The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan has a mysterious story and many different endings. While things may seem obvious at first and the game leads you to believe it’s a story about a ghost ship, it is not so. It’s not the horror game it’s made out to be, in reality it is a mystery game about a secret military project. The more playthroughs you do, the more obvious this becomes, as there are many hints dropped by the curator and collectibles. For example, one mystery to many players will be some characters just disappear and are dead at the end of the game without it being clear what happened to them (you never saw them die). This post will explain all of it.
Also in a unique way, the game does most of its story-telling through collectibles (50 secrets) and the curator (a man between the main acts) will drop some hints. Finding and reviewing the collectibles is vital to understanding what’s really going on.
After 10 playthroughs and reviewing all collectibles here’s my understanding of Man of Medan’s events, the endings that I unlocked, and a synopsis of the story.
Man of Medan Synopsis
- The game starts at a Chinese market with two soldiers having a night out. A fortune teller tells them their future and they try out their fighting skills against a training dummy.
- The men go back to their ship, the “Ourang Medan”. They are drunk and their boss locks them into rooms to sober up.
- A cutscene shows some yellow-colored mist leaking out into the ship’s cargo hold.
- Suddenly all hell breaks loose. Our characters wake up in their rooms and will reunite. The ship sequence ends with our character seeing a hallucination of what looks like his son and gets killed by it no matter what we do. We also see cutscenes of other people dying seemingly in fear of something unknown. All of this is the prologue that plays in the year 1947.
- Now we are put back in present day and meet our main characters, consisting of Alex, Brad, Conrad, Fliss, Julia. They are meeting up on a boat, called “The Duke of Milan”. Fliss is the captain and was paid by the others for a diving trip. She doesn’t know any of them. Alex and Brad are brothers. Alex and Julia are lovers. Conrad is Julia’s brother, him and Alex meet for the first time on this trip. Brad was invited by Julia, he doesn’t know any of the others except for his brother Alex.
- After some initial banter, they embark on a boat trip with the purpose of diving for a plane wreck and search for an old ship that contains “Manchurian Gold”, what they believe to be a long-lost treasure.
- Brad gets seasick. He has no diving experience and apparently never went on a boat trip before. He will rest in his bed.
- Fliss will complain that it’s standard regulation to report new never before seen wrecks to the authorities, but the friends will dive regardless of Fliss’s complaints.
- Alex and Julia will put on their rebreathers and dive to an underwater plane wreck.
- Another boat with some “fishermen” arrives and gets damaged by the diving line that our friends put in the water. They complain that they got damages because of this, but Fliss (our captain) will tell them to get away. Conrad will throw money in the water to flaunt his wealth (he is a rich guy).
- Because of the fisher boat crashing into the diving line, it will rip off the cockpit of the underwater plane wreck. Alex and Julia see a shark and will swim back to the surface. Along the way, Alex might propose to Julia if Brad encouraged him earlier to “go with his gut”. Julia can accept or decline the proposal which will strain their relationship for the rest of the story.
- As they swim up, Julia spots an explosion on the boat. She is supposed to decompress first to prevent diver’s sickness (“the bends”). If she doesn’t decompress and drinks alcohol later, she will die from this sickness by the end of the game. If she decompresses, she will be fine.
- It turns out the explosion on the boat was just a mishap with the grill and nothing to worry about.
- The friends exchange some stories and sit down for a beer. Brad tells a ghost story.
- The same night, the “fishermen” come back to intrude the ship (Olson being their leader, Danny and Junior being his two henchmen). Turns out, they are pirates after all. They tie up our 5 characters and question them about how much money their parents have, in the attempt to extort some money.
- A fierce storm breaks out. Conrad can try to escape on a speedboat or fight the pirates. If he escapes he will be gone till the final ending cutscenes, but if he attacks the pirates will always overpower him. Julia can potentially get shot here by the pirate leader “Olson” if Alex is being aggressive towards the pirates.
