My personal thoughts about The Medium by Bloober Team, played on Xbox Series X.
As anyone that’s observed me spend half an hour with something like Forbidden Siren or Alien Isolation will attest, I am a huge wimp at horror games. It’s weird as I’m quite partial to the horror genre in art, novels, manga and movies - but that extra layer of interactivity over the whole thing just drains my courage and I wind up putting the disc back in its box. There are some exceptions (Bloodborne), but mostly this is how I am with horror games.
About a year ago, I was watching the concluding part of the fan-made Warhammer 40k series “Astartes” and revelling in the imagery, especially at the end where you are shown a glimpse of a chaos world the marine had been transported to. Somewhere in the comments was this gem:
For that one person who is interested, the statues and architecture in this scene - 6:55 - is very reminiscent if not directly inspired by that of Zdzisław Beksiński. A polish artist born in 1929. His art was widely known for being odd and downright disturbing at times. He went to architecture school and some point in his life which heavily helped him create his signature art.
I couldn’t believe it, I was that one person who was interested!
This comment had been left just for me, obviously, and it set me off on a voyage of discovery to find out more about this artist and the worlds he had imagined. As the commenter suggested, there was plenty of odd and disturbing things to see in his portfolio, hundreds of surreal perversions of people and architecture that were fascinating, but definitely too creepy for me to order a print and hang it up in the house.
Some time later, a promotional video was released for The Medium. Given the Akira Yamaoka connection I imagined it would be a Silent Hill derivative, and therefore something I will never play (nope sorry I’m too much of a chicken wuss for that). I watched the trailer anyway, and immediately spotted the similarities between their hell/demon world and the works of Beksiński I’d so recently enjoyed. I guess I was going to have to try it then.
And here I am, writing these words after completing the whole game. Pretty proud of myself for pushing through what I found to be, at times, an absolutely terrifying experience. The story of Marianne, a lady with psychic powers that see her existing simultaneously in our reality and a hellish parallel reality, was compelling. There was plenty of mystery to unravel about her, the nature and source of her abilities, and the fates of the restless souls she meets along the way.
One thing I enjoyed was that there wasn’t much emphasis on combat in this game, you deal with enemy encounters either by sneaking, or by solving simple puzzles - finding missing parts of machinery, keys for previously inaccessible doors, etc. Now and again the game lets you use Mariannes abilities to leave her body, create force fields, etc, but it’s all relatively straightforward. Fortunately for me, the game has a robust checkpoint system for those few times where I was facing off against a terrifying enemy and failed to act appropriately.
The Medium was not too hard, and didn’t outstay it’s welcome - I took around twelve hours to get to the end - although a lot of this time was spent searching for every little postcard, note or trinket that helped contribute to the overall narative. Enjoy it at your own pace and let the story, the art and the music all work together to immerse you in this creepy world. I loved every minute of my time with the game and can thoroughly recommend it, for wimps and non-wimps alike.