Announced during Inside Xbox of the month May 2020, The Medium immediately caught the attention of many players. The game offers a dismal atmosphere, a concept that seems innovative with a parallel dimension and music composed by Akira Yamaoka to whom we owe the music of Silent Hill.
With The Medium, Bloober Team continues its journey into the world of horror games. After the two Layers of Fear opuses, Observer and recently Blair Witch, will the Polish studio manage to seduce us with its latest production?
The Medium, between life and death
The Medium is a third-person psychological horror game. We play Marianne, a young woman bereaved by the death of her stepfather. Our protagonist lives right above a funeral home in the city of Krakow and we quickly understand that she has a little bit of special power. Indeed, Marianne has gifts and can travel between the world of the dead and that of the living.
Marianne can therefore discuss with the deceased, help them to go “to the other side”. But she also suffers from many visions. One of these visions haunts the young woman day and night. She witnesses the death of a little girl in the woods near a lake. The events of The Medium begin when the main protagonist receives a mysterious call in his father’s office. At the end of the line, a certain Thomas who seems panicked. The latter promises to give him all the answers about his gifts, his life and his visions around the death of the little girl.
But for that, Marianne must help him and find him near the ruins of the Niwa hotel complex, which was once built in the woods bordering the Polish city. This place seems to be the scene of a great tragedy which has claimed many victims in the past. This is when the intro to the game comes to an end and the real fun begins.
Marianne’s power allows her to communicate with the world of the dead. But even more, she has a real alter ego who is in this parallel dimension. It’s sort of like “The Upside Down” in Stranger Things. These are the same places and situations, but with a “dead” version on the other side of reality. Very interestingly, the player can evolve in both worlds at the same time.
Like a co-op game, you have on one side the real world with Marianne and on the other the world of the dead with a special version of Marianne. The two characters move simultaneously in two different worlds, but which are configured in the same way. Thus, everything is done naturally without worrying about coordination.
At times, Marianne can come out of her body to give her alter ego a little freedom. It is thus possible to control only the “second Marianne” in order to solve puzzles to interact on the world of the living and unlock the rest of our adventure. The concept is great and allows us to contemplate the incredible atmosphere of the game and its artistic direction. In the world of the dead we have warm colors, with shades of ocher, orange and red that are reminiscent of the works of the Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński.
The Medium is quite “Point’n’Click” oriented for those who have played Life is Strange games or The Dark Pictures (without QTE). The camera is fixed offering plans programmed in advance a bit like the old horror games. Thanks to this choice, the studio confirms its desire to create a cinematographic game. This feeling is accentuated by the good narration of the title which offers many relevant cutscenes that flow together well and allow us to enter the story well. Even if the game suffers from a few lengths and a rhythm that is not always regular, we are generally intrigued by the story. It will be quite difficult not to go to the end of the adventure, we are so curious to know the outcome.
With this choice of gameplay, it is a little more difficult to scare the player, since the latter does not see the same thing as the heroine. We have the right to a few screamers who surprise and to rare entities who are the embodiment of the negative emotions of human beings (such as sadness, guilt, anger…). But the most distressing phases will be the encounters with “The Maw”, a demonic creature who will play the role of “Nemesis” in the game. This monster is rather successful and allows us in addition to that to integrate Troy Baker in the cast (Joël in The Last Of Us, Higgs in Death Stranding…). The latter will follow Marianne throughout her investigation and offer us some rather tense emotions.
All the interest of the title lies in its atmosphere. The idea is not to scare the players, but to install them in a gloomy, unhealthy environment in which you never feel comfortable. And on this point, the Bloober Team teams have succeeded perfectly in their mission.
Marianne is endowed with some aptitudes to carry out her adventure in this dismal hotel complex. In the real world, our heroine has a faculty to improve her sense of observation in order to perceive objects that could help her in her quest. In the world of the dead, in addition to this ability, Marianne can also use energy to interact with objects and unlock mechanisms. She can also use her gifts as a medium to read the past of the deceased through other objects.
A technique not always perfect
The Medium will not be the expected next-gen slap. The game is nice, but suffers from many shortcomings. On Xbox Series X, the game offers 4K at 60FPS which is not really stable with some drop in frame rate and textures that sometimes have trouble displaying. The game offers a good balance in terms of Ray Tracing to offer us very nice moments without going overboard. The Medium also offers HDR compatibility which gives a really beautiful rendering on some screens.
Unfortunately, when the two parallel worlds are displayed the game is less pretty and less detailed than in the cutscenes and when we play only one Marianne. The game will also have some issues with its animations which are quite far from the standards that we can expect nowadays. Regarding the gameplay, even if the idea of the two modes is interesting, we remain in something very basic and deja vu. Whether it is in the movements, the actions to be carried out during the puzzles or in the interactions with the objects.
Another downside, the vibrations of the controller are not well measured. Sometimes it bothers more than anything and it feels like they’re there just to look pretty. Big vibrations when going up or down a platform, it’s not really useful.
My opinion on The Medium
Technically imperfect, The Medium still offers a nice trip that will have the merit of entertaining you for just ten hours. Even if it is not a next-gen slap, the unreal engine allows us to have pretty panoramas and beautiful sequences in this game which will make you travel in two very distinct worlds. If you like creepy and oppressive atmospheres, than you are not a fan of fighting against ferocious enemies! Whether you prefer the scary side to the scary, The Medium will be perfect for you. Plus, the game is included with the Game Pass subscription on PC and consoles, so there’s no reason not to try it!
€ 39.99 (Included in the Game Pass)
- The system of two parallel worlds: Nice idea and very well done
- A really crazy atmosphere
- Good storytelling, great cutscenes
- A soundtrack by the composer of Silent Hill that brings a big plus
- A really solid staging
We like less
- Outdated animations
- Some drops in FPS
- Very classic in gameplay and story progression
- A short hair (between 8 and 10 hours of play)
- The vibrations are not always optimal