Bloober Team is a studio that won me over little by little, but the more I ventured into its titles, the more I admired its talent for putting the player inside the dense atmosphere of a very well-constructed psychological horror, and it's impressive to see the their growth. Layers of Fear was my gateway, then I indulged in Observer, and then had a terrifying experience with the macabre Blair Witch. Now it's time to The Medium, said to be the most ambitious project in the studio's history, and also its first third-person game.
The Medium puts us in control of Marianne, a medium who lives in two worlds: the real and the spiritual. She has to deal with dark situations that surround her and other people's lives, all packed with a plot that grips you from the beginning, immersive environments, interesting characters and creative gameplay mechanics.
Although I'm not a big fan of horror games, I really like this more psychological vibe of some games in the genre, and Bloober Team has been standing out a lot in this area. Check out my entire experience with the game, and rest assured that the review is free of story spoilers.
An immersive and disturbing plot
The Medium takes place in Krakow, Poland, in the late 90's, and as stated above we are in control of a medium named Marianne. She possesses the powerful gift of exploring the spirit world, a place with a heavy atmosphere that seems to bring together the worst of human feelings. Another important aspect of her personality is that she also has the same dream of seeing a child murdered, something she thinks is a premonition.
During a difficult time in her personal life, she receives a call from a mysterious man, who not only claims to know her, but also knows about her powers, as well as her recurring nightmares. To make it even weirder, he asks her to go to the Niwa Hotel, a haunted place where a massacre would have taken place. Driven by her need to find answers to her dreams, and still with the curiosity to know how that man knows so much on it, Marianne begins her journey towards that macabre place.
The history of The Medium manages to hold your attention from the start, you really feel compelled to understand more of everything that is happening not only with Marianne, but with all the characters and creatures that come along. Why do certain situations happen? What is the turning point that has transformed some people? These questions grow as you progress through the plot, making us create theories all the time about what we are experiencing on screen. A masterful job of offering immersion to the player. Also, the more we explore the supernatural world, the more curious we become as to why it is the way it is. Everything is inserted at the right pace, without getting lost in the narrative progression, but also without getting bored. There is always something to keep us connected to the plot and its characters.
Going back to the characters, one of the things I liked most about The Medium is that despite the narrative focus being Marianne, the other characters, and even creatures, have a great development, exploring every layer of her personality, greatly enriching the story as a whole. They are constructed in a complex way, but without ever getting too complicated, making the plot a delight to follow.
The game is also not shy and touches on sensitive subjects, and the way in which they can change people as well as their souls forever. Not every subject is easy to face, but they're not just inserted with the intention of shocking for free or something, they are there because there is a real reason for them to be developed during the story.
A good psychological horror game needs to involve the player, making him feel immersed in that world of suspense and strangeness, and the Bloober Team did it masterfully, once again. The Medium brings a devastating universe, which holds you until the last second with a roller coaster of emotions.
Living in two worlds is complicated
The gameplay mechanics of The Medium mix simplicity and a lot of creativity. Generally speaking, you can walk and run with Marianne, interact with objects, and utilize the protagonist's spiritual powers. The nuances of using these mechanics are what make the journey through the game so special, especially when we alternate between the real and the spiritual, even being able to manipulate these two worlds at the same time.
Throughout the gameplay, we have to explore the environments in search of clues in order to progress. These clues can be objects that have strong bonds with certain people, and when we touch them we activate the so-called Echoes, with which we can hear dialogues with important hints about what happened in that place. Many of these objects are also important for triggering scenes about those people, expanding our understanding of the narrative.
In general, you need to find objects to complete some kind of puzzle, and thus proceed in the story. Nothing too complicated, as the objective is to immerse you in the atmosphere of the game and not waste too much time unraveling some riddle. The rhythm works very well in The Medium.
The main highlight of the gameplay of The Medium it is the question of Dual Reality. Marianne can explore the spirit world, and at certain moments in the game this occurs simultaneously with the real world. The game presents this dynamic with the screen split in two. When the developers revealed that this simultaneous Dual Reality would only happen 33% of the time, many complained, but believe me, they found the perfect balance to insert this idea, at least being their first game with this mechanic.
Each world has its version of that same location, with different objects and barriers. It is up to the player to take a good look at his surroundings to find a way forward. When we are split-screen, we need to pay attention to what happens in both worlds, and for that the game adds some interesting features. Chief among them is spiritual energy. Marianne can absorb this energy in places that are scattered in scarce spots on the map, and thus access some special abilities, such as creating a barrier to pass through swarms of insects, or launching a charge of this energy to energize electricity breakers, and even ward off enemies. . Another interesting mechanic is the out-of-body experience, where the protagonist leaves her physical body to explore only the spirit world. All this is essential for solving the puzzles.
Something interesting about this spiritual energy is that we measure how much of it we have through the level of light in Marianne's arm. The time remaining for using the out-of-body experience is also represented through her spirit disintegrating, warning that time is running out. Smart alternatives to keep the game without any kind of information on the screen, maximizing immersion.
