A link between worlds
Review: The Medium
Released in early 2021 as the Xbox Series X/S consoles’ first real exclusive, The Medium is a horror game that deserves more attention than it received at launch.
The Medium is a horror game that tells the story of Marianne, a woman with the twin blessing and curse of being able to travel between the world of the living and the land of the dead. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that she is part of something much bigger.
One of the game’s early sequences sees the protagonist help prepare a deceased relative for his funeral. While this is ostensibly the usual funeral home arrangement, it quickly becomes apparent that she is also preparing him for his journey to the afterlife, a conversation between hem becoming a genuinely touching exchange.
From here, the game showcases its dualistic, between-two worlds setting, with a split-screen partition separating the world of the living from another plane of existence. The player must divide their attention between the two to communicate with deceased people, and to solve puzzles.
With its Polish setting and incorporation of a number of historic Soviet sites, The Medium has a unique location that ensures its vision stands out from those offered by numerous American titles. With the game’s developer, Bloober Team, based in Krakow, the setting is a genuine one, designed as it is by locals.
Another welcome aspect of the game is the way that it does not rely on jump scares. While these certainly take place (a particularly effective example occurs in the opening sequence), The Medium’s sense of horror is much more predicated on an overall, unpleasant atmosphere and the creation of a lasting mood that the player will not forget.
With its creepy setting, shifting between worlds, and slow-burn approach to horror, Insights can’t help but compare The Medium to Silent Hill, another series that explores themes regarding the afterlife (where hell manifests itself on earth in a small middle-American town). As widely regarded as Silent Hill is, suggesting that The Medium could fit nicely into that series’ catalogue is a high complement.
The comparison between the two titles appears to be the result of conscious decisions on Bloober team’s part, with the developers turning to what they described as a, “Silent Hill dream team” including Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka, singer Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and voice actor Troy Baker. In addition to this game, Bloober team are rumoured to be working on a new entry in the long-running horror franchise, making the upcoming E3 and Summer Games Fest events to watch. The Medium, then, might prove a dry run for yet bigger things.
The inevitable Silent Hill comparisons aside, The Medium is a quality horror game that deserves to stand on its own, its unique setting andforay into another world providing plenty of fodder for spiritual thought and conversation.
The Medium leaves a good deal of detail out about what exactly lies beyond and does not seek to place any particular religious perspective on its story. Nonetheless, it does mention the subject of faith in passing and is not at any point disrespectful. Christian players may find resonance with the idea of a world beyond our own, influencing events, and the idea that there are certain invisible realities at work.
With the game being included as part of the Gamepass library, The Medium is an easy proposition for horror fans and anyone interested in stories that peek behind the curtain.
The Medium is rated R 18+. It is available now on Xbox Series X/S and Windows PC and is included on Gamepass.