If there’s anything that industry giants Telltale Studios have shown us, it’s that sometimes having very little to do in a game can be a wonderful thing. You’re there, sitting back in your chair, watching an emotional, gripping and incredibly dramatic story unfold in front of your eyes, all without getting too involved in its proceedings. Of course where Telltale are concerned, they will choose to adapt an already existing franchise and bring their own action packed vision for it to life … but what if they didn’t do that? What if all the glitz, glamour and cinematics were taken out and instead the same emotional, gripping and incredibly dramatic story could be told at a much slower pace, in black and white and requires you to contribute almost nothing to its compelling narrative? Well it has been done, and it’s available to buy from Steam right now!
The Mind’s Eclipse is a highly engaging and eerie interactive graphic novel unlike any I’ve experience before. With clear inspiration from the System Shock and Bioshock franchises, The Mind’s Eclipse tells a deeply chilling narrative set within an equally as terrifying atmosphere that will grip you in a similar fashion to those that have influenced it. Throughout this tale you are looking through the eyes of Jonathan Campbell, a somewhat celebrity scientist who has awoken to find his outer space Utopia deserted and in ruins. With no one except his mysterious AI companion L, John must traipse through The CORE and find out exactly what has become of its people, as well as coming to terms with his involvement in its demise. As well as some insight from L, you must discover every document, email and book scattered throughout the abandoned Paradise to uncover the disturbing truth regarding its collapse, so expect reading to be your most powerful skill. Unlike its inspirational material which requires an awful amount of traversing, shooting and general do-ing, is The Mind’s Eclipse just as disturbing and gripping through mere and periodic clicks of the mouse? Though your actions are minimal, The Mind’s Eclipse catapults you through a whirlwind of powerful emotions and storytelling that genuinely has to be seen to be believed, so yes.
Not only does The Mind’s Eclipse tell a bizarrely frightening story, but it presents it in a hugely unique form, a simple yet gloriously unique form at that. Not only does The Mind’s Eclipse claim to be an interactive graphic novel, but it looks like one, and though it’s all well and good that the World’s biggest studios are churning out the most realistic graphics we’ve ever seen, you can see the level of painstaking care, adoration and vision here, which to me is far more impressive. These black and white, marker pen comic panels perfectly illustrate the soulless nirvana in which you are walking through, and despite the lack of vivid colours and cinematics, I was truly engrossed and hooked into this eerie narrative through its bleak depiction of the future. At one point in the game you stumble upon a discontinued VR headset (so even in the distant future it’s a fad), and with this headset on John is able to experience a dream, a dream that is illustrated with a sudden wash of vibrant colour and majestic brush strokes that further showcase the studio’s phenomenal talents. What this 10 second sequence proved to me was that this monochrome art style wasn’t used due to a lack of artistic ability, but rather because of an abundance of artistic direction, and frankly if you cannot appreciate these extremely well executed visuals then please feel free to open the nearest air lock.
Once again going back to System Shock and Bioshock, these were games that had you frantically asking questions almost as much as you were frantically trying to guess the correct answers, well be prepared to do the exact same thing here in The Mind’s Eclipse. For a narrative that can be told in as little as 3 hours, The Mind’s Eclipse manages to remarkably build up and flesh out an entire civilisation in tremendous detail, which is staggering considering you only physically interact with 1 other person throughout. The real story of The Mind’s Eclipse is told through tablets, computers and possessions, so for a real worthwhile experience it is paramount to read and interact with everything. Though reading text isn’t my favourite activity in or out of video games, everything I read here painted a far more detailed image than any artist could have done, which made this an impossible novel to put down; my anxiety was having a field day with fears of missing any essential reading.
The core theme of The Mind’s Eclipse is death, or rather the refusing to accept the notion of death, as you step into the shoes of a powerful and once respected scientist who thought he could eradicate the very idea of it. Campbell is a broken man, a man who is swallowed by a great depression after the death of his muse, his wife Hannah, and it’s this slide into darkness that turns winds his God Complex to eleven. In an effort to ensure that no one will ever feel pain like he has again, he creates The Eclipse, a prophecy and oncoming event which will evolve mankind and make them blindly follow the promise of living forever. This journey of self discovery and penance ultimately leads to one big decision, and though it’s thrilling that all of your events come down to one final act, I would have liked multiple decisions to have made multiple differences throughout. Despite his once great renown and support, Jonathan Campbell’s focus gradually shifted and his intentions were called into question, which in turn split the population in 2. Throughout the tale this morally grey character does explore and understand both sides of the argument, however if he, or rather I, were able to make definitively good or bad remarks at key moments in the narrative, for me that would have really bolstered the impact of the story’s conclusion.
The Mind’s Eclipse is an incredibly deep and unsettling tale that is so quickly brought to life in such an incredible and vivid way, without a doubt holding a candle to the franchises that have inspired it. Though on the surface the game’s art work appears primitive, the monochrome comic panels play a huge role in delivering the perfect amount of bleak realism into the narrative, leading me to believe that everything that has transpired could happen in the not so distant future. This may lack the budget of a high end studio but the product does not suffer from that, this is an essential story that you simply have to hear, and I am incredibly grateful for having it shared with me.