- The pirates find a document that speaks of the “Manchurian Gold”, to be found on an old lost ship. Our friends were also searching for this. The pirates change their plans. Instead of extorting our friends’ parents for money, they now want to find this hidden “treasure”. They wrongfully think it is actual physical gold, but as we saw in the initial cutscenes it’s a chemical (the yellow mist that leaked out on the Ourang Medan ship).
- The storm keeps going and crashes our boat into a much bigger ship, the “ghost ship” of which the full name is Ourang Medan. Here everyone goes on board. Olson (pirate leader) takes our boat’s distributor cap, the part that makes the engine work. Without it, the boat won’t start.
- The pirates lock our friends into a dark room. Here they discuss that they have to get back their boat’s distributor cap from Olson, the pirate leader. Without this important part, their boat’s engine cannot run and they couldn’t get away.
- The friends escape the room through a vent. They can either barricade the main door or distract the pirates, either way they will escape, but Fliss can be captured here.
- After some walking through the ship, the friends see Olson putting their boat’s distributor cap in the cargo hold. They try to sneak down and grab it, but no matter who you send down there will fail and get captured by the pirates.
- Alex and Julia will run away and go through a kitchen and a place with some caskets in it. Fliss, if she was captured by the pirates in the cargo hold, will be escorted by Danny. Brad, if he stayed undetected on the Duke of Milan will still be on the boat and now goes onboard the Ourang Medan to help Alex, Conrad, Fliss and Julia. However, if he was detected on the boat he’ll already be with the friends.
- Eventually, Fliss will reach a fancy-looking, red-colored ballroom. This is just a hallucination from the “Manchurian Gold” mist of course. She can pull a lever to go backstage and get some fresh air on the outer deck to clear her head from the Manchurian Gold’s hallucination effects. After a little while, a cutscene automatically triggers. She will either see a demon or she sees Brad. If she and Brad recognize each other they can proceed together. If Fliss sees a demon, she will run away. Likewise, if Brad sees a demon and not Fliss, he will run away.
- If Fliss and Brad recognized each other, they will go together, then a room gets flooded and they have to save each other from drowning. If Brad and Fliss didn’t meet up, we will get a chapter instead where Conrad runs away from a nurse. Conrad can die during the chase, or if he confronts the nurse at the end of the chase he will survive.
- Alex and Julia get attacked by Olson and fall into water (if they’re still alive). Then Alex can try to drown Olson. However, Olson won’t die and they keep running away from him.
- The group reuinites on the weather deck (outer deck) of the ship. Together they find a working radio to send a distress signal. But the power goes out after a few seconds.
- Two of the group must jump down to turn the power to the radio back on. The rest of the group stays behind.
- Whoever goes downstairs will encounter Olson and Junior. Olson will run around with a big hammer. Junior will be armed with a gun and has “gone mad” from the Manchurian Gold mist.
- Depending on your choices, you will get different final encounters with Olson where we either fight him for the distributor cap or he dies from external factors and we must retrieve the cap.
- END OF STORY – There are lots of different ending combinations, see below.
Man of Medan Story Explained
The game may look like it is supposed to be a horror game, but it is not. It’s a mystery game. The biggest hint comes from the curator if we ask him for help after Act 2. He will say that nothing is as it seems and that bigger power are at play, particularly politics and military. The rest we can piece together from collectable documents and playing the story in co-op.
- The Ourang Medan is NOT a ghost ship. It is a military cargo ship that carried the “Manchurian Gold”. It’s a secret chemical hallucinogen that the military wanted to weaponize in the 40’s to precisely target areas with dense enemy infantry, such as trenches and bunk houses (not in real life, just an imaginary weapon in the game). It causes affected humans to have strong brain responses that make them hallucinate and see other humans as scary demons. The intent of the military was to make the enemy infantry “go mad” and have them kill each other because they would see each other as demons. Effects can also include death from heart attacks, due to high levels of stress and fear. People literally die of fear from this chemical weapon. We can find proof of all this in the two collectibles Secret #17, Manchurian Gold Test Results, Chapter: Glamor Girl & Secret #33, Toxins Research, Chapter: Matters of the Heart.
