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#137

Simbiat
Simbiat

Below are the inconsistencies, I've found in The Medium while playing it. The game itself is quite buggy and laggy, and the story has too many flaws for me to recommend it. Although, if you like the style, and the game is on good discount - it is worth considering.

Some spoilers are possible in the text bellow, though I tried to minimize them.

Narrative

Problem: Marianne eyes in the beginning cinematic (with cigarette) look a bit plastic and lifeless, although her movements are not like that.

Solution: Adjust eye movement and lighting. Can’t advise something specific here, need to play with it a bit.

 

Problem: Intuition is not explained when you first need to use it.

Solution: Just one inner-dialogue line will be enough. Something like: "Nothing can hide from my eagle eye”. Even that is fine, no need to go into mysticism at this point.

 

Problem: Marianne is talking about acceptance of her condition when walking down the stairs on the way to funeral home. It’s out of place here.

Solution: To bring context, she should be thinking about it when, for example, looking at one of Jack’s photos. Or a photo with the two of them. People would not be thinking something like that, when casually walking do the stairs, after all.

 

Problem: When using items, their usage seems surreal, since they are just floating there. I understand the old-school Resident Evil or Silent Hill vibe here, but if you want to people to get involved into the story and into the character – do not do it like that.

Solution: Play actual short cutscene, where Marianne uses the item.

 

Problem: Marianne decided to follow a stranger on the phone too fast and too easy with very superficial incentive.

Solution: No need to do much here but follow example of recent Danish TV Series "Equinox”, which starts similarly. Thomas can remind her of something in her past (the coma, for example), that would make sense to be curious about him way more than "I know what you are”. At least in real life. And even then, just a couple of line, clarifying, that Marianne was struggling with the choice of going or not, that she checked out the place and, I don’t know, grabbed a gun and then went to the hotel fully prepared for the worst (or, at least, a scam).

 

Problem: When interacting with footprints in the forest (before hotel), it just zooms in on them, which seems kind of pointless.

Solution: Add a voiceover with some comment about them. Since Marianne acts as if a professional investigator (which she is clearly not), she can comment on size of the prints, depth, length between strides, etc.

 

Problem: During first "split” Marianne says: "this place wants to tell me something”. If it was the place telling something, then… What was it? The "cave” did not tell any kind of story, at all. There was just that energy source there, that was, supposedly, left by a soldier (if I remember right), but there was no basis for that, visible to the player. Energy absorption is also not explained.

Solution: Hard to suggest something, since through-out all of the game it was not explained how exactly the split is triggered and what are the rules (in fact it looked as if there are none, which is unrealistic). The simplest thing to do is show some shadows when the split occurs. Shadows, that looks like soldiers or whatever. And let Marianne pick-up some item near the energy source, that would allow for the player to make a clear connection with identity of the spirit to which the energy belongs (helmet, if it’s a soldier). As for explanation of the energy absorption… Make it part of purification ritual or something: medium takes a clot of emotions and then disperses it "evenly”.

 

Problem: Seeing monkey on a grave could deserve a bit more than just "what the hell".

Solution: This can be said before interaction even, to attract player’s attention. When you actually look at the monkey – add voiceover with some assumption on why the monkey is there: "Is this a child’s grave? Or did someone hoped to wake the dead with those cymbals?”

 

Problem: Marianne says "There gotta be another way” and then show the nearby door.

Solution: Replace voiceover with "Maybe that door will open?” or something like that. Alternatively – do not show the door at all, let the player search for it.

 

Problem: Sadness clearly states that she was very lonely, but then does not bother Marianne, while she is dawdling going in a round-about-way. At the same time Sadness is shown not to be aware of the "real world”, which then turned to be [somewhat] false.

Solution: Let Sadness return after some time nagging Marianne, that she is slow and going the wrong way. I think when she reenables the lift is a good opportunity. Even a short interaction with Marianne explaining that she has a physical body, that can’t easily traverse spirit world will be enough. You can make Sadness laugh it off somehow as well, as if she does not believe Marianne, if she really does not understand the concept of split worlds (yet).

 

Problem: Unclear why spirit shield is something new and yet Marianne uses it so naturally. Even though spirit blast seems to be something "casual”.

Solution: Make her aware of the power, but not used to it much. Like "I never saw any danger in the spirit world before, so there was not much point in using the shield”

 

Problem: Weird hand gestures when Marianne is talking to Sadness about Thomas. They do not seem "natural”.

Solution: Revise the gestures.

