The Medium Review

The Medium Review

The Medium Review

Posted by Kyle Fisher

21 Feb, 2021


“It all begins with a dead girl,” a chilling line that opens The Medium’s chilling and mysterious tale. The Medium is a love letter to psychological survival horror titles such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, thought The Medium places a much heavier emphasis on storytelling, leaving some areas feeling more like a walking simulator than I would have liked. However, there is no denying Bloober Team has something special on their hands, and The Medium is a game that I believe all horror fans should experience. 

An Intriguing Tale

The Medium provides an intriguing tale about a young girl gifted with contacting the other side, helping people and the spirits that haunt them find closure. “It all begins with a dead girl” is a line we see played back several times throughout the campaign and the driving force for Marianne’s journey to Niwe. While preparing for her adopted father’s funeral, Marianne receives a phone call from a mysterious man claiming to need her help. This mysterious stranger taps into Marianne’s subconscious, mentioning a vision of a dead girl, one that Marianne had frequently had, and enlists her to come to the Niwe Hotel immediately for answers. During this scene, players receive their first glimpse into the dual reality gameplay within The Medium. Visually this is an incredible feat. Watching two separate versions of our protagonist as they interact with the dead is engaging in such a unique way that it never comes off feeling forced or unnecessary. The yellow and orange hue of the spirit world, simultaneously shown with the blues and greys of the material realms, creates a visually pleasing juxtaposition that sets an eerie and memorable tone.  

A Haunting Score

These sections are brought to life by Akira Yamaoka’s haunting score, reminiscent of his old works while feeling entirely unique. Near the end of the campaign, a wholly sung acoustic song plays over Marianne’s melancholy sequence through the woods. This artistic choice brings an emotional turn to an otherwise lackluster sequence. Akira Yamaoka’s risks with the soundtrack give The Medium an overall tone that’s equal parts bleak, hopeful and hauntingly beautiful. 

Shattering Expectations

Much of the short 7 to 10-hour journey through The Medium’s mysterious story is spent walking around exploring the dilapidated ruins of the old Niwe Hotel. One of the characters I met early on there, Sadness, really struck a chord with me. This character was cheerful and helpful to Marianne almost immediately. The Medium uses this section to shatter expectations. Not everyone you meet is pure evil, and there’s a complexity with these characters lurking just beyond the surface. The characters are the driving force behind The Medium, and that’s not immediately apparent. Much of the game’s story is veiled in mystery for several hours, leaving the phone call to serve as the game’s primary motivation. 

A Love Letter To Games Before

As I mentioned, The Medium was created as a love letter to games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Unlike Resident Evil and, to a lesser extent, Silent Hill, The Medium has no weapons at all. Marianne is not adept at fighting, nor does she make an attempt to do so—at least in the material realm. The majority of the game’s combat encounters are set up as stealth sections where Marianne must traverse silently to avoid the Maw, a demonic presence set on wearing her like a suit. These sections add much-needed tension and fear to a mostly tame experience. This brings up one of The Medium’s glaring issues, which holds it back from standing amongst the greats. 

A Distinct Lack of Tension

There is a distinct lack of tension or even horror throughout the majority of the campaign. The environment, story and hotel are all built around the idea of horror, but they never achieve anything that is actually scary. Of course, there is the Maw, a demonic entity set on using Marianne as its host, but that also feels like a missed opportunity. The creature does not hunt Marianne down as much as he acts as an obstacle in a handful of scenarios. The Maw would have been well suited as an ever-present threat, looming over Marianne and haunting the halls of Niwe in real time. While the Maw encounters—especially in the last half of the game—are incredibly cinematic, they provide nothing in terms of gameplay. The Medium needs to rely on its tone, and more importantly, its story to push players through. 

Shifting Between Realms

The crux of the game is centered around Marianne’s ability to shift between realms, gaining her access to characters and locations with which she wouldn’t otherwise be able to interact. Playing two characters simultaneously, one in the material plane and the other in the spirit world, never comes off as cumbersome. These sections could easily have been shoehorned into the game, but it’s clear that Bloober Team put a lot of care into how this would affect gameplay and the overall narrative. Every puzzle I encountered within The Medium used Marianne’s unique abilities in ways that felt natural within the rules set for us. Survival horror is a genre with an ongoing joke about how ridiculous some of the puzzles are. Yet, here all of the puzzles felt grounded within the reality set in place and never strayed into the obscene or the absurd. One of my favorite puzzles in the game and even within the genre comes later in the campaign. This puzzle involves shifting between realities, a dollhouse, butterflies and creepy porcelain masks all sitting under an overarching feeling of dread and loss. 

Missed Opportunities

However, the last half of The Medium houses several sections integral to the plot but offering nothing in terms of gameplay to hook players. These sections are completely void of puzzles, demonic demons stalking your movement or anything that was exciting enough to get me exploring the new areas. Luckily these sections are short and do not detract from the overall experience too much, but it does bring up another constant within The Medium: missed opportunities. 

There’s no denying The Medium is one of my favorite survival horror stories in a long time. Bloober Team really has something special on their hands here, which brings the game’s faults to the forefront. The Medium seamlessly interweaves realities and unique characters, and its engaging story make this a must play for horror fans. 

The Medium is available on Xbox Series S/X and Windows PC.


About Author

Kyle Fisher

Kyle Fisher has been a games media journalist for five years, during which time he has attended conventions such as E3 to extensively cover major events and reveals.When he’s not writing he is playing World of Warcraft, Magic: the gather or the latest AAA or survival horror title. He has spent years creating content that he is proud of in and outside of the video game world. Outside of the video game community Kyle focuses on writing music in a touring band. 2020 brought a new set of challenged with live music, as such he has shifted focus towards live-streaming and home music recording.

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