The Medium is the latest psychological horror offering from Bloober Team, and it’s the first where they’ve entered the third person realm. While the game does a relatively good job of explaining things, there are a few things that can help improve the experience.
After entering the horror realm with Layers of Fear, Bloober Team followed it with Observer, Layers of Fear 2, and the unique video game adaptation based on the classic horror film The Blair Witch Project. The biggest difference with The Medium is that it’s Bloober Team’s first foray into the third-person horror experience, and that makes it very different from playing in a first-person perspective.
Third-person horror was arguably perfected by Resident Evil, but there was definitely some inspiration here from 2015’s Until Dawn. The Medium uses similar fixed camera angles to crank up the tension, and also had next level performances not unlike those Rami Malek and Hayden Pannettiere delivered in Until Dawn.
How do you play The Medium?
If you’ve already got The Medium, the good news is that the game does a fairly good job of explaining the controls as you go. There is no combat in the game, and in general you’re spending the majority of the time just walking and experiencing the story one piece at a time.
There is an occasional stealth scenario where you’re attempting to evade a terrifying monster on the prowl, but that only happens a handful of times in the game. Fortunately, there are frequent enough autosaves and checkpoints that you usually don’t get knocked too far back if you’re spotted by the beast.
If you’re still on the fence on purchasing The Medium, you should know it tackles tough subjects with a truly gripping intensity and excellent storytelling. You’ll spend large sections of the game torn between two worlds as the main character is forced to traverse the material and spirit world simultaneously.
While these experiences can be a bit jarring at first, and it’s definitely an adjustment to process two simultaneous but different versions of the same world, the mechanic isn’t constant and always fits the story. There are some puzzles, but not ones that are particularly difficult.
In general, if you pay attention while playing The Medium, you’ll become engrossed with the narrative and find yourself gliding towards the game’s conclusion. While the exact time will vary depending on how much you choose to explore, the average time spent playing to the end is just eight hours.
Tips and Tricks for The Medium
As mentioned above, you generally just need to pay attention to the game and follow the prompts as they are presented. If you need help remembering any of the controls for PC or Xbox Series X/S, check out our Complete Controls Guide for The Medium.
However, there are a few helpful tips and tricks that will improve the experience and ensure you can get the most out of The Medium in a single playthrough.
Run often, especially if you’re Out of Body
While playing The Medium, you’ll likely notice that your character walks at a relatively slow pace. Fortunately, you will usually have the option to run rather than walk. This is especially useful when backtracking through areas you’ve already explored, but there’s another important time to run.
One of the unique features of The Medium is the ability to have an Out of Body Experience. This happens during split screen sections of the game where you exist in both the material and spiritual world simultaneously. Occasionally you’ll have to exit your materials body and move only in the spiritual world to reach something.
However, this is a dangerous exercise and Marianne (your character, The Medium) can die if too much time is spent Out of Body. Always run while Out of Body to help with this, and don’t be afraid to jump back if your body is deteriorating to restart the Out of Body fresh.
Listen for whispers, headphones will help
You’ll likely have noticed upon launching the game that one of the screens suggests you play with a gamepad and with headphones. While the former is just for ease of play and the added tension of vibration, using headphones can actually have a big impact on your actual gameplay.
While exploring the world of The Medium, you’ll often be searching for echoes of the past. While these can be spotted with insight, you can also hear whispers in the background which indicate an echo is near.
Those whispers are much easier to hear if you’re wearing headphones. Even if you’re playing on Xbox Series X/S, you may want to consider using headphones or being willing to crank up the volume to ensure you hear those hidden whispers.
Use insight always and often in The Medium
One of the early abilities you’ll discover in The Medium is the option to use Marianne’s insight to spot things that might not be immediately visible. This essentially becomes the powerhouse ability of the game, and it’s one you want to use very frequently.
Getting into the habit of keeping insight engaged while exploring areas, which is something done frequently in my own experience, helped tremendously with noticing items to interact with. Whether it’s key things to progress the story or collectibles, insight is going to help you find them.
On top of that, use insight every time you examine something or pick up an item. Keep insight on and rotate it fully to check if there’s an echo on the item or if there’s anything else you might be missing in that location.
Your arm indicates The Medium’s spirit energy
While mentioned in one of the early videos by Bloober Team, the game doesn’t explicitly tell you how to determine how much spirit energy your character has while in the spiritual world. However, you may have already notice if it you’re playing The Medium.
When energy is absorbed by a spirit well in the spiritual world, you’ll see Marianne’s arm glow white with rings of energy around it. The further down the arm those rings go will tell you how much energy is left.
Each time you’re in a situation where spiritual energy is needed, you’ll have the opportunity to return multiple times to the corresponding spirit well in that area to recharge if you need to. You don’t want to waste spirit energy, but don’t be afraid to use it if you feel like you need to.
Be patient, especially around the monster
It can be tempting in games to rush through to the next thing or ignore trying to collect extra bits of information, but The Medium is not the kind of game where you want to do that. It’s not particularly long, but it’s still a slow burn of tension as the story unravels.
There aren’t an exorbitant amount of collectibles to find throughout the game, and each of them adds interesting pieces of the puzzle to what’s going on at Niwa and how your character fits into it all. While running can help while retracing steps, as mentioned above, let the tension of the moments envelop you and tread carefully if that’s what feels right.
This also plays directly into one of the harder parts of the game, which is the few times you have to sneak and avoid a terrifying monster. Those moments can be frustrating, but generally just taking your time and letting it roam will help you understand the best way to safely sneak past the creature.
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