 

Problem: Marianne clearly states that she knows what "junctions” are, but there is no explanation for the player.

Solution: I think replacing the phrase with something like "It reminds of that time back in … a few years back. It’s like a junction, a place where two worlds intertwine”. It gives a hint to some actual event, when she experienced something similar and that it’s her name for the phenomenon, not something "common knowledge”.

 

Problem: Speaking of junctions: there does not seem to be a proper established rule of where split or junctions occur. Especially with mirrors.

Solution: At the first split there needs to be explanation, that this is caused by those spirit energy "bubbles”, that strong emotions condense in places, warping reality around them if they get too big. Since she is sensitive to those emotions, when they are strong enough, it allows her to see the other side and it pulls her spirit away in such a way, that it feels as if she is being split apart (which would explain time limitation for out of body experience as well). Mirrors can then be explained by simply being in the presence of those strong emotions and Marianne being pulled apart. The cat statues simply allow her to "concentrate” on her spiritual self and shift through.

 

Problem: When Maw grabs Marianne by the throat in cinematic, she does not reach out her hands to get it off her.

Solution: Since she is not an alien or brain dead – show a realistic human reaction.

 

Problem: When Maw appeared, there was a split (or rather transfer), but there were no signs of headache, as before.

Solution: I think the best thing would be to let Maw drag Marianne into that world. I mean physically. That would server the dynamics of the running away scene.

 

Problem: In running away scene, if Marianne gets inside moths’ clouds, she does not even try to get back out. And then later you need to go inside them, which makes little scenes.

Solution: Change animation, showing her trying to get out, but then grabbed by Maw, when she gets out. For the set of moths, where you should get through: focus camera on them and show a gap in the cloud. Even better – in a cinematic.

 

Problem: The path, through which we are escaping Maw does not seem to fit the Hotel layout.

Solution: I am not entirely sure about this one, but it felt wrong somehow. Needs revision.

 

Problem: When Marianne falls because of the moths and we see her in the bunker ("present”), her face is no longer dirty, as it was in the beginning of the game. In fact, she is not dirty in the end sequence as well.

Solution: She clearly should have dirt on her face and clothes.

 

Problem: Blood splatter in the pool (on the wall, with which you can interact) does not make much sense. It looks as if someone was shooting blood at the wall with water gun.

Solution: Needs revision. Need to play out the actual death scene here to figure out the splatter pattern.

 

Problem: Bernard story. Why is Marianne sorry? What happened to him?

Solution: To be honest, I did not read most of collectables, so I may have missed something, but... Since Bernard story looks kind of mandatory, it’s incorrect to hide it collectables, if it was hidden there. Regardless we need more "mementos”, that would tell his story.

 

Problem: Marianne does not turn off the flashlight when hiding from Maw.

Solution: Make her turn it off. Or if she somehow knows that Maw does not see that light – explain it.

 

Problem: The key is found near the trash bin after finding Nicolas, but it does not make sense, that it was not there before.

Solution: There needs to be a reference to it in echoes. Like someone threw it that way. Otherwise, it would not make sense to go into the mirror in the first place.

 

Problem: Why Thomas is wearing gloves? It does not look cold and there is only one clue at the end of the scene, that someone is living in the room, who is not Thomas.

Solution: Need some explanation about gloves (is it a quirk, is it to not leave fingerprints, is it actually cold). Overall, though, I’d recommend adding some clues, that this room is occupied. Like Thomas could be a bit more "sneaky” and "weary” or, at least, clearly mention this in his thoughts, when he enters. Such earlier clues can add more tension to the scene.

 

Problem: Plot "twist” about Richard being a child offender is shallow, unbelievable and generally toothless. It is underdeveloped. Logically, it is ok, but emotionally – no, too flat. And then you also lose the chance to fix that during 1st Thomas sequence.

