The Medium Review – A Complex Spiritual Experience

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Beneath the thin and volatile fabric of our world lies a parallel dimension. To some, it’s a nightmare of spectral horrors and winding paths, a sort of inescapable damnation reserved for the most unfortunate of souls. For Marianne, the protagonist of Bloober Team’s latest supernatural horror, it’s merely a piece of a puzzle.

In The Medium, players traverse two worlds, using Marianne’s mediumship to uncover the truth behind her prophetic dream and her spectral powers. To experience this for yourself, remember to buy Steam Wallet Code and get the game.

It’s only been five years since Bloober Team solidified itself as a purveyor of horror gaming. Layers of Fear wasn’t the team’s first video game endeavor, but its heavy themes circling mental health blended with elements of horror were a far cry from the developer’s early efforts. The Medium continues Bloober’s foray into the horror genre, following the mostly entertaining Blair Witch and Layers of Fear 2, with a complex story that takes players to the depths of the spirit realm.

The Disturbing Storyline

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The Medium follows Marianne, a spirit medium whose troubling dream sends her on a search for answers. Marianne’s journey takes her to an abandoned resort, where she unravels a twisted controversy of Soviet and Nazi experiments intended to sever the human mind from its body.

The deeper she gets, the more she learns of her own sordid past. There are many dark themes tucked away in the game’s narrative, and being crammed together makes it difficult to touch on everything properly.

Unfortunately, this forces players to glance over controversial topics that maybe shouldn’t be quickly swept under the rug, despite not being the crux of the plot.

The Dual Screens, Dual Worlds

Though many clues to The Medium’s quest lie in our realm, Marianne often has to cross into the spirit world to see a different side of things. It’s easy to make the comparison to Silent Hill’s dual dimensions, but Bloober pushes modern tech by rendering the two realms at once. It’s a little taxing on the Xbox Series X, and players should expect quite a few framerate drops. The payoff is deeper gameplay and a uniquely immersive game that shows the promise of the technical marvels developers may pull off during this new generation of consoles.

Rendering both worlds at once isn’t just some gimmick to sell the game. At certain moments throughout The Medium, Marianne will find herself split between the “Spirit World” and the “Material World.” The screen will divide, allowing players to not only see both worlds in real-time but also control both versions of Marianne at once. However, it’s a little more simplistic than it sounds, as movement across the realms is tied to one analog stick.

During these moments, Marianne will have to solve puzzles by interacting with objects in one world, which will have an impact on the other. The medium may even leave her physical body altogether and continue her exploration solely in the realm of the dead. And it’s here where The Medium’s co-star emerges as a shining addition.

The Horror of The Maw

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At its core, The Medium is a horror game, and any good horror game needs monsters. Thankfully, the minds at Bloober conceptualized the Maw, a malevolent spirit searching for its escape into the real world. As if a lumbering specter frantic for a way out of its realm isn’t already troubling, the fiend is expertly voiced by Troy Baker (The Last of Us), who gives it a personality that simply grates on your nerves.

The Maw is an unstoppable force, plowing through both realities with the ferocity of Resident Evil 2’s Mr. X. Taunting its prey, the Maw is an unnerving horror, though it succeeds more as a background character than an in-game threat. Marianne doesn’t have much trouble evading the monstrosity, and the scattered chase and stealth segments won’t leave you feeling like you’re in danger.

You certainly won’t love when the Maw is stomping closely behind, tormenting Marianne with its vile provocations, but you won’t feel the same tension as when Mr. X or Nemesis were stomping closely behind. Unfortunately for Marianne, the Maw isn’t the only devil waiting for her across realms, and each one is more gruesome than the last.

The Familiar Gameplay

If you’ve ever played a classic survival horror title like Silent Hill or Alone in The Dark, The Medium will feel very familiar. From traditional puzzles to the third-person, static camera angle,  the core experience is certainly standard. Its controls even have that old-school feel, which may be appealing to a nostalgic crowd.

To avoid feeling like a rehash of the incredible experiences we’ve already had, Bloober integrates Marianne’s abilities in a surprisingly balanced act to ensure that they never feel overused or underutilized. Whereas puzzles can often grow tiresome or feel forced in horror titles, here, they’re a natural addition that only emphasizes what Bloober set out to create with the dual realities.

The Contrasting Visuals

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One of The Medium’s most outstanding features is its visual design. The two realms are vastly different, basked in contrasting lighting to set the tone of each world. Marianne’s reality is accented by hues of blue and white for a dreary albeit benevolent tone. The spirit realm is far harsher, with shades of red, orange, and yellow indicating the perils that lie in wait.

Though they occupy the same space, a room in the material world will look little like its supernatural counterpart, giving the appearance of two environments that make The Medium’s world feel so much bigger than it actually is.

As one of the first games developed solely for the Xbox Series X/S, it’s not surprising that The Medium shudders at Bloober’s ambition. However, there is an enjoyable, albeit tragic and short, experience within. Though it faces quite a few framerate drops, it remains a visually striking and memorable journey into a realm beyond our own that teeters on the edge of horror and thriller.

The Medium
7/10

Summary

Gameplay and characters come together to overshadow many of the game’s shortcomings, but can’t completely shroud the technical hiccups. Although Bloober Team presents two visually stunning worlds that are rendered side-by-side, it comes at the cost of some framerate drops.

 
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