Review: The Medium both impresses and disappoints

Xbox Games Showcase
Xbox Games Showcase /

Title: The Medium
Developer: Bloober Team
Publishers: Bloober Team
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox SeriesX/S
Release Date: January 28, 2021

I thought I knew going in exactly what I was going to say about this game. Bloober Team has been pushing out solid games since they released Layers of Fear back in 2016. After Layers of Fear 2, Observer, Observer Redux and Blair Witch, there was a high bar placed for The Medium long before its release.

As I said, I was convinced I knew what I wanted to say about this game but the more I played, the more confused my mind became and the more conflicted are my feelings. This game hits some highs but it hits some lows and leaves players with more questions than what we started with. There are some mild SPOILERS ahead, so be mindful.

The Medium follows a woman named Marianne in Poland as she takes care of her foster father’s funeral. Jack raised her after her family was killed in an accident and she was left in the hospital as a baby burned and alone. Jack owned a funeral home and because he dealt in the business of death, he helped Marianne come to terms with her abilities as a medium. Marianne exists in reality and the spirit world simultaneously, meaning she can help confused spirits of the departed find their ways home. While processing Jack’s body for the funeral, she finds Jack in his old office and helps him cross over. She then immediately gets a phone call from someone named Thomas claiming to be a medium too and in desperate need of help. He calls Marianne to the long-abandoned Niwa Resort and gives no additional information.

The Medium - Sadness
Bloober Team /

Immediately upon arriving, Marianne is greeted by the one-armed spirit of a young girl named Sadness. Sadness wants to play and will help Marianne find Thomas in exchange for a little bit of company. The Niwa Resort is rumored to be the home of a massacre decades earlier and Marianne believes the rumors to be true after she finds the resort to be filled with spirits that need to cross over. Aside from the standard lost spirits, Niwa is host to some terrible monsters, one of the worst being a monster called The Maw who is desperate to wear Marianne as a fashionable skinsuit. In her effort to find Thomas, she must also free the spirits and avoid detection by The Maw and the otherworldly monsters that roam the spirit world as well as learn about herself, her past and her connection to Niwa.

After Bloober Team was acquired by Microsoft, their Blair Witch game was released as a PC and Xbox exclusive, which wasn’t a surprise. While I anticipated the same for The Medium, what I didn’t expect was the game being exclusive to Series X/S. After the nightmare was trying to get your hands on a next-gen system, there are many who will not be playing this game, especially without a dedicated gaming computer. The minimum specs on this game are crazy with a requirement of:

"CPU: Intel Core i5-6600 / AMD Ryzen 5 2500XRAM: 8 GBOS: Windows 10 (64bit version only)VIDEO CARD: @1080p NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB / AMD Radeon R9 390X (or equivalent with 4 GB VRAM)PIXEL SHADER: 5.1VERTEX SHADER: 5.1SOUND CARD: DirectX compatible, headphones recommendedFREE DISK SPACE: 30 GBDEDICATED VIDEO RAM: 4 GB*specs by specsrequirementslab"

I would also like to note that the game on PC is 38G and not 30, so I would have at least 40G available for good measure. These specs would be the reason that The Medium was passed for the last-gen consoles but what I don’t understand is WHY it needed that much power.

The Medium 2 worlds
Bloober Team /

One of the biggest gimmicks about this game is the fact that a third of it takes place in dual reality. The screen splits like a Borderlands game and you play as Marianne in the physical world and the spiritual world simultaneously. This means that if the way is blocked in the physical world, but not in the spirit realm, you can have an out of body experience, get what you need and return to your body. The idea is pretty interesting but I found myself enjoying the game more when the dual realities WEREN’T involved. To be honest, I would have rather just had the ability to switch between, therefore widening their audience by releasing it on last-gen consoles as well.

Immediately after you arrive at Niwa, you begin to see the game’s influences. The Medium looks as if Resident Evil, Silent Hill and The Evil Within all had a wild night, someone got pregnant and Maury said they are all the father. The environment of the spirit world looks ripped out of a Silent Hill game with their terrifyingly built monsters, dripping scenes and fleshy walls. The puzzles feel classically Resident Evil and the bending and changing walls of Niwa put me right back into Beacon Mental Hospital in The Evil Within. Even The Maw looks straight out of Pan’s Labyrinth. Everything in the game just seems already done by extremely successful franchises.