Solution: Needs more foreshadowing, more little clues that would allow Marianne to get into Richard’s and Lily’s psyche. Gameplay wise and atmosphere wise, the section where we play as Thomas is overall good. But it does not fit Richard, whose psyche this is supposed to be. You call him "Childeater" but there are no indications that he ever abused any other children beside Lily, and even with Lily motives are a bit... Unclear. If he was a repeated sexual offender, his psyche should have certain... Patterns, but the most "sexual" thing are tentacles, which are clearly representation of the belt his stepfather used (Lust from Beyond is way more sexual in its "otherworld”). Furthermore, if the section is meant to describe Richard and maybe even empathize with him, but it fails to do so, because it lacks personal touch and is too rushed. It would be better to split this into several shorter, but more personal sequences, that would be presented to Marianne through the story up to this moment. It could provide more tension, and it could tell the story of the sex offender in a more subtle and... humane way. I have a small piece where a pastor "loses" himself. It's short but even that short and sloppy piece better describes the struggles that pastor had. While in your sequence Richard is just named as such and essentially just leaves it like that. And while you are trying to tell his story it simply does not fit his "end". I did not feel any kind of loss or loneliness or anything like that from the character, that could potentially drive him to affection to a little girl, as an outlet for his love, that he had in the past. It's too impersonal and shallow. You also missed opportunity to utilize painting in the hall to show some pictures from Richard’s past.

 

Problem: Marianne tells Jack "I helped you pass on”, but through out the whole game, we did not get any clue, how she would know that.

Solution: This needs to be properly covered in sequel. I mean, we do know she did not kill herself.

 

Problem: In the ruins there is a set of 3 doors: locked one, damaged one, locked one. They essentially encase one suit of stairs and a small room. I am not sure it would have been designed that way in real life.

Solution: Leave only one door, the one leading outside (it can be locked by a chain). Unless there is a real-life reference for this.

 

Problem: It does not make sense, that Marianne decides (or at least can) look for gas for generator even before she learns, that Maw is vulnerable to lightning.

Solution: I would make generator and canister non-interactive before that Maw is hit by lightning.

 

Problem: When near the Red House, Sadness appears to be aware of her mask, while it looked like masks were an artistic way to present the dead. Furthermore, since we know now, that she is Lily, who is a grown woman with 2 hands, it’s unclear, why Sadness is a child with one arm missing. And what is that "demon” (Maw) then.

Solution: This is complex. There would need to be a lot of little clues here and there through out the game to explain all this and be consistent with the fact, that Marianne does not know a thing. This could be explained in a sequel, though, if Marianne shot not Sadness/Lily, but rather Maw (while charging the gun with spirit energy or something and, perhaps hurting it enough to be intimidated and agree to a deal).

 

Problem: Marianne is ready to kill herself for Lily, even though she lived so long without her and just barely remember her moments ago. I understand that she is empathetic, but she is still human: a real human would not be able to cope with the memories so fast and won’t be able to re-establish emotions even faster.

Solution: I understand that this is for purpose of "open ending”, and that Marianne did not kill herself in the end, but if she were to consider it – we need more context. We need to establish her as lonely and suicidal throughout the whole game. Or to show how exactly Maw is dangerous "for the world”, because right now it does not seem to be that dangerous, outside a small area of land, where the game takes place. Otherwise, it would have moved away from there already.

Technical

Problem: After [some] loads there is a "start” arrow on the screen. Firstly, it’s not present on all loads for some reason. Secondly, it’s out of place in style. Thirdly, not sure if it’s even needed.

Solution: Either remove it entirely or use it for all loads and stylize. Bones and flesh, you know.

 

Problem: DLSS is placed in "Antialiasing”, while it’s a totally unrelated option.

Solution: Split it from Antialiasing.

 

Problem: Toggling DLSS changes width of settings due to changes of "scalability” setting.

Solution: Fix window width, but adjust settings width, where applicable (that is where there are "Low, Medium, High” settings).

 

Problem: DLSS does not affect raytracing.

Solution: Make it work with it, as well. Looking at Cyberpunk – it should work.

 

Problem: Mouse can highlight menus even when using gamepad, unless you intentionally move mouse to bottom of the screen.

Solution: Do not just hide the cursor but do not trigger its events, unless it’s moved first.

 

Problem: Van near funeral home sometimes gets some weird light flashes, as if there is something there to interact with, but there is nothing.

Solution: Check light sources.

 

Problem: Cloth covering Jack’s body felt low-fps, even though I was having like 50+ FPS at the time.

Solution: Most likely this is how the animation was done from the start. Need to adjust it to higher FPS.

 

Problem: I had a crash during cinematic before hotel and after reloading I started in the examination room, which is like way before the cinematic.

Solution: Autosave should be done before cinematic, so that after reloading you will start with the cinematic.

 

Problem: A lot of decals are blinking. Chalk, water, paint (graffiti), blood, paper, debris, sometimes "Insight marks”.