- We saw the Manchurian Gold chemical leak out at the very start of the game in the cargo hold of the Ourang Medan military ship, in the year 1947 (we know the date from a Newspaper, Secret #44, Chapter: Trapped). This is the time when everyone on board went “crazy” because they were affected by this chemical weapon and started seeing their comrades as ghosts and scary demons.
- Consequently, we can say there are no ghosts whatsoever on this ship. It’s only the “Manchurian Gold” chemical affecting people’s brain so they can’t think clearly and see other humans as demons.
- The demons that we see are actually our friends! Any demon we kill is a friend of ours we kill! It’s therefore best not to pick up any weapons you find during the story. If we don’t have weapons, we can’t kill our friends (demons to us) by accident.
- Manchurian Gold works in a way that we see demons that relate to some image that character saw recently. The brain plays a trick on the person and makes them imagine other persons as that thing.
- The little kid we see in the prologue is actually our friend who was with us on the Chinese Market. We’ll notice him suddenly disappearing. Well, turns out the both kill each other. If you play the game in Shared Story co-op you can actually see each of them seeing a demon and getting killed by it. In reality they killed each other. We see the demon as a kid because there was a prompt to ask the fortune teller how our kids is doing, and also because there was a picture of our kid in the room we woke up in.
- We notice the Manchurian Gold’s effect getting stronger the longer we are on the ship. As Fliss and Brad in Chapter “Ritual” they can see each other as demons. If Fliss does not get backstage and outside to get fresh air, she will see Brad as a hooded demon and could attack him. If she picked up the knife from the Cargo Hold, she can kill him without realizing it’s Brad (we as the player only see a hooded demon and will wonder why Brad is dead at the end of the game). Likewise, if Brad didn’t find the Gas Mask in Chapter “Finding Friends”, he will see Fliss as a ghoulish demon and will attack her. If Fliss went backstage to get fresh air, we can actually see her breathing out the Manchurian Gold. Because it’s not cold enough outside to see the breath, what she breathes out is actually Manchurian Gold chemicals (it also has a faint yellowish taint). She breathes in fresh air, which reduces the effect of the chemical and clears her head. After she returns back inside, the ballroom is gone (because it was a hallucination) and we see the ship again as it is (an old dirty cargo hold in present time). When Brad comes, Fliss will see him as Brad because she went out to breathe fresh air and clear her head. We can see fresh air clearing up the Manchurian Gold’s effects later again when calming down Junior (more on this soon). We also see Olson breathing out the Manchurian Gold when he dies in the kitchen during Chapter “Matters of the Heart”. Because of this we have confirmation what it looks like when breathed out and that the effects clear up when breathing fresh air.
- If Fliss saw Brad as a hooded Demon, she will run away. Then we get a chapter with Conrad where he sees a pretty Nurse, then she turns into an old Nurse and chases after him. This is in reality Fliss! Because she went a different path now than had she recognized Brad. Conrad sees her as a “hot nurse” because he was flirting with Fliss on the boat and clearly likes her. Further, Conrad saw a poster of a nurse during a cutscene (after escaping from the room the pirates trapped our friends in, after arriving on Ourang Medan ship). This becomes very evident when playing the game in Co-Op with 2 players. One will play as Fliss and look at a scared Conrad who runs away from her. All that Conrad sees is a demonic nurse chasing after him.
- Julia will see Olson as either Alex or a ghoulish demon, after Olson attacks her and she falls into water. If her relationship status with Alex is very positive, then Olson will have Alex’s face in the hallucination. So in this case, a relationship status effects what Julia sees. Because she loves Alex and it scares her the most to see two Alexes trying to drown each other, that’s what Manchurian Gold makes her see. If she didn’t accept Alex’s proposal and doesn’t care a whole lot for him, she’ll just see a ghoulish character in the water because that’s more scary to her then. So people see different things, depending on what scares them more.
