Man of Medan – More Risky
Supermassive Games, the name of this devleoper is indeed to be recognized indeed has a strong association with the Playstation in the past. But after the charming Until Dawn, they decided to get out of this identity and work with Bandai Namco to give birth to a new franchise that remains rooted in their current flagship products. We are talking about Quantic Dreams interactive story games, but with a thicker sense of horror. He struggled to represent Hollywood thriller films which often ended with the story of a group of teenagers who were trapped in a bad situation, where options and consequences could end in characters who died.
Man of Medan actually refers to one of the legends of the old days – SS Ourang Medan in 1947 which is told, is a Dutch trading ship that sank in the Malacca Strait. As can be predicted, there is a strong mystery surrounding the destruction of this merchant ship considering it was said to also contain many bodies on it when it was discovered. All of them died mysteriously.
Supermassive Games built Man of Medan based on this one mystery story, but with a different approach. Instead of a trading ship owned by the Netherlands, SS Ourang Medan is said to be one of the United States warships that had stopped in Asia before going back. They loaded some mysterious cargo inside, including several crates wrapped in large flags. But as can be predicted, this ship did not sail smoothly. Suddenly, one night, machine gun fire rang out and the bodies ended up scattered. A terror that cannot be explained logically, has already occurred.
Moving into the future, you enter into the lives of 4 young people from America – Alex, Brad, Julia and Conrad who rent a boat named a woman named Fliss for diving activities. Based on the investigation process carried out by Brad, the four were convinced that at one point near the South Pacific Sea, there was a seabed wreck that had never been touched at all. He ended up being a sinking plane while trying to fulfill the SS Ourang Medan emergency call. On the basis of having fun as well as a dream to find treasure that could make them rich, they also continued this unsecured expedition, especially in the middle of a group of pirates who were stalking their activities.
Ambushed in the middle of the night, during a storm, the 5 young people who were positioned as the main characters ended up being held captive by pirates who had disguised themselves as fishermen. Wanting to withdraw money through the kidnapping scheme in the beginning, the pirates found information about “The Gold of Manchuria” – a treasure that was believed to be stored in SS Ourang Medan. Inevitably, plans have changed. They are now trying to catch up and find the SS Ourang Medan itself to get the treasure that is trusted, will make them rich instantly. Meanwhile, the 5 young people ended up being prisoners.
If you have played Until Dawn in the past, then you seem to have understood the quality of presentations offered by Supermassive Games for their interactive story / adventure games. One of their main strengths lies in the charming quality of facial details, which is also not difficult to express emotions, giving birth to the illusion of stronger realism. So like the appeal in the previous series, Supermassive Games also offers the same thing in this Man of Medan. That the power of expression is still one of the main attractions even though it was built with a different engine.
However, that does not mean the other graphic side of Man of Medan is not charming. More limited locations, where locations that you can explore end up linearly and can be counted on the fingers, seem to provide more space for Supermassive Games to ensure each of them appears charming. Supported with lighting effects and blur effects on the right target camera, you will get a true cinematic experience, even being pursued by Man of Medan. But one of the best presentations they offer is also rooted in the perspective of a fixed camera that in some conditions, is able to grow a sense of anxiety in itself.
Meanwhile in terms of sound design, there is nothing to worry about. The acting qualities that emerge from voice actors succeed in selling the sensation of a natural conversation with a proper reaction, both when they want to send a signal that they are relaxing, happy, or stressed. While the sound of the environment is also sufficient to create an atmosphere of anxiety and fright, either when it is just quiet or filled with whispers of sounds that you don’t know where you are. A horror game practice that must be recognized, was executed properly.
So in terms of presentations, the quality of Man of Medan is arguably equal or even better than Until Dawn. Short gameplay time seems to give more time for Supermassive Games to polish some of the existing elements, although unfortunately, it is not perfect.
So like the format they offer at Until Dawn, Man of Medan also carries the same genre of interactive stories. That the main attraction lies in a variety of conversation and action options, each of which will have different consequences. You can build your own mission by trying to make sure each of the main characters offered ends safely at the end of the story, or even destroys them even before the main story ends if you are fun. The action element is carried out in the QTE format with occasional exploratory actions, opening up new information related to the existing story. Along with it, you will find random paintings throughout the game that will give you a little sneak peek of important in-game moments that will occur, so you can prepare yourself a little.
But unlike Until Dawn, there is one thing that feels different in Man of Medan. That the overall sensation of the game feels more precarious. The reason? Because he offers absolutely no preparation or “cue” for the QTE process that occurs throughout the game. There is no slow motion, no gray screen or turn bright to catch your attention, no loud warning that you will enter the QTE area. This game will immediately throw a QTE like this to you, just like that. We are not just talking about pressing the button sequence, but also a new “mini-game” that asks you to press the button in tune with the existing heartbeat.
