"It all begins with a dead girl."
In the story of The Medium, you play as Marianne. Marianne is, as the title would suggest, a medium with unique abilities. During certain moments of her life she can simultaneously exist in our world and the spirit world simultaneously. These abilities have been with her ever since she was a small child and was raised in foster care.
The story starts in the late 90s with Marianne preparing her foster father's body for his burial after dying in an accident. We see Marianne's powers manifest as she helps her father Jack to move on from this world. Following some initial tension and creepiness she receives a mysterious call from a man named Thomas who claims to have the answers she's been looking for her whole life.
"With the help of a little ghost girl..."
After the phone call, Marianne is directed to an abandoned hotel called 'Niwa' in Krakow, Poland. This hotel had been the site of a massacre many years earlier. As you can imagine this causes Marianne's powers to react constantly. With the help of a little ghost girl, Marianne must navigate the hotel in search of Thomas in the hopes of learning who she is and what her powers are.
As the game progresses you'll utilize the dual-reality of the game to puzzle solve and gather various items and collectibles to help you on your journey. While in the spirit world you also gain access to a handful of unique abilities that allow her to overcome the dangers present in the spirit world, while also evading an ever-present adversary called 'The Maw' who seeks to take your body and unleash his dark desires on the living world.
"...echoes of lingering emotions burned into various objects."
I spent a fair amount of time playing The Medium. Its atmosphere and tone are very well-constructed and the feeling of tension throughout the hotel lingered as I continued playing. The Maw was incredibly creepy and its looming presence was felt even when he wasn't actually there. I was terrified for the first couple of hours I was in there as you don't know when or where The Maw will pop up to try and find you.
There are also a lot of collectibles to find throughout the game. Each one gives you a deeper look into the people involved in the past and little glimpses into the larger picture that grows clearer as you continue through. Little things from postcards and memos, to echoes of lingering emotions burned into various objects. The echoes were some of my favorite pieces of lore as you got a better look at how the people interacted, the tones being used, and a better understanding of intent. With the echoes, you never knew what you would be met with. You could find an echo that was merely about children laughing and playing, and the next one could just be a series of people's horrified screams as death and chaos presided over the event.
The Medium also had some intense jump-scares. The game is not riddled with them, but the few it has are memorable. I found myself taking a pause after each one. This, to me, Is the sign of a well-crafted thriller/horror experience. The game isn't riddled with things to frighten you at every turn, but instead, it takes the time to draw you in, let you get comfortable, and then strike when you're least expecting it.
"Not everything is perfect."
The Medium is far from a flawless game. Not everything is perfect. The game features a system where the camera is fixed in a certain location without any direct player control. This works for the game as much as it works against it. During certain moments it worked beautifully as the camera panned itself to reveal towering monstrosities of people's dark emotions, and other times it switched so suddenly that the controls couldn't adapt properly and you'd run into a wall or into the arms of your pursuer.
In my time with The Medium the only real gripe I could think of was the controls. For the most part, it works really well between your various abilities, traversal, and stealth. It was the fixed perspective that made the controls jarring at times. One moment you'd be walking forward, and then the camera shifts and forward is now running you to the left.
That aside, I felt most of The Medium really worked for it. Bloober Team did an excellent job at creating a tense and creepy atmosphere, while not allowing it to take away from the narrative and vice versa.
"...captivating and well-rounded experience."
Graphically, the game looks amazing, and the audio through a headset was spectacular. My only complaint with the graphics was that while playing on my Series X the game wouldn't always render properly. Cutscenes would start or cut away and characters would sit unrendered briefly. It was a little bit disheartening considering this is a next-gen release that sacrificed frames to allow better resolutions.
In conclusion, I felt The Medium was a captivating and well-rounded experience. The graphics were stellar despite some slow renderings at times, the audio was well made for this kind of experience, and despite jarring controls, due to fixed perspective, the game handles quite well and is clever in a lot of its puzzles.
The Medium is out now on Xbox Series S|X and PC.
An incredible experience held back by occasionally jarring controls and slow rendering despite sacrificed FPS.
© 2021 Nathan Curd