Bloober Team’s The Medium releases soon, and to prepare for launch the team released a 14-minute gameplay video earlier today. In it we get to see a bit more of Marianne touring the spirit world, and are given a better idea of what to expect from the horror game when it comes out in a few weeks. Bloober Team have come a long way since Layers of Fear, but there’s still plenty within The Medium that fans of the developer will recognize.
In The Medium gameplay video Marianne talks to a creepy ghost-child, and runs away from Troy Baker.
The gameplay demo opens with Marianne entering an old, abandoned Soviet-bloc hotel, and it doesn’t take long for the screen to separate into two distinct segments: one screen for actual reality, and one for the spirit world. It’s an interesting concept, as we’re able to see both the dusty, decrepit hotel of the real world, and the boney, sinewy version found within the afterlife. Even Marianne’s appearance shifts, her otherwise black hair and coat a ghostly white in the spirit world.
She encounters a phantom on the other side that goes by the name of Sadness. Not the most creative of names, but moving on. The strangely chipper ghost agrees to help Marianne before bolting up the stairs to the second floor. There’s just one problem: the stairs have collapsed in the real world. Marianne locates an elevator in the lobby and uses it to ascend, but finds herself stuck within after the power shorts out. It’s here we get to see The Medium’s “out of body” mechanic.
Before this we saw both worlds thanks to the splitscreen displaying each, yet Marianne was firmly rooted in reality. When she commits to an out of body experience she can control her spirit form separately, completely divorced from the movements of her physical body. She can’t stay in the spirit world forever, however, likening the experience to a “deep dive”, one she can all too easily drown from if she remains under for too long. The longer Marianne is in the spirit world the more visible the affect on her spirit becomes, as it starts to peel and fade away.
After finding the breaker she needs to restore power to the elevator Marianne returns to her body, then returns once more to the spirit world to insert the breaker into the breaker box (it’s a weird series of events, I know). Freed from the metal death box Marianne continues onward. The Medium gameplay demo then jumps ahead a bit to a segment where Marianne finds herself trapped within the spirit world, and she must solve a couple simple puzzles to escape. It’s in this portion of the video we see the usual Bloober Team gameplay loop in action. It’s the “find item; use item” adventure game model Bloober’s been using since Layers of Fear, and it appears to function no differently here than it has in any of their previous games.
Marianne eventually locates the strange, mummified cat-thing she was looking for, and makes her way to the mirror that locked her within the spirit world. Why a mirror suddenly locked her within one world over the other isn’t entirely explained, but it had something to do with the cat being on only one side. I’m sure that bit will make more sense at launch, but what immediately made sense was the threat of the Maw, a malevolent entity that starts to stalk her as she makes her escape. Marianne isn’t safe once she returns to the land of living though, because the Maw exists there too, albeit as an invisible and blind threat.
The Medium gameplay video concludes with one final bit demonstrating how Marianne can go about avoiding the Troy Baker voiced monstrosity, which featured the standard Bloober “hide, make progress, hide again” formula. That pretty much sums up The Medium in general, or at least what we’ve seen. Anyone who’s played a Bloober Team game will be familiar with the format going in, yet the stark Silent Hill influences help their latest horror game stand out from their other titles. The fixed camera, stilted walking and running animations, and overall mood felt very, very Silent Hill, and the original score by Akira Yamaoka further sold that vibe.
Hopefully The Medium lands in a better technical state than Blair Witch did, which launched in a pretty rough state. The framerate in the gameplay video was choppy in areas, but that could have been from the video capture and not the game itself. If you’re not already a fan of Bloober Team’s previous efforts then The Medium doesn’t appear too different mechanically to sway you. That said, there’s still enough different here in the form of presentation and atmosphere, and the story could prove interesting enough to merit a gander (Bloober have become better storytellers over time, so I feel). The Medium releases on PC and Xbox Series X|S January 28th.