A slow start to a promising anthology | ‘The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan’ Review

Recently, Supermassive Games, developers of the masterful “Until Dawn”, released their next award winning hopeful “Man of Medan.” This single selection is meant to be the first of a six part anthology, where the company will release a new game every six months.

Given that the game’s reputation as being developed by the “Until Dawn” creators generated quite a lot of hype, how did it live up to expectations?

Not too great, sadly. Per the usual, let’s have a look at what went right and what went wrong, starting with the former:

1. The graphics are absolutely beautiful

Absolutely lifelike!

In 2019, it is difficult for a game to receive positive criticism over its graphics. However, this game’s tenacity with the real world visuals is absolutely incredible. Everything, from the reflection of the sun in the bright blue water, to the realistic looking mists of a chemical leak inside an abandoned freight ship, and even the tediously applied decay of a bullet, decades removed from the gun that fired it, really lets this game stand out. The game utilizes these qualities to employ ‘mind tricks’ which are being inflicted upon the characters by a deadly, brain altering chemical leak. Their masterful graphics allow you to experience these mind games, often times without even realizing it! If you didn’t know that Supermassive Games developed this game beforehand, but you played “Until Dawn”, you’d be able to guess that they also made this game off of the graphics alone.

2. The unprecedented multiplayer choose-your-own adventure dynamic is entertaining and immersive

Find a buddy and enjoy the game together!

A lot of the hype surrounding this game in the pre-release stage stemmed around its promise to deliver an interactive story telling game which was also multiplayer. Never before, in the many Telltale Games or in Dontnod’s “Life is Strange” have we ever seen something so promising, yet surprisingly basic in a game like this. All told, it went quite well. Featuring a cast of five playable characters, you and up to one friend will constantly be controlling different characters. Sometimes, these characters will be so far apart in the story from each other that you and your friend will practically be experiencing different gameplay on your first time through the game. You and your friend can make decisions and take actions which dramatically affect the game for the other (and can even earn your friend or yourself trophies you otherwise would’ve missed) All of this comes with a caveat that the feature could’ve still been explored a lot more thoroughly; the vast majority of the time where you and your friend aren’t off essentially playing totally different parts of the game, your characters are often walking down a narrow hallway or in a small room, where the gameplay can somewhat stagnate for one of you. Ultimately, the feature should be viewed as a rousing success, one which still has exciting room for growth!

3. The story itself is quite compelling

The Curator will provide periodic advice and tips every so often and will comment on how the player(s) goes through the game.

Although quite short, the content you do get to experience is quite entertaining. We see remnants of “Until Dawn” with the dynamic thinking of ‘all your characters could die or live depending on your gameplay’ which adds quite a degree of immersion and weight into each individual choice and action.

Now, the downsides to this game:

1. The game is incredibly short

A normal playthrough of this game will take about three hours. Sure, the company did the right thing by only charging $30 for it right at release (which, in itself, is also a red flag) but the act of making a short game itself was immensely disappointing, majorly responsible for why the game has received mediocre reviews a couple of days after release. While the game’s visuals and unprecedented multiplayer gaming do allow it to standout in the “choose your own adventure” niche, the lack of content causes it to unfortunately fall quite short of its former rivals at TellTale Games and current assailants at Dontnod. The developers have already released a road map, in which they intend to release a new part of the anthology every six months. In fact, they even went ahead and announced a release date for “Little Hope”- the second title of the series. However, if the remaining games in the anthology aren’t noticeably longer, the anthology is doomed to fall flat. Man of Medan’s sales were largely off the strength of “Until Dawn”‘s popularity, but even the latter’s excellence won’t be enough to anchor sales for another title if it’s as short and lacking in content as Man of Medan.

2. There is a distinct lack of bonafide ‘horror’ in this horror title

A bit too much fluff.

Sure, you’ve got plenty of jumpscares. And there are some bone chilling moments. However, the game itself seems to be a frustrating middle ground between mystery/action and horror. Until Dawn’s ‘scariness’ was unquestionable, and largely what made the game great. However, this game is, in a way, somewhat uninspiring; there are a number of cliched elements that make certain horror scenes quite predictable. However, the vast majority of the scary scenes seem to happen off screen; there are frequent allusions to what happened to cause the old freight ship to become abandoned, for example. This makes it seem like the actual horror is taking place off camera.

3. Despite being such a short game, there’s little replay value

When one looks at all the ‘secrets items’ and ‘secrets paintings’ they likely missed in their first playthrough, it looks quite exhausting. The story itself is well written, but not well enough to dedicate massive amounts of time towards potentially several replays to actually complete the game. One defining characteristic of interactive story games is the thinking of “what would’ve happened if I made this choice differently? I should go find out!” And that element just doesn’t exist in this game.

Overall grade: C

A game with great potential that failed to live up to the hype. Not by any means a bad game, just not the same rousing success as its predecessor was.

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