The Medium is a 3rd person adventure horror game created by Bloober Team, who previously created Layers of Fear, Observer, and The Blair Witch video game. The Medium puts you in the shoes of Marianne, a psychic medium working at her father’s funeral home. It’s there that she receives a phone call from a mysterious stranger asking her to meet at the haunted Niwa Resort to get the answers she’s been looking for to a recurring nightmare she’s been having.
After arriving at the resort, the story is paced excellently between exploration in either dark and moody forest paths or claustrophobic corridors in the run-down resort. Exploration is broken up by an hour and thirty minutes of cutscenes that never felt like they ever slowed the game down. Neither did they feel like a waste of time and pushed the narrative further with well-written dialogue delivered excellently by the entire cast of characters. This is to say that some dialogue outside of the cutscenes should have been cut a bit, as Marianne narrates heavily throughout the game, and it starts to feel redundant.
Fixed Cameras on two halves of a screen and a fantastic soundtrack.
One of The Medium’s defining aspects is its presentation of showing the game through an extravagant amount of camera angles throughout the game. Some of them pan around with Marianne or follow her, but every time I walked into a hallway or room, I was excited to see the perspective even if I had to readjust the direction I moved the joystick to. But the main selling point to its presentation would be the dual reality that Marianne lives in. Both the living world in its realistic detail and the spirit world, with art direction inspired by Zdzisław Beksiński’s paintings, have different ambiances that will immerse you, sometimes into one or another. The game also features an incredible soundtrack co-composed by legendary silent hill composer Akira Yamaoka and Arkadiusz Reikowski, who composed all of Bloober Teams’ previous games.
Solving puzzles while avoiding detection.
The Medium plays out like a stealth-oriented puzzle game where every area will have you looking around for specific objects to progress forward or environmental puzzles requiring you to focus solely on the spirit world to fix a problem for the living world and vice versa. While this does sound monotonous, there are creative ways that they’re presented and broken up by scripted chase sequences that overwhelmed me with anxiety. There are also stealth sequences where only some of them feel organic and aren’t difficult to overcome. However, I never used the holding breath mechanic that was described to help me avoid detection as I saw no difference in any situation, it’s a great idea, but it has no use from my experience.
A sample of technical problems.
With The Medium pushing near photorealism and showing two different perspectives in a lot of moments, I was never expecting a smooth experience. The game has consistent frame rate drops when cutscenes start and when they end. There was also an odd texture delay when you rummage through the inventory, and sometimes the texture on the back of Marianne’s jacket never appeared or appeared too late during cutscenes. But the nastiest case is a graphical issue that is present at random times and frequent during the final cutscene of the game, I’m unsure if this is an issue while playing on my Series X or across the board, but I can assure you that the game never crashed on me.
The Medium is a different experience that doesn’t rely on any modern action gameplay to fill out the 8-10 hours of gameplay. It has a well-written story with memorable characters and a unique presentation. Despite its technical shortcomings, The Medium is a game I know I will be returning to frequently, and if you’re a fan of horror games, you owe it to yourself to play this. The Medium is available on Xbox Series X, Series S, Steam, and the Epic game store for $49.99 and is available to play on Xbox Game Pass.
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The Medium Review
The Medium is a shorter experience with very experimental ideas. A strong presentation and story get held back by some consistent technical problems.