Even cooler? The concept of QTE without warning is then combined with a variety of life-and-death situations of characters which are basically very significant in the story line you get. Conditions like this create their own tension, considering that you are the first time playing this game, will not be able to predict when this QTE comes and goes. Most of them also do not provide enough time for you to react slowly. Not enough? It also doesn’t offer a lot of error space for errors. There is no second chance if you press the wrong button, there is no second chance when you fail to press the rhythmic button needed, there is no second chance if it ends with undesirable consequences. This layer makes Man of Medan, ending more tense.
Cheap Scare Jump
But unfortunately, there is one “flaw” of design that in the end, made us choose the subtitles above. As coward gamers who don’t have the courage to taste a lot of horror games, Man of Medan, we must admit, fails to appear as a scary horror game. In fact it must be admitted, not a single moment that even succeeded in making our hair crawl. The only thing that made the atmosphere a little tense was Conrad’s first sequence which was successfully executed sweetly, making the sense of comfort subtle because of the way it was built together with the appearance of the “monster” chasing him.
One of the weaknesses of Supermassive Games and Man of Medan lies in one concept that they seem to misunderstand – associating Jump Scare with Fear. They have brought this concept since the Until Dawn era, but they cannot be complained about because of the longer portion of the story, so that jump scare content like this is more widespread and does not happen often. As for Man of Medan, because of the short portion of the story, a jump scare will usually occur at least once every 15 minutes slowly but surely, you will begin to predict. Conditions like this make it even more ineffective, it feels just a nuisance, and instead shows the taste of “amateur” for a capable horror game. Supermassive Games don’t seem to be able to distinguish between surprise and fear.
This is what happened at Man of Medan. Almost all of your “sources of fear” end up with zoom-in monsters, corpses, or even the expression of characters who are then followed by a super loud voice in the middle of a previously quiet moment. What is actually caused is not fear, but surprise. Even worse? So uncreative are they, that they don’t have a solution to create fear in other ways. In fact, there are many quality horror films that are able to create these sensations from just the premise of a story, dialogue, to just a play of light and light for example. There is no need to “fall into the trap” that being surprised is the same as being afraid.
We ourselves hope that Supermassive Games will learn more about the true “essence” of horror and no longer associate it with just one type of reaction – surprise. Because believe it or not, famous horror films that continue to be remembered until now never rely on cheap methods like that to be remembered. The key lies in how strong the atmosphere is, how disturbing and arousing the iconic scenes are, until it’s just a story that he carries on.
The Dark Pictures – A Tempting Business Format
One extra thumbs up is indeed appropriate for something beyond the Man of Medan video game itself. That’s right, it leads more to the release strategy that Supermassive Games and Bandai Namco want to carry for the entire Dark Pictures Anthology franchise, which must be recognized, innovative and refreshing at the same time. Why? Because instead of falling into the episodic game format ala Telltale or Dontnod which sells one long story broken into several parts, The Dark Pictures instead borrowed a television series format where each episode moves in a separate world and story. The only common thread connecting them is only one character – The Curator.
While from a development perspective, this release format is indeed beneficial. Unlike the episodic format that doesn’t allow you to just jump from the middle of the story and enjoy it directly, The Dark Pictures makes it possible. Even when he has entered the 5th series though, you can always jump in from any series and still end up enjoying it to the fullest because of the different stories, characters, and settings. With short content reportedly done by separate teams that now work with one of the “easiest” engines to perfect – Unreal Engine 4, this format is even more charming. Releasing at least two series each year until at least eight games into the future becomes a task that is no longer visible and sounds impossible. Everything is built with consistent presentation quality and the opportunity to sell it at super affordable prices because the content is indeed shorter.
With the price he offered, it’s hard to refuse the attraction offered by Bandai Namco and the Supermassive Games with Man of Medan. He is indeed far from perfect, but he managed to push the attraction that has been built since the Until Dawn era in a new direction that looks promising. Enough to make you curious and wait about which mythology and mystery will they bring to the rest of The Dark Pictures.
What can be concluded from Man of Medan? In fact, despite the various changes on the technical side from the release platform to the implementation of the new engine, it is still an interactive story game with a presentation that truly captivates the style of previous Supermassive Games products. It is not at all strange to compare it directly with Until Dawn given the similarity of the gameplay and the concept he is carrying, but of course by not denying that there are some things he managed to do well. Although sometimes annoying, the QTE system which is faster and without warning does make Man of Medan feel more risky, precarious, and requires vigilance at the same time. With a release format and a more affordable price, he also looks charming in that aspect.