We got to see the newly announced The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan at Gamescom and lived to tell the tale. For those who missed the announcement, this terrifying new adventure title comes from British studio Supermassive Games, the outfit behind the similarly Are You Afraid of the Dark style game, Until Dawn.
As part of a Twlight Zone-esque horror anthology, The Dark Pictures will go through different dark stories with a running theme of being able to see everything from different perspectives. The first terrifying tae, Man of Medan has five characters, of which you’ll be able to play all five, and each one has a unique view on the unravelling mystery.
Like in Until Dawn, whoever you play as, you’ll be making decisions that affect the whole group. This leads to branching storylines and ultimately, different endings. At any decision point, any combination of none, some, or all of your party can die. No pressure then.
How does Man of Medan play?
In typically Until Dawn fashion, our demo wastes no time in asking us difficult questions. With a sweeping camera panning away to reveal a lone ship floating atop of a raging sea, a narrator probes us with a searching question: do we make decisions based on our emotions, or just cold, hard facts?
Once we make our choice, we’re treated to a handy recap. Like Until Dawn before it, Man of Medan once again features five young protagonists, with this group of four 20-somethings hiring a tour guide to help them track down a mysterious ship that’s lain abandoned since WWII. Predictably though, things don’t seem to go very well for the treasure-hungry Americans.
Put in control of tour guide Fliss, the demo skips forward in time, showing her and tourist aboard the dimly lit and dingy ship, with the pair led into the darkness by a mysterious gun-toting man named Danny. As we’re forced further forward on this nightmarish Resident Evil Revelations-esque frigate, we soon stumble upon a rotting corpse. As you’d expect from the adventure genre, gameplay here mainly consists of exploring your surroundings and interacting with objects you find laying around. With dramatic music and spooky sound effects soon building to a nail-biting crescendo, it’s not long until sh*t hits the proverbial fan.
After we encounter our third corpse, the pistol-brandishing Danny begins to lose it, yelling and screaming as if being mauled by an invisible attacker. Fleeing around the corner, a gunshot follows, and Danny falls. Wasting no time, we guide a startled Fliss and confused teen Brad over to Danny’s corpse, wasting no time in picking up his torch and fleeing down the corridor.
Press ‘X’ for Drama
The rest of the demo plays out fairly predictably. With just our two protagonists left alive, we attempt to find a way off the cursed ship, before getting hopelessly lost. With panic setting in, we finally begin to successfully navigate the increasingly skeleton-strewn decks. But before we can celebrate finding the right way, the camera swoops behind us to reveal the snap of a newly animated corpse.
Suddenly, poor old Brad is set upon by a horde of the undead. With skeletons clawing at Fliss, a sequence of aptly stressful QTEs sees us frantically mash various buttons until we help Fliss escape the clutch of the ravenous skeletons. As we turn to leave, Brad utters a blood-curdling scream. Then comes the haunting decision, do we leave him or save ourselves? With the clatter of advancing bones growing ever louder, against our better judgment, we run back manage to yank Brad away from certain death just in the nick of time.
How is the first episode of The Dark Pictures Shaping up?
And that is where our demo ends. It’s a bit unfair to judge a slow-build narrative on a break-neck speed convention snippet, but what we played of this standalone story was enjoyable, if a bit familiar. While Until Dawn felt like a bold new take on the narrative-driven adventure game, Man of Medan looks to offer more of the tried and tested Supermassive formula.
Still, given how brilliant Until Dawn was, that’s hardly a bad thing. With Detroit: Become Human not quite living up to expectations and next month’s Life Is Strange 2 sporting a less gritty tone, The Dark Pictures could fill the adult-orientated adventure game hole that genre fans have been crying out for.
What’s unclear right now though is how many of these standalone episodes Bandai Namco is willing to make, Supermassive has confirmed that there will be at least three episodes of The Dark Pictures. Expect Man of Medan sometime in 2019 on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.