The Mind’s Eclipse
Dystopia IN SPAAAACE
Great science fiction, much like good help, is hard to find. While I will concede that there is nothing new under the sun, sci-fi has become exceptionally derivative in recent years. It’s not a bad thing to draw on great works that came before, but it is a hindrance when creators don’t build upon those foundations and allow their works to grow past old boundaries.
The Mind’s Eclipse is a dystopian science fiction visual novel set on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, and does a wonderful job with pushing readers out of their comfort zones. It begins as standard sci-fi fare: the player awakens in an abandoned location and is stricken with amnesia, a second character guides players through the setting while gradually filling in holes in the players’ memories, a vague sense of disaster and doom…
But The Mind’s Eclipse does so much more with it.
The Mind’s Eclipse
Developer: Mind’s Eclipse Interactive, LLC
Publisher: Mind’s Eclipse Interactive, LLC
Release: January 25, 2018
AMD FX-6300 @ 3.5 GHz
16 GB RAM
GeForce GTX 1060
Most of TME‘s plot threads unfold in messages found in defunct data terminals and environmental clues. Reading through emails, transcripts of audio files and conversations, newsletters and more, players piece together the story of a society that fell victim to the hubris of a single man. There are many different subplots supporting the main story, and that’s where a lot of the flavor lies in The Mind’s Eclipse.
There’s a particularly interesting thread which plays out in one-sided emails between two Catholic priests. One had been sent to Europa on a mission trip, and must reconcile his faith with the constant shift and advancement of technology. With integrated cybernetics and the ability to upload a person’s consciousness to a cloud server comes the very real possibility of immortality. TME poses a lot of interesting questions regarding faith and science: are robotics and digital consciousness signs of the end times? Are they the eternal afterlife promised by God and Jesus? Does relying on science and technology to prolong and improve human life negate the need for a faith-based life?
To watch this young priest struggle to come to terms with the reality of Europa’s societal structure and demands and eventually come to a peaceful solution that blends his strong faith and beliefs with the possibilities offered through scientific and technological advancement struck a chord with me. It closely mirrored my own struggles with my Christian upbringing, and reconciling that with my changing worldview. It was nice to see that faith and science could work in tangent to improve the lives of those less fortunate without turning fanatical.
It was also nice to see the character L presented as she was. L is first introduced to players at the very beginning of the game as an AI construct meant to help run the hospital in which the story begins. She drops hints along the way that she knows more than she lets on, and it makes for some really interesting and gut-punching narrative twists late-game. She isn’t presented as devious or malicious though. She has a dry, sarcastic sense of humor which starts strong and remains so throughout her story arc. There were more than a few exchanges and one-liners that had me laugh out loud; the humor is a nice way to break up the building sense of dread and unease.
L is also a surprising and wonderful bit of LGBT+ representation. At first, I was perfectly content to think of her as a female-presenting, but ultimately genderless, AI construct. But as the game’s narrative unfolds through flashbacks and information gathered in the background, it becomes clear that L is a lesbian. It’s refreshing to see this sort of quiet representation. The game doesn’t make a big deal out of her sexuality; she’s simply allowed to be.
Also, L is the most accurate representation of a lesbian’s sense of humor that I’ve seen in a long while.
“The Mind’s Eclipse […] does a wonderful job with pushing readers out of their comfort zones.”
Along with the struggles between faith and science, TME also presents questions of how ethical it would be to allow humans to genetically modify themselves in drastic ways; not just deciding to delete genes responsible for hereditary diseases like cancer, but to change their appearance in extreme ways. At one point, players end up in a boutique catering to designer genetic modifications. There are posters on the walls of models who have made themselves look feline in face and body, others have extensive cybernetic enhancements. Along the way, data terminals had given up a cache of emails and personal diary entries which suggest that, much like any other body modification, genetic and cybernetic modding have an addictive quality and that the industry employs predatory practices to exploit people who struggle with addictive personalities and insecurities. While a bit heavy-handed for my tastes, it’s a nice commentary on the beauty and fashion industries.
The narrative, along with the surreal and haunting art style, does a wonderful job of set-up and execution of some fairly complicated and deep philosophical questions. If you’re into grand space operas, dystopian science-fiction that has great writing and solid characters, you’ll find plenty to love about The Mind’s Eclipse.