Developed and published by Bloober Team, The Medium is a third-person psychological horror game featuring dual-reality gameplay. Take on the role of Marianne and explore both the real and spirit worlds while uncovering mysteries and discovering answers to questions that have plagued her, for her whole life.
The Medium Details
Platform: Xbox Series X|S (digital download only) and PC
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher(s): Bloober Team SA
Genre: Psychological horror
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
Not your typical psychological horror story
The Medium takes place in the late 1990s in Poland and is centred around a young woman named Marianne who has psychic abilities. As a medium, Marianne can see and explore the spirit world, a dark mirror reflection of reality where nightmares take form. The game begins with Marianne making the final preparations for her step-father Jack’s funeral at the family run funeral home. During this time we learn of Marianne’s troubling vision of a child’s murder.
Though, Marianne can’t quite tell if it is a nightmare, memory or premonition. As the final funeral preparations are in place, Marianne receives a strange phone call from a man who knows “what she is” and can provide all the answers to her questions. There’s a catch though, she must meet this man at the old abandoned Niwa Hotel. Marianne gets on her motorcycle and the story begins.
What I really enjoyed about The Medium is the game’s story and character development. The Bloober Team didn’t go the typical route with jump scares. Instead, they went with a story where your perspective changes your perception. The game deals with some pretty disturbing subject matters that you learn about but never in a way that tries to glorify it. Instead, it gives you two perspectives—the evil that was done and the story behind what led up to it. I can honestly say, The Medium is one of the best story-driven games that I have played in recent memory.
When it comes to gameplay, the biggest element that sets The Medium apart from other games in the genre is the dual-reality feature. This allows you to play in two separate worlds at the same time. On paper, it sounds pretty gimmicky but in reality it works pretty well.
Each reality is separately rendered and what you see in one is not necessarily what you see in the other. This often results in clues and things you need to do to advance spread across both realities. Thankfully, both Marianne’s are not independently controlled, which would have been a nightmare in my opinion. Instead, both entities are controlled at the same time. As neat as this gameplay feature is, Bloober Team didn’t overuse it. Roughly a third of the game makes use of dual-reality.
The Medium also makes use of semi-fixed cameras that help set the atmosphere and mood for the game. There are a variety of items to discover and Marianne has many abilities that you make good use of, in the game such as running, jumping and climbing ,to name a few. There are puzzles to solve, clues to find and doors to unlock that are never really too difficult to do. With the game being heavily focused on the story, I feel that Bloober Team did a great job with balancing action and storytelling in the game.
Gorgeous and unsettling atmosphere
The Medium‘s aesthetic and visual style is inspired by a famous Polish surrealist painter Zdzislaw Beksinski. The game’s environments are gorgeous and the level of detail is truly stunning. On both the Xbox Series X and PC the game uses ray-tracing, which helps bring the game to life. Not once while playing did I have any performance issues, which is a pretty amazing feat. Considering that at some points in the game two separate worlds are being rendered and played in at the same time, The Medium does a good job of showing off the power of the Xbox Series X.
On some occasions, I did have issues with The Medium‘s fixed cameras. This would lead me running in place around a corner or not being able to see an item. It didn’t happen too often but when it did it was annoying. On another note, the overall voice acting in The Medium is top notch. Most notably are Troy Baker as The Maw and Kelly Burke as Marianne. They did fantastic jobs and brought their respective characters to life in believable ways.
Bloober Team hired Arkadiusz Reikowski and legendary composer Akira Yamaoka, best known for the Silent Hill series, to compose the game’s soundtrack—both did a bang up job. It perfectly matches what’s happening on screen. For example, as you walk around the old abandoned Niwa Hotel hotel you can feel the sense of dread. While I was playing, I wore headphones the entire time and always felt like I had to look over my shoulder to see who was behind me. It’s these little things that combine with the graphics and sound that set the mood in the game perfectly.
The Medium is one of the best story-driven games in recent memory
The Medium is Xbox Series X|S’s first must have exclusive game and easily one of the best story-driven games that I have played in recent memory. It’s amazing to think that the Bloober Team, a company of less than 100 employees, has created such a unique, engaging and compelling experience. The dual-reality gameplay feature is never over used and helps to tell the game’s story in ways that make you think twice. Although the game does deal with some pretty mature themes, it never does it in a way that is grotesque or glorified.
You can expect to spend roughly between 8 to 10 hours to complete the game from start to finish. Which, in my opinion, is perfect. I was so wrapped up in the story and wondering what would come next that the time flew by. The only downside of The Medium is that once you play and beat the game, there is no reason to go back. For me that is ok but for others, it may not be.
The Medium has left a lasting impression with me and its story is one that I’ll be talking about for some time to come. The game ends with a cliffhanger, which I hope means there is still more to tell.
+ Fantastic story that will have you glued to your seat
+ Gorgeous environments that are highly detailed
+ Dual-reality is both a storytelling and gameplay device
+ Outstanding voice acting and score
– Zero replay value
– Semi-fixed camera angles sometimes cause control issues
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF THE MEDIUM
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3/5