Have you ever played a terrifying horror game set on the open sea, all while standing on a real boat on some real water? No? Well to be fair not many people have… expect me earlier this week.
I have to say, this wasn’t something on my bucket list, but I’m very glad I’ve done it now.
See, recently I had the great pleasure of boarding the HMS Wellington on the River Thames in London. The boat served in World War 2 and is now permanently moored by Temple tube station as the guild for ancient master mariners. I was nowhere near being a master of anything, but I was here for one reason only and that was to partake in the The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan preview event held by Bandai Namco and Supermassive Games. I have to say, it was a pleasure to attend.
Standing in a beautiful elegant banqueting hall, surrounding by ancient pictures of kings, queens and grand ships of days gone past, there are banks of monitors lining the sides of the room with the The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan title screen displayed proudly. The main developer for Supermassive Games takes to the stage and tells us why we are here on this old WWII ship, what we will be doing and why it’s so special…
Man of Medan is the first of a series of games the team are working on under the title “The Dark Pictures Anthology”. Every new game will feature a new story, setting, and characters. The team will also look at different sub-horror genres – having found 39 so far – which makes the franchise possibilities very exciting indeed. This is the team that brought you the excellent Until Dawn, so they are very well versed in story-driven adventure horror. They also state that they have given Man of Medan many possible endings and deeper branching narrative lines than any game they have created before.
The legend of the Ourang Medan is the influence for the story in the first of these games. You start the entertainment in a different time period and witness something truly horrible happen on board a warship of the time. Cut to modern day and we find a pleasure cruise with a small bunch of thrill seekers looking for a sea wreck. Some terrible things happen, which leads to the two different time periods colliding. I’m being particularly vague here as not to spoil the story which is the heart of the game.
We were invited to play 90 minutes of Man of Medan from the start, but while in attendance there was an announcement of a very new feature. For the first time, you can play online with a friend in two-player co-op mode. And that is what we were having a go at this very day. You play the adventure together, controlling a number of different characters at a certain time in the story. The obvious example is at one point two brothers are having a conversation and both of you take a character each, responding to each other in a certain way. Do you take a flippant approach? Are you always kind? Do you anger or offend easily? It’s fascinating and very interesting when you know the other person is making these decisions to instigate a conversation. Why are they being so rude? Are they trying to flirt with me? The implications from a few glib words could have a big impact on the story to come.
Other situations in the playthrough saw the journey branch out into different story arcs. At one point my character was on the deck of the ship dealing with local fisherman problems, while my partner was underwater on a dive, putting up with the problems encountered there. It was only after we finished the playthrough that we worked out that we were doing different things and controlling different people. It’s a very exciting dynamic and very much like a piece of immersive theatre or a choose your own adventure book. It really does encourage multiple playthroughs as well, with secrets and different possible paths you can follow that are bigger than many other games.
There is also a local player ‘couch mode’ where up to 5 players can go through the game, swapping the controller over to share the decision making between them. It’s another great feature to add some spice to the events.
Man of Medan looks brilliant as well, with the lovely looking engine working overtime to produce some great character animation and locations. Come August 30th when the game is released you can choose to play alone in this nautical horror adventure, partner up with a friend, or have a house party and share the thrills and spills of The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan.
I for one can’t wait.
Massive thanks go out to Bandai Namco and Supermassive Games for inviting us to their The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan preview event on-board the HMS Wellington. The game will launch on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on August 30th 2019.