The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan preview – I’m on a boat

Bandai Namco
Bandai Namco /

Supermassive Games’ Man of Medan is another interactive cinematic horror experience, this time with a lot more potential the more people you have playing.

Though they have regularly released games over the last several years (mostly PlayStation VR efforts), there is no doubt that Supermassive Games’ breakout hit and the one game everyone associates with the studio is still 2015’s Until Dawn. 

Until Dawn was a fun schlocky cinematic horror game, but what made it stand out was reasonably competent production, writing and the fact that what you did made a difference. Everyone could live, but everyone could also die, and that can drastically affect the outcome of the game and how scenes played out.

For a cinematic game filled with what are commonly known as “Quick Time Events (QTEs),” where most of the action is you pressing a button or moving an analog stick or making a dialogue decision very quickly, it had a ton of variety and you could play it through several times and still not see every major scene or outcome the game had.

For Supermassive’s next series of games, it’s the same basic idea but greatly expanded upon. These games are separate but are horror/thriller cinematic games still connected in some way under the name The Dark Pictures Anthology. The first game in this series, The Man of Medan, is set to release on multiple platforms later this month. Myself and App Trigger editor Daniel George were given preview code to play a couple of short scenarios in a two-player online co-op scenario in Man of Medan for the PC.

In the preview we were able to play, we were only given a little bit of the picture of what Man of Medan is all about. It takes place after the beginning for sure, but not very far in and ended before things get supernatural or terrifying. We are a group of young people on a boat as scary thugs come aboard the boat and hold us hostage, looking for information and possibly a ransom since at least four of us seem to be from well-off families.

Taking control of one character for most of the scene, we could be co-operative, be combative, try to make an escape, etc. and see how these played out based on both our decisions and if we hit buttons at the right time/quickly enough. The entire scenario we got to play through was less than 30 minutes, and while Supermassive Games titles don’t tend to be very long, it was clearly only scratching the surface.

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While there is a solo mode that plays out much like Supermassive’s other cinematic games where you make quick decisions on how to talk, have to press a button/key very quickly or other types of “Quick Time Events”, the clear focus and possibly main attraction here is the multiplayer option. This mode works explicitly with friends, be it locally or online (though local play allows for a potentially more fun and chaotic time with up to five players as opposed to just two online).

In multiplayer for Man of Medan, you and at least one other person are a team, ideally trying to get through this horrific experience together. You can, of course, choose to communicate and quickly try and make decisions as a team, but you don’t have to, and that’s really where the variety and fun come into play.

What if you just go rogue and make what you think are the worst possible decisions? Or just really don’t agree on the best course of action? You can make a decision that potentially drastically alters that immediate scene, or even has an impact much further down the line you couldn’t possibly anticipate. It honestly seems like playing with at least one other person is the optimal experience in Man of Medan.

Bandai Namco
Bandai Namco /

I don’t have a lot of experience playing on PC, but in my opinion, the QTEs often came and went far too quick to respond quite a bit of the time. I hope it’s either easier on a controller or there’s an option to slow it down a bit. Still, it was a compelling experience to play.

There are two systems present that aren’t really explained in the demo, and we’ll have to play more of the full game to figure out how much they matter. One was the “trait” system, where your character seemed to develop personality traits based on the dialogue responses you had them give and the actions they took. I’m guessing they will open or close off dialogue and action options later on in the story based on these, but it was not explained in the demo.

The other is a relationship system where again the decisions you make seem to change how the other characters are going to react to you (i.e., maybe they will save you later or leave you behind in a crucial moment). Again, we didn’t see any specific ways how the system played out, just when certain decisions got made or actions were taken, a message that a relationship between two of the characters had changed.

Bandai Namco
Bandai Namco /

It’s tough to guess exactly how much variety there is, but Supermassive has a history of delivering something that while not a different experience every single time you play, provides enough variety that their games are usually worth playing through at least a few times and almost always fun with a group.

Next. 7 Truly terrifying moments in video games. dark

I’m very intrigued to see more of The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan when it releases for PlayStation 4, PC and Xbox One on August 30.