Man of Medan is almost entirely at sea on a huge, abandoned boat. Loosely based on the real mystery of the OSS Ourang Medan, which was wrecked in the late 1940s after the entire crew was lost in mysterious circumstances. Man of Medan is the first part of Supermassive Games’ proposed Dark Pictures Anthology – a series short, branching horror story experiences along the lines of the fantastic surprise hit 2015, Tot Dawn. This is our The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan Review.
The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
- Developer: Supermassive Games
- Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
- Genres: Adventure game, Interactive storytelling, Horror, Survival horror
- Release Date: August 30, 2019
The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan Review: Gameplay
The game’s plot jumps between five playable characters who all experience the same event. You determine their ultimate fate by making decisions for them and responding to rapid events. There are reportedly 69 different possible deaths, but your entire team may survive. Alternatively, they can all die. The main selling point of Man of Medan is that your decisions affect how things go, how relationships between your characters will develop, and what you will discover and experience along the way.
In conversations and at crucial points in the plot, you often get three options, one of which is always to say or do nothing. So focused on Man of Medan is his story; there are no puzzles to solve or combat systems to master beyond these choices, just lots of exploring and quick events. However, the game is plagued by a central problem: a fundamentally weak plot.
The story is not compelling, as the player gets little reason to care about the characters, and the horror tropes explored usually feel horned and uncreative. After a brief prologue scene in the 1940s, spend Man of Medan’s four-hour runtime in the present day. The story begins with the crew planning a dive for a previously unaffected sunken World War II fighter plane, eventually leading to a series of events trapped in the Medan, a haunted abandoned ship, held captive by a pirate gang captured are convinced that the ship – which is littered with corpses – contains treasures. Of course, things start to throb at night, and the gang also faces various ghosts and horrors.
There is also too much dependence on jumping anxiety, which makes the horror experience cheaper. A standout mid-game sequence that’s great to get under your skin as Brad gets stuck in a loop that gets weirder every time he travels through it, but otherwise, Man of Medan relies on the spring-loaded cats and many suddenly changing faces. On the plus side, it looks great – the character models can be a bit waxy. Still, the ship is exceptionally detailed and creepy, and the game effectively communicates how unpleasant it is to explore a creaky rust bin full of dark corners and rotting corpses turn into. The trade-off, at least on a PS4 basis, is that animations often stutter, breaking mood as frames slip.
There are also pacing issues, especially with the prolonged opening portion weighing repeated playthroughs. While you can see many scenes or experience different results with each playthrough, some scenes will necessarily remain unchanged every time, which can grate quickly. You will also need to check in from time to time with ‘The Curator,’ a ubiquitous capable man who is intended as the mascot for and host of the Dark Pictures Anthology. It’s a pompous version of the Crypt Keeper but without the “good evening, boys and ghosts” you want from a horror anthology host, and as a result, it doesn’t quite fit.
Multiplayer is the excellent addition of Man of Medan to the Tot Dawn formula. There are two forms of cooperative: Shared Story, where two players tackle the game together online, and Movie Night, where up to five players can play offline together, representing the chapters of the characters they assigned at the beginning. Playing together on the couch might be meant to evoke that ‘don’t go in’ feeling of watching a fun horror movie with friends. However, Man of Medan’s relatively simple designs that never make it seem dangerous to get off the path to wander and explore the open doors and alternative routes you come across don’t facilitate this.
But many of the game’s problems feel much less when you jump into the smart and innovative online mode. It is the definitive way to experience Man of Medan, especially if you are playing with another person who is familiar with the material. In Shared Story, you both play simultaneously and take control of different characters while their scenes play simultaneously. You both end up having a turn with each character, and often your paths will diverge. As soon as the five main characters meet after the first prologue, Shared Story immediately offers a more engaging experience than the single-player campaign can.
This led to the two of us swirling together to make certain things happen, to manipulate the story of the game. We were more successful with some results than others. Still, We worked together to achieve dramatic satisfaction, choosing when to reveal what just happened and when to try the other player trying to figure out what we had done in our scenes was a pleasure. Every player won’t see every scene when playing this way, and it’s entirely possible to play without ever communicating, making the plot more unpredictable.
No matter how much or how much you share, Shared Story is the right way to play the game. It is very well designed; my co-operative partner and I never noticed that we waited for the other player to hurry up and activate the following video and be able to watch your friend try to direct a scene and decide if he would help or hinder them in doing so excellent. It feels like you’re working together to squeeze as many exciting outcomes out of the game as possible, and effectively doubling the number of possible choices leads to a much stronger sense of variation.
The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan Review: Conclusion
Man of Medan tells a weak story, as does Shared Story argues about it with his excellent take on cooperative, which allows you to plan things and work together to create the story you want to tell. If you can organize a session with someone else who owns the game and go through the whole game together, that’s an excellent experience. Still, if you’re looking for a different single-player horror story experience like the one offered in Until Dawn, that’s very disappointing. As a show of potential for the Dark Pictures Anthology, Man of Medan is mostly a success, but as the first episode, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Man of Medan is the first part of Supermassive Games’ proposed Dark Pictures Anthology – a series short, branching horror story experiences along the lines of the fantastic surprise hit 2015, Tot Dawn.