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The Medium

Posted by GG Goblin On February - 11 - 2021

Two worlds, one creepy adventure.

The launch of the Xbox Series X was a strange one, being that there was an obvious absence of exclusives to help sell the machine. As it turned out, this didn’t really seem to affect the sales of the next-gen console, abut it did leave all of the early adopters waiting for that first big, shiny new title that would show off exactly how capable their new machine was. Finally, after a couple of months waiting, Bloober Team’s The Medium arrived on the console to much applause. A subtle survival horror, The Medium also launched immediately on the excellent Xbox Game Pass, so there really is no reason not to spend some time flitting between two worlds.


The Medium may not be exactly what players expect though. Taking on the role of Marianne, the titular Medium, players will early on discover that the character not only has a special ability, but also that she seems to have been dealing with this ability for much of her life. This is slowly revealed throughout the game, starting with a disturbing recurring dream before heading into the much more mundane reality of returning to the family home to deal with the death of Marianne’s foster father. Quickly though, players will be faced with exactly what Marianne is able to do when it turns out that the spirit of her foster father has not moved on. A quick trip to the spirit world and a conversation should get that worked out.

The much advertised selling point for The Medium was this idea of the main character being able to exist in two worlds simultaneously, and it is quite a spectacle when it happens. Being able to converse with the dead and exist in the spirit world is Marianne’s main power, and the way it is presented is just great. While much of the time Marianne remains in only one of the two worlds, the simultaneous existence sections are the best, as the screen splits in two and presents Marianne moving and engaging in both at the same time.


The spirit world is both similar yet different to the real world. Features that the player can see in the real world screen may still exist in the spirit world, but will be changed to fit in with the decayed and slightly foreboding visual theme of the spirit world. The player controls both Mariannes at once, and a fair number of the puzzles in the game will involve players having to activate something in one world to open the route in the other.

It is all very nicely done, and works seamlessly. The spirit world is atmospheric and immersive, having a great visual style that brings the world to life. The excellent use of lighting only adds to the immersions and the sense of unease as the player continues to explore. It can be a little unusual to see Marianne interact with something on one screen while interacting with absolutely nothing on the other, but it adds to that whole idea that Marianne is strange and that people would have seen her as such throughout her life while she stands in the corner talking to no-one.

Following the funeral home sequence, an introduction for the player to Marianne’s world, She receives a mysterious phone call offering to answer questions about the dream that starts the game. To get these answers, Marianne will have to travel to a derelict holiday compound called the Niwa Resort, which just so happens to be the perfect setting for some creepy exploration as something terrible obviously happened there.


Much of the game plays at a slower pace than many players may be expecting from a survival horror title. In many ways, it plays more like an exploration game, with gameplay revolving around searching small areas and clicking on various objects to either be able to progress the story or get some more background. Marianne has the ability to highlight objects of importance in a given area, or show footprints and such, to help out. None of the puzzles are especially difficult, which may cause some disappointment for some players, but at least it allows players to keep progressing without too many problems.

Unlike many horror games, The Medium doesn’t have much of a sense of threat. The game is certainly foreboding, but aside from a couple of jumpy moments, it doesn’t really amount to much. There are a couple of threats to the player though, with the most significant coming from the entity known as The Maw, voiced by Troy Baker. Marianne will have to use stealth to avoid The Maw as much as possible, both in the real world and the spirit world, which can certainly raise the tension. The Maw will act differently depending on which world the player is in, which gives further variety when these sequences happen, although it can be a jarring break for players who are invested heavily in following the story.


The Medium is an obviously accomplished game with high production values and makes great use of the new hardware it is running on. It is, however, not necessarily what players will expect. The game is mature and much more psychological than it is horrific, but players who can invest in the narrative will come away with a great experience. It’s not the longest game, and the replayability is not very strong, but The Medium is a good showcase for the Xbox Series X and worth dropping in to. Included with Xbox Game Pass, there is little reason not to play The Medium.




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