Solution: Based on the fact that I’ve seen similar effect on shadows from trees, I assume, that these, are, indeed, decals, rather then part of textures or separate objects. And since they are decals, they are totally flat and thus depending on placement on 3D objects that may cause collisions under certain viewing angles (I’ve experienced something similar long ago in TES3 Construction Set). The easiest solution is to adjust all of them manually to be exactly 1 pixel above (or to the side) the respective objects. This is not ideal, though. For static objects (chalk, paint) – use separate textures. For some (debris in 2nd Thomas sequence) – objects. For insight mark – probably an object (glass?), as well with a light source inside of it.

 

Problem: When you turn Marianne with flashlight directly at the camera, you are not blinded by the light and brightness does not change even.

Solution: Render the light properly. I know you want us to gawk at the character but considering the angle of the cameras most of the time, that should not be a problem. Also, it would be much better to allow us turning the light off completely. It would make a lot of sense in sneaking sections.

 

Problem: Insight on objects seems inconsistent (at least before the last patch): sometimes it triggered echo as soon as I’ve found the mark, but in most cases, I needed to stare at it for some time. Also mark is not glowing in some cases (for example telephone in examination room).

Solution: Needs checking.

 

Problem: Light over "Dust and Death” note is too calm, easing in and out of its states.

Solution: This looks to be a fluorescent light. When they "die” the do a certain flicker pattern. Use that. I think, at least, The Observer had those.

 

Problem: Did not get Phantom achievement, even though was not noticed, or caught. Some people say that you need to stay crouched all the time. There is also a chance, that after saving the two souls, if you get grabbed, it fails this achievement, even though this is not a sneaking sequence.

Solution: Needs investigation. Also, I’d rather split it into several achievements, one for each sequence.

 

Problem: If you look at the photo with Jack, where Jack disappears, there will be a gap between "It all ends…” and "… in me”.

Solution: This should be one audio file instead of 2, that is triggered at a moment just a bit prior to when current "in me” is triggered.

 

Problem: Focusing on the light that you need to pull away to block passage for Maw is somehow "unhandy”. It’s like you need to be very precise (this is true for some other interactions after this as well). It’s also not clear, that you need to pull it, not push it.

Solution: Adjust dead zone of the interaction point and add prompts for pulling. Or implement QTE.

 

Problem: Dropping the bridge was not loud as Marianne says. Inf act I did not realize Maw has come out after that, either. In fact, I sometimes barely hear Marianne’s inner thoughts, too.

Solution: Adjust volume of the effects.

 

Problem: When we come out of the forest again (after frying Maw for 1st time), Marianne is facing the way she came from.

Solution: Turn her around.

 

Problem: When unlocking an echo on the object, the button continues to say "Insight” when the echo is playing already.

Solution: Remove the button when echo is being played.

 

Problem: In the tool shed near the Red House, if you pick the horse, listen to echo, and then exit this screen you can no longer interact with the bench (and lose access to photo). If you take photo first - you can still interact with the bench.

Solution: Needs investigation and fixing.

 

Problem: When Thomas drops first bookcase on the dog, to me it was clear, that bookcase dropped first, and then the dog reached it.

Solution: Adjust timings or replace with cinematic.

 

Problem: When Thomas 2 gameplay sequence ended I noticed, that even low-detailed textures took a while to load. And later on, during Marianne and Dog sequence I noticed how dog was rendered, then went outside of frame, then got inside of frame and got rendered again from scratch.

Solution: I think there is an issue with caching or more like lack of it. In fact, when I checked my RAM, the game was using like 1.5 GBs of RAM, which seems pretty low. I did not check VRAM values, though. Regardless, I’d recommend checking caching logic.

Gameplay

Problem: Camera angles. They are awful most of the time. I understand you want to show the environment more, and stick to "old-school quest” approach, but it does not work in game, that is expected to tell you a good emotional story through environment. I think the only good use of this camera was on the walk to the lake at the end of the game, but even that one was ruined by 2 simple cuts instead of proper transitions.

Solution: Either give full control like, say, Life Is Strange or use Heavy Rain approach by giving us choices of the camera angle.

 

Problem: Somehow searching for interactions on a fixed screen (tables, cases, etc.) feels uncomfortable. I can’t even put my finger on why, but similar interactions in Life Is Strange felt better.

Solution: Maybe increase the zones for interactions points? And activate them when they are closer to center of the screen, as if you are moving a cursor in an FPS?

 

Problem: When exiting Marianne apartment, the door behind her closes almost immediately and permanently. Too old-school to restrict movement here.

