The subsequent undertaking from horror sport specialists Bloober Team, The Medium, seems like its most private. It is very referential, drawing affect from the developer’s native Polish tradition and a love for traditional survival horror collection like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. (Bloober Team even recruited famed Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka to pen the sport’s soundtrack with musician Arkadiusz Reikowski.)
The Medium additionally exudes ambition, constructing on the psychological horror foundations laid by the studio’s earlier video games, Observer and Layers of Fear, with a bolder, extra polished presentation.
In December, Polygon previewed a gameplay demo of The Medium over Discord. Lead sport designer Wojciech Piejko and producer Jacek Zięba walked us by way of how their new psychological horror sport performs, and the way its dual-reality mechanics permit protagonist Marianne, the eponymous medium, to discover two worlds without delay.
Bloober Team started its demo in the foyer of an deserted Polish resort, which is predicated on an actual location. It’s greater than only a creepy setting, it’s a nod to late communist-era structure that’s concurrently grounded and surreal. Drawn to the resort by horrible visions, it’s right here that Marianne tunes her supernatural senses to listen to messages emitting from one other world, and the place she meets a masked woman — a misplaced spirit from the spirit world — named Sadness.
Marianne can go to that spirit world, typically whereas concurrently exploring the actual world. When she explores each realities without delay, The Medium goes split-screen (both vertical or horizontal, relying on the digicam). In the case of the foyer, that split-screen view confirmed real-world Marianne in the decaying resort foyer on prime, and spirit-world Marianne in an otherworldly actuality on the underside. As Marianne searches for Sadness in the spirit world, the actual world presents an issue: The stairs the woman simply ran up, whereas intact in spirit kind, are destroyed in the actual world. Marianne should take the elevator to seek out her.
It’s right here the place one among The Medium’s easier puzzles presents itself. While the elevator works in each worlds, Marianne can’t exit the model in actuality because of a malfunction. Spirit-world Marianne can, nevertheless, exit her elevator automobile to find an power supply to free real-world Marianne. This requires an out of physique expertise, which Piejko and Zieba likened to a deep dive underwater. Stay beneath too lengthy, and the spirit world will drown Marianne.
The Medium’s spirit world is horrifying and delightful. Marianne seems like an inverse of herself; her darkish hair and black leather-based jacket whiten in the spirit world. The man-made structure of the resort is remodeled into one thing vaguely natural, overgrown, and alien. Bloober Team regarded to the painted work of Polish dystopian surrealist Zdzisław Beksiński for affect in designing The Medium’s spirit world, giving the alternate actuality a definite, distorted look.
During Marianne’s out of physique expertise, she encounters a hostile creature generally known as The Maw (voiced, naturally, by Troy Baker). But she’s restricted in her fight skills, and can’t defeat this metaphysical entity, merely keep away from it. A later sequence set in the actual world confirmed that spirit-world entities can cross over to regular actuality. And these beasts, that are each invisible and blind, should be overcome with cautious stealth maneuvers, astute commentary of the atmosphere, and Marianne’s psychic skills.
The Medium, which is coming to Windows PC and Xbox Series X on Jan. 28, feels evocative of a few of my favourite video games, together with Konami’s Silent Hill collection and the dual-world exploration of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. The sport’s puzzle-solving mechanics and investigation-driven narrative, mixed with Bloober Team’s intense inventive path, makes it one among my most anticipated video games of 2021.