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The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan release date, co-op, trailer and gameplay

In development at Supermassive Games, Man of Medan is the first installment in The Dark Pictures Anthology, which will feature cinematic, standalone horror titles set in the same universe. Supermassive has eight games planned, each with their own unique story, characters, and cast. Inspired by real-world stories and events, these titles draw upon different tropes and industry influences, exploring over 39 sub-genres of horror identified by the series' creators. 

Set in the South Pacific, Man of Medan follows five friends as they embark on a diving trip in search of a rumored WWII wreck. Expecting parties and adventure, the companions' holiday unravels when a storm rolls in and they find themselves marooned on a ghost ship. Trapped in a waking nightmare, it's up to the player to determine who lives or dies in an environment where one wrong move can spell certain death. All or none of the five main characters can make it to the end of the story.

Man of Medan's release date

Man of Medan releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows on Aug. 30, 2019. According to Supermassive CEO and executive producer Pete Samuels, Supermassive plans to launch two The Dark Anthology titles every year. The first five have already entered development. "We've committed ourselves to two games in any 12-month period," Samuels told PlayStation.Blog. "The first three are well underway and the fourth and fifth are fairly well advanced from a narrative perspective. We even have our ideas in place for the sixth, seventh and eighth!"

Though Supermassive has not shared details about the future plotlines, Samuels specified that each game will have different directors, screenwriters, and development teams. The series will use similar mechanics throughout, preserving a narrative, choice-centered experience. Samuels hopes that each game's story and characters will keep players guessing. "We want to surprise people each time – when we announce the second game, we want it to be the last thing people expected, in terms of theme and subgenre and whatever," he said in an interview with IGN. "And then again with the third one"

Trailers for Man of Medan

Supermassive has released four trailers for the interactive drama. The announcement trailer, which debuted in August 2018, introduced the game's five characters: Alex, Conrad, Brad, Fliss, and Julia. The Halloween trailer, which came out on Oct. 31, 2018, introduced The Curator, a mysterious figure who highlights the life or death stakes of the decisions the player will make in the game. "Success depends entirely on the decisions that you make," warns The Curator. "Decisions made in haste, made with the heart instead of the head or vice versa. Decisions that may take some time to reveal their repercussions. But there are repercussions. There are always repercussions."

A release date trailer followed in May 2019, highlighting the game's choice mechanics while offering a tour of the boat the friends occupy at the start of the game before entering the sinister ghost ship. The fourth trailer, released on July 11, 2019, introduces Man of Medan's two multiplayer options.

The gameplay in Man of Medan

Man of Medan unfolds in third-person, switching perspectives between the five main characters. The story branches based on your decisions and dialogue, leading to multiple endings, including the deaths of all, some, or none of the cast. "There are scenes that only exist on specific narrative paths; different combinations of survivors possible before the final scenes; more significant and in some ways more surprising consequences of 'mismanaging' relationships; and endings that vary significantly depending on the paths you take," explained Samuels. Man of Medan includes more branching and possible outcomes than any of Supermassive's previous games.

Though Supermassive has used the Decima engine in the past, Man of Medan runs on Unreal Engine 4 as a result of the decision to go multi-platform. Though not a concern to all gamers, Aaron Souppouris of Engadget noted that the trailer looked "ropey" compared to Supermassive title Until Dawn.

According to Man of Medan game director Tom Heaton, each playthrough will take about four to five hours; however, the branching narrative makes the game highly replayable.

Multiplayer in Man of Medan

Beyond its central Solo mode, Man of Medan will feature two multiplayer options: Shared Story mode and Movie Night mode. In Shared Story, you and a friend can play online, making decisions that affect both of you. "Creating a narrative game with multiplayer has thrown up some interesting design challenges — the most significant of which was in the two-player Shared Story, and how to have both players enjoy a great story when they each see different things and neither sees everything," said Samuels. "It also created some great new design and narrative opportunities which we hope will surprise you. When you and your friend 'split up,' you can't be sure that you'll ever see their character again!"

A couch co-op, Movie Night mode allows you to experience the game with up to four of your friends. Each person enters their name and chooses which character they want to play as. Man of Medan will then prompt you to pass the controller when it's time for a specific character to take center stage. Players also receive periodic summaries of their individual performances.

Pre-orders and The Curator's Cut

Anyone who pre-orders Man of Medan will receive early access to The Curator's Cut, which features new perspectives, previously unplayable scenes, difference choices and pathways, and new secrets to uncover. "The Curator's Cut is different to the traditional Director's Cut as it gives the player new ways to directly influence the story and its outcomes," commented Samuels. "Players will see and change events and relationships from the perspective of characters that weren't under control in their first playthrough."

Supermassive has provided no clues as the identities of the characters you'll get to play as. Given the name of the expansion, it's safe to say that The Curator, the enigmatic figure introduced in the Halloween Trailer, will influence the proceedings. The Curator's Cut will launch for free for all players, with the release target falling at the end of November 2019. To play The Curator's Cut, you will first need to complete at least one playthrough of the main storyline. 