Solution: Allow to go back until we enter funeral home. Since it’s raining, trying to exit funeral home can be stopped by inner-dialogue: "I am already wet enough, better not go out into the rain again, unless really necessary”.

 

Problem: Inventory selection is shown even if there is just 1 item we can select for interaction.

Solution: Do not show it, interact immediately.

 

Problem: Some interactive screens have only one interactive point, making the screens themselves pointless most of the time.

Solution: Do not use the screen, interact with the object directly, especially, when you can interact with the object only once. Alternatively, add some more interactive points (just for comments from Marianne).

 

Problem: Moving objects is not obvious. For example, when we need to get metal bed out of the freezer, it was not obvious to me that I need to use stick to move it and then A to let go.

Solution: Prompts. I know they may seem obnoxious to some, but as long as they are subtle – it will be fine.

 

Problem: Restriction of "natural” mechanics.

Solution: Restrict "running” only when there is a point in that from character’s perspective, that is she is being careful or tired. Do not restrict sneaking at all. It’s ok to restrict holding breath to sneaking sequences. Do not restrict instinct at all (although, there are not that many places like that after the start of the hotel chapter) or at least explain it somehow (like a headache from overuse). Do not restrict out-of-bod experience: leverage it for exploration and collectables gathering.

 

Problem: Y button for climbing, when from the mechanics standpoint it’s still "interacting with object”.

Solution: I get it, that you wanted a button that would be identical for both worlds, but in fact you could simply trigger both X and A in such places, regardless of which button was actually pushed. And instead of using Y for climbing you could use it to switch camera angles. Or hold breath. Or spirit force (which uses X for some reason).

 

Problem: Timer for out of body experience is barely readable.

Solution: Use the same color as for energy or Marianne’s spirit hair.

 

Problem: In running away scene during 1st Maw encounter it’s unclear whether you need to press running button and use stick.

Solution: If you do want interaction here, add controller prompts.

 

Problem: Detection icon is reducing it’s length the more monsters are alert.

Solution: "More alert” should clearly mean "more icon”. Not just color (I would not change it at all, to be honest), but add segments to the icon the more alert the monsters are. I can’t even explain it properly, but just try it - you will see what I mean.

 

Problem: Near the pool changing room there is a cart, which you can move, but it’s not clear for what until later on.

Solution: Do not make it interactive before it’s actually needed.

 

Problem: Skin walls are clearly made of 2 flaps of skin and there is not much of "gameplay” in pushing the knife down those walls.

Solution: Use one piece of skin, instead of two. Make all the skin walls unique. Play cinematics from 1st person showing how Marianne cuts them, struggling with the skin resistance, slime (or bile or blood) coming from the wound, perhaps occasional moths from behind it.

 

Problem: Extra interaction with Boris name in the list of participants.

Solution: Just interacting with the list should be enough. Furthermore, if player has checked necessary seats before that, it should finish the quest right there.

 

Problem: Counterattack on tentacles does not feel like "attacking”.

Solution: Replace it with shoving the tentacles or even spirit-blasting them. Also, there should be achievements for not being hit by any tentacles and for killing all of them.

 

Problem: Late introduction of balancing mechanic, that does not really introduce anything special to the gameplay.

Solution: Better just slow the character down and trigger scenes based on character position. Including lose of balance, character looking down, months getting in the way, etc.

 

Problem: When running away from maw and we need to crawl through a wall by pressing X, there is an unnatural pause.

Solution: Either make Marianne get into position before reaching the wall, so that there will be a smooth transition, or implement QTE.

 

Problem: When you get close to the rope, that you need to cut Maw stops moving and searching the area.

Solution: Maw should continue moving about. Just give player a window, that he needs to use to get to the rope.

 

Problem: Split screen is sometimes vertical, sometimes horizontal. This may be ok for cutscenes, but not so much for gameplay, unless there is a consistency to what type is used when.

Solution: I would either use vertical split (left and right) for all gameplay sequences or allow player to switch between vertical and horizontal.

 

Problem: In 2nd Thomas sequence you add spirit force to move objects, but we already have spirit blast, that could be used in all the sequences here, besides the last one, where you need to pull a bookcase.

Solution: Use spirit blast instead. For last bookcase either rework the scene or play a cinematic instead, where spirit blast is directed at it from afar.

 

Problem: The doors open as soon as you start playing the records. Records can be ignored entirely this way, which makes no sense, because why would someone’s "psyche” then require playing them at all?

Solution: Do not open the doors until the tapes end.