Let’s go ahead and give The Medium the benefit of utilizing these sources to create something of their own that became unsettling monsters, eerie lighting and atmosphere and heart-wrenching stories laid out in a very cinematic nature. That being said, there were still issues. The camera angles are fixed in this game, only moving to pan as your character moves. The controls are reminiscent of the tank controls of the late 90’s. I believe they are trying to create the anxiety that those games of the past created, however, it falls flat in this case. The angles and extreme darkness means you can’t tell where you are supposed to go and sometimes you can’t even see a hallway that is right in front of you.

The Medium 2 worlds
The Medium 2 worlds /

Bloober TeamThe gameplay is pretty repetitive: move to a new area, get into the spirit world, help a spirit, hide from The Maw, rinse and repeat. There were some moments that jolted you awake like an old school chase where Marianne is running at YOU and the monster is behind her or some of the moments where you play a character other than Marianne and you enter a twisted mind. In between these eerie and intense moments is walking…a LOT of walking. There is almost as much walking in

The Medium

as any of the


movies and that’s just too damn much walking. If it is meant to give the player a quiet moment to engross themselves in the environment and the sound mixing, I can kind of understand but it really pulls the player out of the intensity of the story.

Speaking of the sounds in the game, the sound mixing is quite remarkable. The scariest parts of any horror movie or game is less about the visuals and rests heavily on the shoulders of the sounds and music. The music in The Medium was produced by heavy hitter Akira Yamaoka and Arkadiusz Reikowski. The music isn’t as impactful as that of any given Silent Hill game but it does create a disturbing atmosphere of eerie tones. Unfortunately, sometimes the music or sound would cut off abruptly, shocking the player and removing us even further from the world they created.

One thing I HAVE to talk about is Troy Baker. We know Troy as easily one of the best voice actors to ever have existed and he breathed life into characters like Joel, Baker DeWitt and Sam Drake. Here Baker plays The Maw and he was TERRIFYING. His performance as this rage-filled, writhing beast was unlike anything I have ever heard him do before. There was a point where I had to stop and just watch some videos of his performance in the game because it was THAT good. Kelly Burke does shine as the voice of Marianne but her voice is so much more intense than the other sounds around her that it reminded me of ASMR creators talking close into the microphone. Another shining star is Angeli Wall as Sadness. There was a cutscene moment between Marianne and Sadness on a swing where Angeli’s performance was so reserved yet powerful that it made me load my save and watch it again.

Graphics, graphics, graphics. With that much power pouring into this game, the graphics should be out of this world, right? Unfortunately, these fell a little flat as well. There were some moments that were incredibly beautiful and terrifying but then it would switch to a cutscene with Marianne talking and her mouth BARELY moved. In my mind I made a point to compare the facial movements of the characters in a game like Control comparative to The Medium and felt just a little disappointed. For everything going into this game, the characters should be able to say the word APPLE easily but alas, it wasn’t to be.

There was a fun little Easter egg in the very beginning of the game at Jack’s house and that was an old copy of 1984 in the bathroom. For anyone who played Observer, that very copy of 1984 appears many times through the game and it was a fun little thing to find. Also, the pupper that shows up a bit later in the game is easily a reference to Bullet from Blair Witch. Even the dog’s sounds from The Medium are the exact same sounds that were used in Blair Witch. I certainly hope that was an Easter egg, at least.

Overall, The Medium has some high highs and some sinking lows. This game is nowhere near the caliber of fear and storytelling as the Layers of Fear games but it is considerably better than Blair Witch. In a perfect world, this would be available to all Xbox users and more attention would be paid to gameplay and character graphics. The story was intense and sad but remained open-ended with no emotional payoff. Ending a game with no catharsis, especially a psychological thriller, is frustrating and could have been done better. If nothing else, play this for the voice acting, I just hope you don’t mind walking simulators.

6.5. If you go into The Medium with very high hopes, I think you will be disappointed but if you walk in just looking for some eerie atmospheres, some award-winning voice acting and some nostalgic horror feels, then you will have some fun.. Bloober Team. . The Medium

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are 30ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.