converging is a story that can only really be told in a video game.”
With voice acting by Doug Cockle, also known as The Witcher's Geralt of Riviera, Nolan is a man in crisis, both in terms of his home life and his profession. “A crisis of journalism is a crisis of reality, because facts and opinions are falling into one,” notes Ganteföhr. “A journalist of the future is a person in crisis.” It will be the player's job to piece together Nolan's life, working out his place in a global conspiracy as well as navigating the fractured relationship with his family. I wasn't given the opportunity to play it, but footage of the game suggests this will play out in the style of a classic adventure game – all branching conversations and objects to puzzle.
From TV shows like Westworld to games like Deus Ex, there's no shortage of entertainment that seeks to tap into the soup of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, omnipresent surveillance and human augmentation. The cyberpunk staples are pertinent at a time when social networks are able to profile users and the threat of automation looms. Not having played the game, I've yet to see if State of Mind adds anything new to the discussion, but with an eye-catching art style and some strong voice acting, it looks like it could be a fun way to wrestle some weighty ideas.
“People sense that something is going on with technology that is very different from past disruptions,” says Ganteföhr. “It has such fantastical promises and such dystopian flipsides that this is the central cultural discussion right now. It's the most important discussion. The feeling that our lives will be fundamentally different and that transhumanism will play a role... that feeling is there.
“We need to write books about this, we need to make games about this, we need to talk about this because it's important. It is so different from every other invention in the past that it's worth dedicating some discussion time to it. A game can be part of that.”
State of Mind is coming to PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch later this year.