Today I want to talk to you about one of my favourite game series, The Dark Pictures series, in particular the first instalment Man of Medan.
The Dark Pictures is a series of survival horror games, played via the third person, where you play as multiple characters through a strongly story-based game. The games revolve around the choices you make and effectively function as the old choose your own adventure books did.
The series all tie together via a framing device in the form of the curator, a chap who acts as your guide/storyteller. Each story in the series is a self-contained story.
Man of Medan was the first instalment in the ongoing series and was a strong start for a great series.
Summary – as always, spoilers below
Man of Medan is a fictional story based lossy around the story of the Ourang Medan, a ghost ship where the entire crew was found dead with no obvious cause.
It is a difficult story to summarise as there are many possibilities based on player choice. But in a nutshell, an American military ship sets sail with a dangerous chemical cargo. During the voyage, the ship is struck by lightning and the cargo is compromised. The cargo, now a dangerous gas, caused the crew to hallucinate their own worst nightmares and react with extreme violence.
Many years later a small group of travellers are exploring an underwater wreck when they are forced by a combination of hijackers and a storm to board the ghost ship. They explore the ship looking for a way to escape their captors and suffer through various events from hallucinations, uncovering war crimes and their captors.
Depending on the choices the player makes affects who, if anyone survives the experience.
My Thoughts – General
I loved this game.
It’s short, which was to be expected due to the number of paths you can go down, but its replay value is immense.
I loved the choice to make decisions based on the character’s heads and hearts, demonstrating the inner conflict of the characters.
I loved that there was more to the story than ‘oh no, hijackers’ as it was the mystery of the ship which really drew me in, figuring out why everyone had died, what was in the coffins, what was in the cargo boxes, why did everyone see impossible things on the ship, the mystery element really kept my interest.
My thoughts – Characters
As I said above, I very much enjoyed the ability to make choices based on my character’s heads and hearts, the inner conflict was well managed and made the characters more developed than they would have been otherwise. The hints at the backstory also added depth and allowed the choices presented with each character to make sense and reinforce the believability in how they were acting.
Despite playing as multiple characters I felt connected with them all.
My Thoughts – Setting
The setting was bloody fantastic.
The tension in the story all came down to the setting in my opinion, which was masterfully crafted, from visual, to audio. It was dark and cramped, restricting vision which made me feel vulnerable. Some areas did open up but because of the work done in the smaller areas, I didn’t feel any safer, if anything I felt more exposed.
The sound design was spot on, enhancing the overall threat of the ship. The sounds of the ship itself from unexplained creaks, to echoing metallic bangs to the music which remained quietly foreboding in the background all worked together to craft a fully realised setting.
My Thoughts – Plot
Again, this is a bit tricky to talk about due to the level of flexibility in this story. Still, overall, the plot is well structured, and the decisions given to the characters and options presented all make sense given the circumstances.
While I feel the setting does the heavy lifting in terms of the tension and the suspense the plot isn’t a slouch either. It’s relatively simple but has some good high-stakes moments where the stakes are made very clear. Survival was the most obvious stake, but there were also the relationships between the characters and the overall mystery of the ship itself.
The mystery element is engaging and held me right up till the end. I especially enjoyed the moments where we would see a character do something then jump to another character and see bits of the same time window from a different point of view which at times was deeply suspenseful.
Overall this was a great game and one I would highly recommend if you enjoy horror films, as it’s like an interactive film more than a game.