We all love to watch horror movies and shout at stupid protagonists when they decide to split up, hiding from a maniac, or go down to that same ominous basement, where obviously nothing good is waiting for them. Game horrors basically followed the example of their movie images – they led the hero along a linear story path, setting the primitive task: to survive in the given conditions. And then Supermassive Games decided to “try the water” in the genre – and asked themselves: why not give the player a choice whether to go down to this damn basement or not? Separate with friends or still stick together? Let them choose the most “safe” scenario – and get out of the consequences themselves.
Until Dawn , built on this idea, came out in 2015 and collected excellent reviews. And next in line is the next project of the studio in the genre of interactive horror – the anthology of The Dark Pictures , in which scary stories that are not connected among themselves will be released every six months. And I’m ready to share my impressions of the first release in this unusual series.
The story of The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan is built around the legend of the ghost ship SS Ourang Medan , a Dutch cargo ship that sank in the Strait of Malacca in the forties of the last century. And okay, it just sank, so no! The last radiogram was: “The captain and all the officers are dead in the cockpit and on the bridge. Perhaps the whole team is dead, ”after which the signal fell silent forever. Just from the events of that night, the plot of the game begins.
This time, the authors did not begin to torment the player with an extended prologue, as in Until Dawn, – we immediately set off for the ship in the company of two pretty sorted soldiers. For such sloppiness, a superior officer sends one to a punishment cell, and the second to a medical unit, but this punishment only prolongs their life, albeit not for long, in the end both of them die anyway. But how painful it is depends on your decisions.
In general, throwing a player right into the center of the plot is a good idea. First, this is how we are introduced, albeit in passing, to the internal structure of the ship, and this creates a good contrast: seventy years later, according to the script, the cabins already familiar to the player become truly ominous. And secondly, Supermassive Games are not forced to think out the details of the horror notes and objects, but simply let you enjoy the horror here and now.
Sometimes the Keeper – a mysterious character that will appear in all editions of The Dark Pictures – throws you leads. But you can refuse his help if you do not want spoilers
True, after the prologue and chic captions, the pace of the narrative pretty sags. Just before the main action, developers need to introduce the player to new characters, because the old ones (for obvious reasons) are no longer particularly playable.
In total, five young wreck divers take turns under our control . Fortunately, they are not really walking cliches, but they are close. Judge for yourself: the arrogant handsome Conrad (played by Sean Ashmore), his sister Julia, the unsure “nerd” Brad and his brother Alex, who … just have to die later, go off in search of the sunken ship. And a woman named Fliss, the owner of a small yacht under the proud name Duke of Milan and part-time the same character who warned everyone, but no one listened to them, was taking them on a dangerous adventure.
Despite the almost fatal concentration of stamps, the guys turned out to be charming. Empathize with them, because they swear, argue, hysteria … in a word, behave like living people. At least until you confuse the buttons again at the most inopportune moment. As with Until Dawn, there is nothing wrong with the cliché – the question is how the authors use them. Supermassive Games handle stamps carefully: everything is simple, familiar, and somewhat predictable, but the plot works.
Like the studio’s previous work, Man of Medan relies heavily on the relationships of the characters. How your characters relate to each other depends on the decisions you make, and this determines the development of the plot. Moreover, your choices affect the emotions of the characters, and they, in turn, are based on the answers in the dialogs. A lot of attention is paid to this mechanics: in a separate menu you can even study how exactly your decisions changed the dynamics of the relationship between the characters.
The ship is a closed and very oppressive place, even without any ghosts. In this regard, the authors very reliably convey the atmosphere of the “steel trap”
As a rule, in conversations you have three ways: rational, emotional, and silence. Contrary to the laws of the genre, thinking with your head is far from always a good idea; impulsive nonsense and even worse. But silence, oddly enough, sometimes (extremely rarely) can save your life. What is surprising, after the first passage “blindly” absolutely all the heroes survived. At first, Man of Medan seems much easier and simpler Until Dawn, but in fact it is not so: characters can die, as before, from just one wrong cue in the dialogue.
Although due to some technical features, the game really has become a bit easier. Supermassive Games no longer makes exclusives for Sony, so the controls were also adjusted for PC and Xbox, which means that you won’t be able to use the motion sensor integrated in DualShock 4 everywhere. Let me remind you that until Dawn, a funny mechanic was connected with him: when the character needed to freeze, the player had to keep the trembling gamepad as even as possible. As for me, the find was excellent. Here she is missing.
But in Man of Medan, from time to time, you will have to control the heartbeat so that in especially tense moments you don’t get even more trouble on the hero. It looks about the same as in Valiant Hearts : you just need to beat one button rhythmically on time. It sounds easy, but in three passes I have never managed.