As I said above, The Medium has enemies, but they bring more of that cat-and-mouse feeling than encouraging open combat. There are grotesque creatures in this world, but even with our powers we are powerless against them. We need to hide and even run as fast as we can. Even some of these chase parts offer sequences that will bring you a strong feeling of fear and apprehension. An entire environment is being created so that you feel that at any moment everything can go wrong, which makes us totally connected to what happens in the game. I missed having more options for combat using these spiritual powers. Who knows, maybe in the next game this won't happen.
Bloober Team opted for the use of semi-fixed cameras, so we don't control what we see, as the game's direction decides which angle we'll explore. The studio said that this decision was made for artistic reasons, as it is inspired by great classic horror games, but it was also a quality-of-life choice, as during free camera testing in the Dual Reality parts, many players felt nauseous. I particularly liked the choice, as it increases our feeling of powerlessness, in addition to leaving us with the constant feeling that we are being watched.
Finally, the game still has several documents, secrets and easter eggs, including from the studio's previous games. The most interesting thing about the documents is that they bring new and really important information so that we can build our own theories about what is happening around Marianne. Something that also encourages exploration around every corner of the map.
In a general way, The Medium finds a perfect rhythm for exploring both the real and the spiritual world. We feel the danger surrounding our character all the time, and far beyond resorting to jump scares, which are those scares we get out of nowhere, Bloober Team bet on a constant atmosphere of suspense, which never lets us relax.
An impressive audiovisual set
The Medium focuses on presenting a unique world with an atmosphere of constant tension, enveloping players with an aura of mystery and curiosity. Audio-visual resources are essential to potentiate these feelings, and the Bloober Team has done a great job in these respects, truly delivering their most ambitious project yet.
Whether inside the Niwa Hotel, in the forest or in the spirit world, The Medium surrounds us with a truly immersive universe full of mysteries. The environments are very well detailed with high quality textures. In addition, the lighting and the projection of shadows enhance the feeling of restlessness and imminent danger that surrounds us. The game manages to embrace us at all times with its dark and disturbing atmosphere, thanks to the beautiful work done with its visuals.
The characters also do not disappoint and in addition to being well presented, they also have natural animations that enrich the plot.
A curiosity about Hotel Niwa is that it is a place that actually exists in the real world with the name of Hotel Cracovia, and is located in the center of Krakow in Poland. The developers explored the location well to recreate the design of that location as accurately as possible. The dystopian aesthetic style of the spirit world was inspired by surrealist paintings by Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński. The result in the game is really amazing.
The overall performance of The Medium it's very good at Xbox Series X, with a package that offers 4K resolution and Ray-tracing, but unfortunately we don't have 60FPS, which could make the game even more fluid. Throughout my experience, I've seen few cases with textures that took a while to load, and some FPS drops, especially when switching between worlds or transitioning to cutscenes. In general, nothing too serious that could interfere with my experience.
Audio work for a horror game is essential, and the Bloober Team has always done an amazing job in this regard. In The Medium this would be no different. We were able to perceive the meticulous work in the sounds of the environments, always leaving us with a feeling of discomfort, and making us alert with every noise that surrounds us, be it an object that has fallen or a whisper emanating from an object. A golden tip: play with headphones.
The soundtrack hugs you all the time, mixing melancholy touches with other intense and disturbing tracks. Arkadiusz Reikowski from Bloober Team was responsible for the sounds of the real world, while for the spiritual universe we have Akira Yamaoka, composer of Silent Hill, a game that was one of the developers' inspirations.
The work of the actors, who brought the characters and creatures to life, is also spectacular, with performances that brought the story to life, giving truthfulness and depth to each situation, revealing the troubled and even sickening nuances of each tormented piece of this great emotional puzzle.
The game is all subtitled in Portuguese from our country, facilitating access to the work for a wider audience.
The Medium shows a clear evolution of Bloober Team as a creator of incredible worlds for the psychological horror genre. The game offers a dense and immersive plot, which captivates us from the first minutes, with a narrative full of mysteries and very well developed events. The characters are well-crafted, making it impossible not to develop some kind of feeling for them, be it pity, hatred or anything else.
The audiovisual work is impressive and enhances the immersion within those universes. The Dual Reality mechanic is quite interesting, offering creative possibilities for gameplay. I wanted to see more of that dynamic in action, but overall I think it was a great debut for the concept. Combat could have been explored more with Marianne's spiritual powers, and I'm hoping that if there's a sequel we can have more use of these abilities against creatures.
Despite some technical inconsistencies, The Medium offers a memorable journey, which lasts between 8 and 10 hours, where the player is fully immersed in this unique universe. A must experience for those who enjoy games focused on good psychological horror, with touches of the supernatural and discussions about suffering and how it can transform people.
It is worth remembering that the game is already available on Xbox Game Pass.
Understand our notes
*Make sure this is the current price before making the purchase. Values may vary.
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