Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Supermassive Games
Release Date: 08/29/2019
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Until Dawn was a visually impressive game. It was also very atmospheric and had some memorable scenes. Supermassive Games has a talent for world-building and giving you the fine details. The downside is that Until Dawn didn’t have any memorable characters. They were B-grade actors with stereotypical college student personalities and they never stood out. The same is present for Man of Medan. This is an ongoing horror series full of short stories with the overarching narrative being kept together by The Narrator. He gives you hints and a couple of tips to help keep everyone alive in the game.
Man of Medan is also visually impressive. Great textures, detailed character models, impressive lighting effects, and great camera work. The game suffers from Supermassive’s previous weaknesses. Forgettable stereotypical characters that you see in B-grade horror movies. The acting is spotty and all over the place and includes facial animations. Sometimes it looks great and other times they look like stiff mannequins. You play as four college-age people who take a boat trip to go scuba diving to find an unmarked airplane that was downed during World War II. Things take a turn for the worse when they get kidnapped and brought onto a World War II ship to look for Manchurian Gold. They meet supernatural beings and must escape. Your job is to keep them alive.
While the overall tale is interesting and I really wanted to know what happened to this ship and the things going on, the game is so short that the characters get zero back stories and it’s just jump scare after chase scene after QTE event. You keep the characters alive by mainly being successful with QTE events. These are when the characters’ lives are in danger. If you played any cinematic adventure game in the last 20 years you know what to expect. There are various ways you can make the game easier or more difficult by walking around and searching for objects. This is the only gameplay here. Walking around small hallways and looking at objects. If you see a sparkle it means you can interact with it. Picking up objects and turning them overlooks cool and the objects are insanely detailed, but it doesn’t add anything to the experience. You can easily just go straight to the end of every scene.
That’s another problem with this game and these types of games as a whole. There’s almost no gameplay. Most gameplay is just an excuse to keep the player engaged. Thankfully Man of Medan never gets dull and is always moving at a good pace. When creepy stuff happens it’s done very well. I was wigged out by some of the creatures on screen. Supermassive’s camera work is superb here. I felt like I was playing a movie which is more than I can say for most games. The only excitement in the game is the quick decisions needed before timers run out. You can get premonitions from finding pictures hidden around that show 3-second clips of what might happen in the future. Sometimes these helped and sometimes I realized what was happening too late. I managed to only lose one character and it was at the very end of the game. I have to say that the whole bearing and trait system makes no sense to me. During conversations, you can pick one of two answers and this will unlock traits or increase others. It’s never explained well. Finding certain objects and adding to bearings, but I have no idea what this does. Again, there’s no explanation.
Overall, Man of Medan is an interesting first outing into this new series and I look forward to seeing more. While I don’t doubt Supermassive can supply an entertaining ride, the characters need to be more interesting, the facial animations need more work, and the bearing and trait system needs more explanation. The 4-5 hour runtime is over before you know it