The Medium (XO/PS4/PC) Age: 18+
“It all starts with a dead girl.” The opening line to this brooding horror story sets the heart sinking. Almost every Scandi noir or Hollywood murder mystery leans on this cliché like a crutch and frankly it’s offputting.
Mercifully, The Medium veers away from the tiresome trope immediately, though it returns time and again to tried-and-tested scare tactics. The most obvious is the forbidding setting of an abandoned communist hotel, the location for much of the game’s storyline about a psychic seeking answers to her dreams of, yes, a dead girl.
This crumbling edifice was the scene of a massacre and hides many secrets, not the least of which is its parallel universe of spirits. The Medium’s big trick is that the psychic can sometimes see both at once, her actions in one world affecting the physical make-up of the other, leading to plenty of lock/key puzzles.
That’s hardly radical but The Medium actually shows you the two simultaneously in split-screen, a technical achievement that doesn’t add as much to the gameplay as it should.
Still, the chills are effective, especially when a ghoulish entity follows you relentlessly between dimensions. The Medium’s slow pacing grants time to absorb the unsettling atmosphere and echoes of the hotel’s horrific past.
But its adherence to old-school mechanics — the fixed camera angle, the detailed but non-interactive scenery — puncture some of the tension just when your heart should be hammering.
*** Age: 15+
If you’re the last eight warriors on Earth and you intend slaying the 10 vengeful gods who wiped out your clan, you wouldn’t send one at a time into hazardous dungeons teeming with minions. But common sense be damned, that’s how this rogue-like brawler rolls.
If your first guy perishes, the next takes up the baton. If one of the eight succeeds in killing the god, they’re all revived and it’s on to the next dungeon. The rogue-like element mandates a degree of randomisation, from the variable character abilities to the difficulty of the bosses/gods.
Built on the attack/parry/counter rhythm of the more sophisticated Dark Souls, Gods Will Fall has some interesting ideas, particularly around the differences in the god battles. Yet its punishing structure and repetitive brawling makes it tough to worship at its altar.