The Curator

The Curator is an omniscient, fourth-wall breaking being who assembles stories of life and death. He will make his debut in Man of Medan. According to Bandai Namco, the game's publisher, The Curator oversees a small part of a repository documenting every story ever told. With an immeasurable lifespan, The Curator has collected new tales for thousands of years. For some unknown reason, he suddenly receives the opportunity to talk to you, the player; however, he cannot interfere outright. Instead, he uses a series of cryptic hints and clues to influence events without tipping his hand.

Though each title in The Dark Pictures Anthology acts as a standalone game, The Curator links them together in a shared universe. Supermassive has stated that he is the only character who will appear in every game, documenting the struggles of the main cast while attempting to impress the player with his own genius.

Cast

Man of Medan features the talents of Shawn Ashmore, who you might recognize as Bobby Drake / Ice Man from the X-Men movies and Mike Weston in the serial killer series The Following. Pip Torrens, best known for his role as Tommy Lascelles in the Netflix drama The Crown, plays The Curator. Both Ashmore and Torrens provided voice acting and motion capture for the game.

Other cast members include Ayisha Issa as Fliss, Chris Sandiford as Brad, Kareem Tristan Alleyne as Alex, and Arielle Palik as Julia. Outside the five playable characters, Sean Colby voices someone named Charlie, whose identity and role in the story remain a mystery. Though hardly newcomers, most of the cast members beyond Ashmore and Torrens have played smaller film and television roles. With the exception of Ashmore, Issa, Alleyne, and Palik, Man of Medan will mark their debut within the video game industry.

The SS Ourang Medan

To create Man of Medan, Supermassive drew inspiration from the legend of the SS Ourang Medan, a famous real world shipwreck. According to various sources, the crew of the Ourang Medan died under suspicious circumstances in either 1947 or 1948. While traveling in the Straits of Malacca, the Ourang Medan reportedly sent out a series of distress calls stating that officers, and possibly the entire crew, were dead. Indecipherable Morse code followed before ending with a final message reading: "I die."

Boarding parties supposedly found the dead crew "teeth bared, with their upturned faces to the sun, staring, as if in fear" according to a commonly referenced but untraceable document called The Proceedings of the Merchant Marine. Following this discovery, accounts claim that the rescue parties fled when the ship caught fire. A violent explosion rocked the Ourang Medan before it disappeared into the water. Though many publications have offered theories about what happened to the freighter and its crew, a lack of compelling evidence have made it a question whether it even existed.

Secrets and Premonitions

Through exploration, players can uncover Secrets, objects that provide information about the past or the character's current predicament. "You can't really work out much from just one of them," Heaton explained. "You make connections and start to piece them together for the backstory. It will unlock scenes where characters will talk about what they know and it can help you as a player. If you find enough, you get hints allowing you to make better decisions for the rest of the game." Supermassive has teased several of the Secrets you can discover in the game on their Twitter page, including an anti-aircraft shell discovered on a wrecked B29.

In contrast, Premonitions provide a glimpse into the future, warning of a potential death awaiting a character. Though quick and often cryptic, perceptive players can use these visions to side-step fatal mishaps. Like Secrets, Supermassive has shared examples of Premonitions you can encounter in Man of Medan on Twitter.

Until Dawn

The Dark Pictures Anthology builds on the foundation created in Until Dawn, Supermassive's 2015 interactive horror game. The series will act as Until Dawn's spiritual successor, expanding on the acclaimed features established by the title. The developer also studied the approaches fans took through Until Dawn, using that data to inform new pathways and design elements. Much of the same team has transitioned to working on the new series. "Most of the Directors are the same, and about half of the team in total. We're also using many of the same creative partners," revealed Samuels.

Starting with Man of MedanThe Dark Pictures Anthology will take the branching narrative, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, and relatable characters seen in Until Dawn and ramp it up a notch. "Our brand of horror is about the vulnerability of characters that you care about. Characters that might be just a little like you. They're largely unarmed and unsuspecting, and are as terrified as you'd be if such events happened to you," said Samuels. "That's what effective horror is for us. 'Real' people, with believable relationships, subjected to extreme terror."

69 ways to die

Of the features Supermassive has highlighted in their approach to horror, the emphasis on branching narratives remains at the forefront. You can see this dedication at work in the number of ways characters can meet their end in Man of Medan, eclipsing the amount of impressive death scenes available in Until Dawn. "In Until Dawn there were 38 death scenes for the characters and you could see up to 10 on a single playthrough," revealed Samuels. "In Man of Medan there are 69, and the most you are likely to see on a single playthrough would be nine." This revelation further reinforces the game's replayability; to see all deaths you would have to go through the narrative at least nine times.

Grisly deaths are a unique challenge of the horror genre, one Supermassive approaches by holding regular planning sessions called "death meetings." During these periods the team gets together to brainstorm and plot original death scenes in a strictly judgement free zone. "It's s a real big problem because killing people — it's easy to just kill people," said Heaton. "We have to kill people in really entertaining ways."