Title: The Medium
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Bloober Team
Genre: Horror, Adventure
Available On: Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PC
Official Site: The Medium
Release Date: January 28th, 2021
Version Tested: Xbox Series S
With new consoles upon us and very little out there when it comes to new gaming releases, it’s been difficult to see just what the new consoles are capable of. However, horror title The Medium not only shows off great graphics for the Xbox Series, but it also shows what gameplay elements are possible in the future.
The Medium tells a reality-bending story where a spiritual medium, Marianne, confronts the mysteries of her past. After a mysterious caller requests her help, Marianne finds herself at the location of a violent crime riddles with secrets:
Discover a dark mystery only a medium can solve. Travel to an abandoned communist resort and use your unique psychic abilities to uncover its deeply disturbing secrets, solve dual-reality puzzles, survive encounters with sinister spirits, and explore two realities at the same time… Uncover deeply disturbing secrets, and survive encounters with The Maw – a monster born from an unspeakable tragedy..
The Medium Sets The Stage for Next-Gen Horror
When The Medium was first announced, its attention grabber was the use of split screens for directing through different realities. This is a stellar piece of work. Jumping between realities to solve puzzles and move the narrative along is a horrifyingly magical experience, and I was sold from the first few minutes. This gameplay element doesn’t overstay its welcome; switching back and forth is fluid and doesn’t inhibit the player. Because of this, The Medium feels like a breathe of fresh air in the horror genre.
From characters to settings, the artistic design is fantastic. Whether in the real world or the spirit realm, the environments are eye-catching and atmospheric. The more grotesque character designs will make you shiver with fear. The Maw is easily one of my new favorite monsters, and his design is absolutely horrifying. Sadness is super unsettling in her own right, and Marianne’s spirit realm design is super cool. It was clear that every character, environment and set piece was crafted and designed with the utmost care.
One of the most praise-worthy things about The Medium is its performances. Kelly Burke as Marianne and and Angeli Wall as Sadness are excellent, and Troy Baker’s Maw might be one of his best yet. Baker’s voice literally made my skin crawl, and I loved/hated every minute the Maw was on screen. Their performances work together to truly sell an already captivating story, and is some of the best I’ve seen from a horror game.
A Screeching Halt
Unfortunately, The Medium loses it steam in the last part of the game. It almost feels like the development team wasn’t sure what to do with the ending, because it seems to wander without much payoff. This wandering from the main narrative slows the pacing of the game considerably. Which, especially at the end, comes as a major bummer. The meandering sections feels like fluff, almost like it was to pad the run time of the experience. I would gladly sacrifice length for a tighter game narratively.
In the fluff, it feels like The Medium’s narrative gets away from it. By the end, I was questioning certain plot points and wondering why certain things were highlighted without much payoff. Luckily, the ending is still satisfying and doesn’t undo all the great things from The Medium’s beginning. By the end, there are still some loose threads, but the ending lends itself to a sequel. So, hopefully, some of those narrative elements come to satisfying conclusions.
Overall, The Medium is an excellent way to start off the next generation of horror titles. Close attention to detail, stunning performances, a captivating story and smart, innovative gameplay elements make this an experience that you won’t want to miss. Bloober Team has proved that they are masters of tension and atmosphere, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for this title.
The Medium is now available on Steam, Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X. As of this writing, it is still available on GamePass.
Verdict: The Medium starts off with a bang and really sets the stage for next-generation horror titles. The split-screen mechanic is done skillfully and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Awesome character designs are only enhanced by stunning performances and clear graphics. It’s a really stunning display of talent and care. Unfortunately, the pacing slows almost to a crawl in the last section of the game, causing the game to lose some of its tension and power. The ending left me scratching my head and not in a good way. Parts of the narrative definitely seemed to get away from the team, but it was still a satisfying ending overall.
- Great design
- Stunning performances
- Innovatie gameplay elements
- Tense, pulse-pounding atmosphere and sound design
- The narrative (mostly towards the end)
- Serious dip in pacing towards the end