The Medium, Review. A Journey Between Two Realities
One girl, two lives. And a story we don’t know. This is the Next Gen game from Bloober Team for Xbox Series and PC. Also on Game Pass.
Marianne is no ordinary girl. He always had special powers that allow him to navigate between two realities, the world and the world of the dead. His ability as a medium accompanied him until the beginning of the game, where he must say goodbye to his father -adoptive- and where, from the other world, escort him so that he can rest. But everything gets complicated when he gets a call to go to Niwa, an abandoned and unhelpful place, after being banished. Or so it seems. And so begins The Medium, the new game from Bloober Team (Layers of Fear, Blair Witch), a game that wants to be like the classics, with good ideas and others not so much.
The stage of The Middle, available this week on Xbox Series, PC and within the Pass game, games show the Horror of Survival What living evil or Quiet Hill. It does this through the control type, the main character in the third person or the fixed cameras in the rooms where we enter. But it is true that the game moves away from those formulas and seeks its own path. A corridor with lights and shelters, but ending up as a result will be an interesting experience with very fast-paced moments. Polish study continues to draw on problems in game mechanics as we have seen in its previous video games, but here it takes steps forward in other areas.
Between living and dead
Defining the Mean as the Survival Horror may be a stretch. The title does not generate fear as a name as Visit. Nor do we suffer from lack of resources or seemingly irresistible dangers, as we do in Resident Evil 2. He is not so afraid of what will be next door. But it can keep us tense and worry about almost the full title. Way more light than other games of the company, but in perfect balance with the plot and what it wants to tell. Because it is one of its strengths: history. What happened in Niwa connects with Marianne, and how her personal and local story unfolds spreads well. Plus, without making any small additions: too many times, in this game the end is removed and there are exaggerated cork screws or weird situations. And that happens for all kinds of games, from the smallest productions to the big productions (Resident Evil 7?). Here we can say that the ending is very powerful. And very good.
To achieve it, we must follow a total adventure of about 7-8 hours that connects between two worlds. It’s one of The Medium’s attractions: Marianne’s ability to be inside two realities at once. This, which we see at the beginning, is one of the main mechanics of a game. The screen is split and we control Marianne’s two faces to move on. If a box of fuses doesn’t work, from the other world we can launch a flash of light – before we can charge this ability – so that the door opens in real life. If there are things that prevent us from moving forward, we cannot “leave” our body to, but for a limited time, control the gorgeous part of Marianne, continue on that path that is open in the other world and way find out new or essential object.
The relationship between the two worlds usually develops in this way. Do things from one side to the other so you can move on. With the difference in mechanics: Marianne can only live to explore around him and acts of stealth. The gorgeous Marianne can be shield to avoid and make an annoying moth attack flashes of light for concrete actions. Be that as it may, this is not an action game, but a title in which the most common is exploring, solving puzzles and, in moments of action, stealth and escape.
While this ambiguity depends more than well on paper, The Medium does not take full advantage of these possibilities. We are facing a fairly guided game, at certain larger moments Walking simulator than anything else, and in which the backtracking or puzzle solving is always done in confined spaces. If we cannot open a door, the solution is relatively close to one world or another, but in a format that always looks forward: we rarely return to a place before. This places a slight restriction on the puzzles in the first half of the game, which is often obvious.
Run and hide
But not everything is like that. At some point, towards the center of the title, each level has a turning point, and the game accelerates. It will be during the extension final where we will have the best puzzles. Nothing is comparable to the nobility of the genre, but to more grace since it will force us to carry several things at once and know where to put them, or we will have to move in several rooms with its two realities to continue to evolve. It is unfortunate that these examples are not found throughout the game, as they raise the level of experience and take advantage of Marianne’s ambiguity and the need to return to one place and another over and over again, as well as writing down and remembering certain details Advanced.
Is the exploration the mechanics we will use most. Take objects, analyze them, turn them around, use our sense to see things invisible to the naked eye, have more context at the plot level and move on. The story fits in perfectly with our progress, which is an added bonus even if the challenge is low. The experience of investigating a place complements in two different ways, or at the same time, very well what they are trying to tell us.
Being able to use our powers to see key things we have not seen, managing an object in the real world that offers us a new vision in the other world, from which we can activate a certain gadget that will allow us to continue the alive, and keep moving forward. Almost always linear, but with enough interaction to make the experience satisfying most of the time. The moments of the greatest action are another thing, where the game threatens something else.
The title presents us with a great enemy we can’t beat. The only way we have to overcome it is stealth or running. And both mechanics work regularly. The first is because the design of these steps is pretty simple and the patterns of the enemy, too. The second is because they are a pure trial mistake when we only have to run towards the only way out. We don’t have mechanics in front of us that work badly and really, they provide variety to the rhythm of the game, but it’s a sin to be a little ambitious and not put too much through the controls. Clearly The Medium doesn’t want to get involved depending on the actions, and we also see in how key moments in history are resolved that other games and here, video scenes, would be a direct confrontation. In general, the moments of the greatest action end near the moments of exploration.
That said, and not spoiled, Marianne it will not be the only controllable character when we reach a certain point in the game. In this case, some new actions are added that we have not with our main character, but with boundaries. And finally, these sequences are more interesting in terms of what they offer at the plot level than we do during these sections.
Medium is a game that wants to capture you with what counts and how it is counted. Not being a Walking Simulator or a graphic adventure. And what he wants to tell, he manages to do. The -few- characters featured are a powerful sea, and there are high moments in the relationship with the main character. Sure, at this point the soundtrack and dubbing play a decisive role. The IS cast voices -in English, including by the way Troy Baker- very well chosen. The inequality of the beasts with whom we interact or the grief of a little girl so precisely named, Sorry, are good examples of great work in this regard. The accompanying soundtrack is great at every moment: sadness, melancholy, distress, tension. He knows how to transmit every state of mind, every moment peaks through our ears. And of course, the sound effects were perfectly measured for every reality and every detail.
Sound is everything
If we go into the technical section, we got a game with masters and other elements that could be clearly improved. The introduction to that city on a rainy and gray day is a declaration of intent: the tracking of the ray shines as soon as you start. It is one of the most notable features of the title on a visual level. It shows, it is present and it is understood that a game with a moderately technical division can look more than good at the level of lighting. The game works at 4K and 30 frames per second, which holds up well but in a few moments you see small drops. They don’t affect the gameplay but they are noticeable.
We said about the improvised elements because the title has some character modeling with some seams in expressions and finishes, as well as certain orthopedic movements while running or doing some action. We also had late texture loading issues. In general, the artistic direction and the different settings of the real world and the life of the dead in defining and designing help to give a complete persuasive finish, even if weak points as mentioned.
At the game level, we highlighted some situations we had that need to be reconsidered, for sure. For example, there is no possibility of manual saving. This forces us to start from scratch if we want to revisit a place or if we want to find an object that we have left in the way. Sure, a chapter selector doesn’t fit, but it might be worth it to be able to save over the automatic one. Then highlight that it doesn’t have a level of difficulty even in the second game, which seems logical because it doesn’t mean to be challenged. And finally, for those interested: it is a game highly appreciated for achievements. It’s easy to finish with over 700 points in the first game just by exploring and following the plot without too much ash.
The game comes with voices in English and texts in Spanish, highlighting that the size of the text can be increased so that we do not lose sight of certain tiny captions that have been so abundant lately.