Bloober Team is known for their love of horror films of various kinds, and working in this genre, it is impossible to remain indifferent to the creativity of Team Silent.
Psychologism has always prevailed in the studio’s work, and Bloober’s new project is also a tribute to the classics of interactive horror. But it is important to immediately understand that The Medium is not “Polish Silent Hill”.
The Bloober Team made a name for themselves in the gaming industry with Layers of Fear. In 2016, creepy walking simulators were not uncommon, but many of them went out on vulgar screamers and therefore did not linger in memory. The Poles managed to find a different approach. Layers of Fear was not so much a story as a psychedelic experience, a nightmare where reality was questioned with every step. For many players, the trick worked and they wanted supplements. What a sequel , what a cyberpunk> observer and even the recent Blair Witch have used similar tricks. With The Medium, the team finally decided to change the formula, and at the same time pay tribute to the classics.
Cloudy weather reflects the sadness in Marianne’s soul. She will have to send her adoptive father Jack on the last journey (in the original Jacek, but for the world public they decided to change the authentic names to more familiar ones). And then, apparently, to take on the duties of the owner of the Last Way funeral home. The case is suitable for the heroine, because she has an exceptional gift – to see a strange other dimension, where restless souls and demons living in people linger. Moreover, she has the power to help the lost creatures travel further .
However, her already unusual life is turned upside down by a phone call. Someone Thomas, clearly in a panic, promises to tell Marianne the secret of her talent and the reason for the dream that she sees over and over again – a dream about a dead girl. The answers await the heroine in the abandoned tourist complex “Niva”, where she goes without hesitation. There she will have to face the otherworldly devilry, but still the fate of people in this story is in the first place.
The empty hotel, built and abandoned during the country’s socialist past, fits perfectly into the melancholic atmosphere of the game. Residents of the CIS, especially those who have found themselves in the eighties or at least nineties, the style of The Medium will surely make you remember the past (and someone will probably remind you of the present): paint in the entrance, cracked from time, wall carpets, the same herringbone parquet on the floor – these and other, so familiar in the post-Soviet space, attributes are everywhere here.
The Medium, despite its intimacy, tries to diversify the locations. The monument of Soviet architecture is surrounded by a dense forest, and nearby are the ruins of a military bunker. Unlike other horror films released by the Bloober Team, this time you will have to admire the beauty through the lens of a fixed camera, and not from the first person.
The environment in the game is made with great love. Working with materials in less than five minutes is outstanding. The feeling that this tile in the bathroom or lacquered wooden furniture can be touched with your own hands, they seem so real. Bloober has always carefully approached the execution of the game world, and this time the project is still not constrained by the consoles of the bygone generation. Although, in the end, the graphics still do not boggle the imagination – beautifully, with perfectly consistent stylistics, skillful work with light, but the notorious “nextgen” is not felt. The lack of experience in working with human models is especially noticeable – they look weak against the background of the hotel interiors, and the clumsy animation is even more unsettling.
Besides, the world is too static. In the gameplay, the picture is practically motionless, apart from the heroine, and the overwhelming part of the action is taken out in the videos. At the same time, the system requirements are high. Fortunately, The Medium is a very unhurried game, thirty frames per second is enough in it … but still it does not leave the thought that equally beautiful, but more open and dynamic projects work faster.
Fixed angles will cause many associations with Silent Hill – the camera work with interesting camera spans is really very reminiscent of the first parts of the cult series. In fact, The Medium is closer to quests and adventures in the spirit of Memento Mori. Riddles are simple and diluted with rare scenes of escape from a monster and stealth sections – for the last, developers of “walkers” in general and Bloober in particular constantly arrive, but they continue to bend their line. Puzzles are about finding the key things, combining them and applying them in the right place. Intuition mode highlights all active objects around Marianne, so you don’t have to hunt for pixels.
It is a pity that they practically do not throw up tasks for quick wits, even when they ask for it. For example, in one episode, you need to figure out which of the numbered chairs an important character was sitting on (yes, this is important). The game provides enough information to calculate it on its own, but requires that the heroine still go through a number of active points and speak out the solution herself. The feeling that they took away a small but personal victory.
The main feature of The Medium, around which her entire advertising campaign was built, is the very different world that Marianne is capable of penetrating. It actually exists in two dimensions at the same time, and for better transmission of the effect, the developers decided to display both at once. The screen is split into two parts, where the same actions of the heroine are demonstrated, but in different environments.
The first times the separation looks fresh. The videos show the same events in different realities from different angles, which creates an interesting effect. The final episode makes good use of this find. Only the mechanics do not need this technique directly – in the game there is simply no need to do something simultaneously in both worlds. Find the desired object in one, apply in another, a new path opens. Attention is constantly jumping back and forth.
The player is always focused on one part of the screen, while the other half wasted space and makes it difficult to look around. In addition, the implementation of the two worlds greatly affects the performance – in some places the frame rate drops by half. The authors, it seems, themselves realized the gameplay meaninglessness of the chip and at some point allowed the measurements to be alternated through special mirrors instead of simultaneously displaying them. Whether the game was worth the candle – everyone decides for himself, but I tend to answer in the negative.
The other world itself looks great, it is in it that the most spectacular episodes unfold – psychedelic landscapes surprise, and visual tricks deceive the eyes. Although the madness in The Medium is definitely less than in the past works of the studio. And the storyline is much more harmonious – for the sake of it, you want to reach the final, even if the unhurried process begins to seem boring, and the style becomes boring.
The narrative skillfully maintains the tempo: it does not stall in place, but it does not gallop either, allowing you to gradually plunge into the atmosphere. Each character, even of the minor ones, with whom we get to know only from notes, has a complete arch, and there are clear answers to most of the questions. The story does not shy away from serious, adult topics that cannot afford large-budget AAA, although it concerns them superficially. Only the ending itself causes bewilderment – it is simply cut off and actually hides the denouement with a black screen. And the post-credits scene only hints at a sequel, but also does not give any ending.
The Medium is by far Bloober Team’s most ambitious game – both format experimentation and technical challenge. Courage certainly commands respect. The only pity is that the game upsets missed opportunities more often than we would like.
|Graphics||The highest detailing of the environment is adjacent to the average character models (primarily in terms of animation), and the world lacks dynamics to make it feel really alive.|
|Sound||Veteran actors (including the ubiquitous Troy Baker) played their roles well, and the music of Arkadiusz Reikowski and legendary Akira Yamaoka perfectly complements the melancholic atmosphere.|
|Single player game||A quest with a fixed camera, simplified puzzles, rare action episodes and, once again, unprincipled hide and seek.|
|Collective game||Not provided.|
- the story is neatly told and skillfully keeps the intrigue until the finale;
- atmospheric game world, complemented by oppressive ambient;
- stunning detail of the environment, which is emphasized by a cleverly placed camera.
- the potentially interesting idea of two worlds hinders the game rather than complements it;
- the gameplay runs the risk of getting bored faster than the final credits go;
- the story ends abruptly.
The Medium is an interesting mystical detective story with a promising idea of two worlds, which, unfortunately, did not add anything to the boring mechanics.