Supermassive Games, a company known for adventures like Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, Hidden Agenda, The Inpatient, and Until Dawn is kicking off a whole new, narrative-heavy series focusing on thrills, the supernatural, and quick-time events. The Dark Pictures Anthology feels like it is designed to be the gaming spiritual successor to The Twilight Zone, taking people on journeys where the unexpected may happen and making quick decisions, paying attention, and having good twitch reflexes can help you make it through and perhaps get the ending you want. Man of Medan is its first entry and, while it can feel like games like Hidden Agenda and Until Dawn, there are ways in which it seems like maybe it was made to be a little more accessible and helpful.
The main menu is home to many of the features that may better help someone understand what is going on in Man of Medan. From the very outset, you can head into the menu to go through a number of areas to check on what is going on and how people are getting along. Think of these screens as Catherine taking your opinion on relationship matters after surviving a to0wer or Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead letting you know that someone will remember you did something. Here, everything is laid out in a way that makes things clear, easy to understand, and perhaps helps you see where you could be going right or wrong.
Two menu sections are especially important. Bearings is your big decision section. As you jump around between the different playable characters in Man of Medan, the game will keep track of what you did and let you better grasp the outcomes. Everything major is shown here, offering a bit of immediate cause and effect and perhaps giving a hint as to how it could positively or negatively impact you later. The character screen, for the person you are currently using, helps keep you on track. You can see what you should be doing. You can see what kind of person they are shaping up to be, which might help you understand what decisions are available. You can see what their relationship is like with the other characters, with additional summaries showing how recent interactions went. For example, Alex initially thinking Fliss is a buzzkill, having to prove himself, and then disrespecting her means you can see how each action altered their bond and got them to the place they’re currently in.
There are also the pictures. Pictures are like the ones seen in Rod Sterling’s Night Gallery. They can be occasionally abstract images that, when found, trigger premonitions. These offer brief, out of context clips of things that could happen. They can happen quite a bit before the event, or sometimes a little bit closer to a possible event. In any case, they show a possible major moment and, depending on your actions, you can avoid it entirely. These come with enough warning, so you can definitely avoid them, and never appear when you’re already too late to stop the inevitable. While the images themselves are vague and, in Man of Medan’s case, largely ship-related, they immediately make sense when you come upon the turn of events that can lead to them. (Plus, you can always circle back and check them again in the menu after unlocking them.)
Even the meetings with The Curator, the narrator for The Dark Pictures series, acts as something as a touchpoint. At certain intervals in Man of Medan, players are taken away from the story. After the introduction and tutorial offering a bit of background, the Curator comes in to introduce himself. After your first interactions with Alex, Brad, Conrad, Fliss, and Julia, he’ll stop by to judge you. You can get a general idea of you’re doing poorly or well, based on his conversation with you. He might even offer a vague, optional hint. Early on, he’ll even let you know if a certain series of events could have already resulted in a tragedy.
It’s these little things that perhaps make The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan easier to survive and bear. You can check in to see how interactions and traits shape the story. You can collect pictures for premonitions warning you about things that could happen. Even The Curator is helpful with his interjections. It can help people who pay attention or want to check in perhaps plot out better paths for the characters.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan will come to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on August 30, 2019.