The Medium Review
This is their most ambitious project to date, and features a new gameplay concept that would not have worked on previous generations of consoles.
The Medium Is Bloober Team's latest psychological horror adventure from which they have made their own and decided not to abandon. This is their most ambitious project to date, and features a new gameplay concept that would not have worked on previous generations of consoles.
As Marianne, a young Polish girl, you play the role of a medium who can see and talk to dead people. The story of Marianne's adoptive father Jack, who ironically is a mortician, has just died. She must prepare for his burial.
After one phone call from a mysterious voice, she is on her way to Niwa in the dark forest to learn more about his past. She soon realizes that the resort holds a dark power and she will have to confront her fears in order to find out what it is.
Although the game's opening hour is slow and does not build excitement for the chilling story, once I met the monster and dug deeper into the perverse plot threads, the story was able to grip me until the credits rolled.
Expect to be confronted with many adult subjects, including murder and child abuse. You'll need to find all the hidden postcards, letters and memories that can unlock spectral voice recordings after inspecting certain items.
We've all seen similar games before. You can find many adventure games similar to it, with slightly different themes. What is the special thing about The Medium? What is the main draw that makes The Medium stand out from other titles?
Bloober's solution was the dual reality system. Marianne can exist in two dimensions simultaneously and uses her ability to communicate with the spirits of deceased people, as well as to solve puzzles and reach places that her physical body cannot.
The world must be rendered twice to allow you to view both perspectives simultaneously. This is why the game cannot run on previous generations of consoles. It can produce some amazing results. My personal favorite is the manipulation of a clock to change the state of a room within the spirit world.
Ghost-Marianne also has spiritual abilities that allow her to fend off moths and chase away big bad monsters. If you turn a corner and run into them, it can feel like a cheap way for you to die.
The Medium doesn't allow you to fail stealth or escape sequences. You will often have to solve the puzzle again and endure repeated voice-lines. Most encounters are fairly straightforward so it shouldn't take more than a few attempts to succeed.
These parts can be frustrating for some, but they are visual highlights that I think are worth it. For example, when the reality switcher switched between two realities as you escape from the Maw (the monstrous *endearing* nickname).
Mirrors can be used to travel through dimensions, teleporting you to new rooms that you wouldn't normally have access to. I found the linearity of the game to be a blessing as I could see a more open approach becoming confusing.
Most puzzles are quite simple and won't require much backtracking if your attention is focused on the surroundings.
The ability to highlight objects that you want to interact with is perhaps the most important power you will come to depend on. The problem with this "sight" is the same as in other games (Batman Arkham Asylum comes immediately to mind), in the sense that you will probably keep it active 100% of the time out of fear of missing something. It also makes the world less colorful.
It would be a shame, as The Medium's visuals are the real star of the show. Although the controls of oldskool tanks can sometimes feel a little sloppy, they have another element that was borrowed from Silent Hill and Resident Evil: fixed camera angles. These allow the environment artists to control what you see.
Although the presentation is a highlight of the game, you can see where they are struggling as an independent studio with limited budgets. Some character animations feel too rigid and facial expressions don’t convey the emotions they are feeling. It's possible that this is why dead people wear masks.
The medium's audio department deserves praise. The voice acting is nearly always flawless. Troy Baker, the great Troy Baker, even lends his voice to The Maw. Everything from the soundtrack to sound effects gave me chills on multiple occasions.
It's the small things that make the experience more enjoyable (especially if you have headphones on), such as hearing children chanting or whispering during cutscenes. Songs by Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill) The music that played during the key moments of the game was a great way to set the mood and create a cinematic experience. It was a pleasant surprise to hear some voiced songs.
The Medium didn't overstay its welcome, and that is something I am happy to report. Although they claimed it would take 8-10 hours, it actually took me 7 hours to complete it. It is a great Xbox Gamepass experience and one that every subscriber should try.
The Achievements are briefly mentioned. Many of them require you to find a specific group of items. Because the game is very linear and doesn't allow for chapter selection, you will probably need to use a guide to help you find them all. You'll need to start again if you miss even one.
Last but not least, I want to point out that the game had a few minor bugs that I encountered when I first played it. There were visual glitches sometimes that would stay on the screen for a few second (some people had it worse). And at the end, there was a cutscene which wouldn't load until I restarted a checkpoint and tried again.
The Final Word
The Medium's dual-reality gameplay is a great example of what we can expect from the next generation of consoles. Although it starts slow at first, once the story begins, you'll be captivated by its power until the credits roll.
Bloober Team is always improving their craft and getting closer to creating the ultimate psychological horror experience. I cannot wait to see their next release.