The Medium – Review

Last updated:
Release Date
January 28, 2021
Publisher
Bloober Team
Developer
Bloober Team
Platform
Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PC
Reviewed On
PC

Playing through The Medium I couldn’t help but feel as if something was lacking. The drive that usually compels us to finish the game was strangely absent despite it ticking all the checkboxes of what should be a good game.

Sure, the graphics were beautiful, the atmosphere was frighteningly chilly, and a sense of mystery was in the air but I never truly found myself enjoying the game. And throughout my journey I kept questioning why that was. I had to push myself to actively look for something to be compelled by rather than have something catch my eye.

The themes and gimmicks of The Medium are certainly intriguing but they fail to capture any long term interest of playing the game. And in the end, it winds up being an forgettable journey for several reasons.

So is The Medium worth your time? Read our thoughts and decide for yourself.

There’s criticism to be had as to how The Medium handles its opening narrative. It fails to motivate players into seeking for answers. And for a game that centers around mystery, that’s a huge missed opportunity.

In a rather grim way to start a tale, you’re tasked to prepare a loved one’s funeral as you walk around slowly getting used to the game’s tank controls and exploring interactable objects. It’s here that you discover that Marianne is a medium, a person with mysterious supernatural abilities that allow her to locate hidden objects and even speak to the dead.

The preparation for the funeral gets tossed aside as Marianne gets a call from a stranger who claims to know who she is and asks her to come to some far away isolated abandoned resort. This comes off as a poor way to kickstart the plot as Marianne forgets that she’s in the middle of mourning someone and supposed to be preparing their funeral and goes off to solve the mystery of her past that she doesn’t seem all that bother by.

The problem with Marianne as a character is that she isn’t all too interesting. Her powers as a medium defines her, but her personality does not. There isn’t really anything memorable about Marianne. Her driving motivations to explore an abandoned haunted resort in the middle of nowhere don’t feel compelling.

By far one of the biggest flaws of The Medium is the decision to have Marianne insert her commentary on almost everything. Even performing the simplest of actions has her needlessly insert dialogue. All of this could be forgiven or even charming had she had anything witty or interesting to say. This can come off as annoying as it doesn’t leave much room for players to think for themselves.

Marianne just doesn’t have enough charm to carry the show. Her interactions with others and the world around her leave much to be desired. In fact, none of the characters in The Medium are charming enough to be memorable.

The Spirt World is The Medium’s biggest feature. You are essentially controlling two characters at the same time throughout certain points in the game. Anything in the physical world carries its presence over to the spiritual realm. For some unknown reason, Marianne has the ability to interact with both worlds at the same time.

It’s easy to draw comparisons of this decrepit world filled with surreal and disturbing images to eldritch locations from other fictional works such as Silent Hill’s Otherworld or Stranger Thing’s Upside Down. Everything here is decaying, rotting, and fleshy filled with cryptic symbolism.

The Medium’s Spirt World is certainly an interesting concept. It’s nowhere near as meaningful as Silent Hill’s Otherworld or as intriguing as Stranger Thing’s Upside Down but it certainly filled with hellish imagery to give anyone who sees it goosebumps.

The Medium uses old fashion tank controls. In a sense, one could say that the game is ironically bringing back the dead by using an old school system that is almost gone from the gaming industry. It’s honestly charming to see such an old style of gameplay brought back into the modern era.

Unlike Silent Hill where combat has a clear presence, The Medium doesn’t have any of that. Instead the gameplay focuses on puzzle solving and exploration using Marianne’s powers as a medium. And there are some pretty creative ways the gameplay utilizes Marianne’s powers to solve problems in both worlds.

It’s difficult to call the The Medium survival horror. There aren’t really any mechanics in gameplay that justify that. It’s a narrative driven game with puzzle solving. It can be more accurately described as a psychological thriller with supernatural elements.

Marianne can use instinct to locate hidden items and scout out clues that can’t be seen by the naked eye. Her powers as a Medium allows her to hear past conversations through items with strong emotional connections. And if there’s an area where her physical body cannot get to, then she can momentarily have an out-of-body experience to allow her spirit to roam free without physical presence.

As mentioned, there is no combat in this game. Occasionally you will find yourself being pursued by a monster called The Maw from the other side. Encounters with it are intense, gripping, and disturbing. In fact, much of the plot of the game revolves around it.

There’s no manually saving your game by any means so you have to rely on its autosave if you want to take a break. Thankfully, the game does a good job of giving you an estimate of when it has last saved your progress and it’s frequent enough to not force you to have to play for more time just to hit the next checkpoint.

The Medium’s tank control gameplay is satisfactory enough to do the job. But, it serves as more of a device to further the story than being anything fun. The game does lack replayability.

When playing The Medium, you are essentially playing two games. It splits itself into two dimensions where you have to control two characters at the same time. And this can be punishing if you don’t have the right hardware for it.

I was playing the game on RX 5500 XT 4GB with 16GB RAM on HDD. And I struggled to get some decent performance for the game to run smoothly.

At 1080p on high, the game runs below 30 FPS when Marianne is split between two worlds. On medium, the game runs consistently between 30 and 40 FPS. On low, between 40 and 50 FPS.

I’d recommend playing this with an SSD since texture pop-ins are all too noticeable and distracting.

The Medium was a game I really wanted to like. With its gorgeous graphics, old school tank control gameplay, and musical pieces composed by Akira Yamaoka himself it had everything that promised a memorable experience. But at the end, the journey was unfulfilling and forgettable.

It isn’t a bad game. Far from it. There were several intense moments that spooked me and imagery that piqued my interest. It just a niche experience that doesn’t really wind up being memorable.

The Medium – Review
Score Definition
You better have to choose if it’s worth spending your spare cash, because it might not be the game for you and it might be for others.
Pros
Chilling Atmosphere
Interesting Supernatural Concepts
Great Auto Save System
Amazing Music
Gorgeous Visuals
Cons
Hardware Demanding Game
Niche Story
Forgettable Protagonist
6.5
Justified