- When our friends find a radio that’s still working, beware that it is a military radio connected to a military station. Remember, we are on a secret military cargo ship, carrying a secret military project that we were never supposed to find. Telling them the name of the ship is a trap and results in the military arriving at the end of the game and killing the survivors, because we “saw too much”. We can only tell them to name of the ship if we found Secret #41, Medan Hat, Chapter: Danny & Secret #42, Ship’s Logbook, Chapter: Distress Signal. Even if we don’t tell them the name of the ship, they will come to rescue us but realize later what ship it is and put the survivors in prison so they can’t spill the secrets to the public. This is why we know the game is really about secret warfare projects and not about ghosts.
- After finding the radio we encounter Olson again, who has clearly gone completely mad by this point. He is seeing ghosts everywhere and smashes everything with his hammer, even stabbing his own friend “Danny”, one of his pirate crew members.
- When we encounter Junior, who is holding a gun to our head, we can calm him down if we picked up the rebreather on our way to him. If we succeed in calming down Junior, we can use the rebreather on him to give him fresh air, which reduces the Manchurian Gold’s effects and makes him clear in the head again.
So there you have it – the game is totally about solving a mystery and not about being a scary ghost story. It wasn’t until doing a co-op run with 2 screens side by side that I realized what was really happening and which “demons” represented which friends. I love the writing of this game, I still kept finding new details after 5+ playthroughs and it’s much more complex than what it seems after the first playthrough.
Man of Medan Endings Explained
Below are some of the core endings in The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan. There are a lot more variations depending on how many people survive, but they come down to a few different outcomes. This is what I found after 10+ playthroughs:
- Rescue Helicopter Arrives, the military shoots the survivors: (worst ending) This happens if you told the military the name of the ship you’re on over the radio (only if you found the collectibles for it – Secret #41 & Secret #42). In my case, Brad was the only survivor but the Military shot him on sight. This is because we’ve seen too much – the Ourang Medan is a long-lost military cargo ship, carrying the secret military chemical weapon “Manchurian Gold”. We’ve simply seen too much and the military can’t risk us spilling their secrets, so they shoot the survivors.
- Rescue Helicopter Arrives, the survivors get imprisoned: This happens if you gave the military your coordinates over the radio, but did not tell them the name of the ship (didn’t find the required collectibles). They will rescue you, but realize what ship and secrets you have found. To make sure you can’t tell anyone about it, they put the survivors in prison. So in conclusion, the radio call is a trap and you shouldn’t tell them anything.
- Distributor Cap gets destroyed, didn’t give info over radio: The survivors will be stranded on the Ourang Medan ship. They failed to get the distributor cap from Olson in one piece. That leaves them no way to escape. They will wander around the ship and succumb to their imaginary fears through Manchurian Gold. They will die from fear and lack of food/water.
- Fliss dies trying to paddle back to land: If the Distributor Cap got destroyed and Fliss is alive at the end, she will take her chances on her boat and try to paddle in back to land. Without the Distributor cap, the engine won’t turn on. Fliss will burn to death from the sun and dehydrate.
- Distributor Cap is recovered in one piece, Survivors escape by boat, didn’t give info over radio (best ending): This is the best ending (assuming everyone is alive at the end). You can put the Distributor cap back in your boat and drive back the way you came as if none o this ever happened. Because you didn’t tell the military over the radio that you’re on their ship, they won’t know and won’t come to catch you. So you won’t end up getting shot or being imprisoned.
- Conrad escaped on Speedboat, comes back with a bigger boat: Conrad comes to the Ourang Medan to help his friends, but wanders inside the chemical-filled ship and goes mad from the Manchurian Gold. I got this after the other 4 survivors escaped by boat (found distributor cap). There may be more variations on this if they don’t get the cap.
- Olson and Danny are revived from the dead, Olson turns into a superhuman with red glowing eyes: I got this while going for the “everybody survives” ending. Danny, who was stabbed by Olson, is alive again for no apparent reason and finds the dead Olson in the kitchen. Olson suddenly gets red glowing eyes and superhuman strength. He grabs Danny by the throat and lifts him up with one hand and kills him. In this ending Olson has transformed into a sort of superhuman, maybe a side effect of Manchurian Gold? What happens to him afterward is left unexplained.
Given the complexity of the game there are sure to be more twists and variations of endings, so feel free to share your own endings in the comment section below.