Is the Medium better than... medium?
The Medium Review | A Very Medium-Rare Game
Boy oh boy was I excited when I got to play The Medium early. The trailer promised a very interesting and unique story, so I was super keen to review the game and see if the developer Bloober Team delivered on their promise.
Now, after playing the game, I have mixed feelings.
The Medium Review – The Bad: Awkward Camera & Movement
The first thing that jumped out at me when starting to play was the fixed camera perspective – very reminiscent of older Resident Evil titles. Whether that is your thing or not is a matter of personal preference, but at times I've found the fixed perspective annoying. It’s a cool stylistic device, but when you are in the far back of bigger rooms, it just makes it hard to see and even harder to navigate.
Which brings me to the next thing that jumped out at me: The incredibly awkward player movement. It just FEELS wrong, imprecise and makes you feel like you’re playing with a steering wheel. I must note though, that I played the game on mouse and keyboard – maybe the movement feels better with a controller.
When talking about the movement, we have to address the animations as well: Especially the running-animation is just beyond stiff and awkward. At least the motion capture in cutscenes is beautiful...until you take a look at the faces, that is... Unfortunately, facial animations are nonexistent. This is Hollywood- Botox levels bad. Sad, as the former POTUS would say. In this day and age of gaming, we expect better.
BUT: We get the bad out of the way first, so that we can focus on the good properly. Enough ranting, because Bloober Team also did a lot of things right with The Medium: The voice acting is superb and emotional – it is varied and perfectly sells the game's strongest aspect: The story.
The Medium Review – The Good: Gripping Story
The story had me hooked after the first few minutes and had me sink deeper and deeper into its twisted, dark parallel world in the hours that followed.
To avoid any spoilers, I won't get too deep into the story, but to quickly summarize: You’re playing Marianne who has the psychic ability to see and explore the spirit world, a dark mirror reflection of our reality where all the things we repress take form.
In the game you play either in the spirit, or real-world and sometimes both at the same time! I instantly fell in love with the f*ed up spirit-world and the stories it told. The design really reminded me of the Love, Death, Robots episode “Beyond the Aquila Rift”.
Having two parallel worlds opens a lot of possibilities for puzzles, which is what you’re going to do for most of the game. I have never been a big puzzle fan, so it really says something that the dark, twisted, psycho-horror setting of The Medium grew on me despite this.
To put it in cheesy, typical review-terms: This is a game that grips you and doesn't let you go. This is particularly true, since the horror sometimes feels all too real...
The Medium Review – The Surprising: More Mental Health than Horror
Now, I have to mention that the horror part is not that... scary. Not in the traditional sense at least – don’t expect to stain your brown pants like in Outlast. The Medium is much more about psycho-horror, which really revolves around the setting and mood.
The Medium addresses mental health at numerous occasions, talks about depression, schizophrenia and suicide, which I loved (as much as you can love these things). It really reminded me of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – one of my favorite games of all time.
Just like Senua’s Sacrifice, The Medium does one thing especially well: Convey horror through sound. Sound naturally creates much stronger emotions than visuals ever could. The sound-design in The Medium is just ON POINT at every second of the game.
The sound design, coupled with the story and its themes, kept me immersed and hooked throughout the eight-hour play through.
The Medium Review – The Verdict
Besides the mirror world gameplay, The Medium doesn't bring a lot of fresh ideas to the table and does fall short visually, sometimes just feeling awkward and stiff.
The saving grace is the game's story: It is immersive and manages to grab a hold of you. This is where The Medium truly shines.
Just like this review, The Medium just needs a little time to really get to the best part. Is it worth it? Yes, if you’re looking for a mystery game with mature themes and a somber, harrowing atmosphere.
- Release Date: January 28, 2021
- Developer: Bloober Team
- Genre: Psychological Horror
- Single Player
- Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X|S
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