The joking last line from the beloved 2010 third-person action-horror game Alan Wake – “It’s not a lake, it’s an ocean” – defines so much of why it remains an eye-catching experience that captures our collective imagination to this day. It’s mysterious and unsettling in all the best ways, a fitting end to a game that defies easy categorization. The game has endured, precisely because of how it pulls you into every detail using its unique gameplay mechanics that rely on finding light in the dark and the creeping fears that emerge from all corners of the world.
The game Remedy Entertainment takes place in the fictional Bright Falls, Washington, and follows the humorous author Alan Wake (Matthew Porretta), who is trapped in the city when a story he never remembers writing has come to life and threatens to devour him. In the ensuing chaos, Alan’s wife, Alice (Brett Madden), has disappeared. Alan has to track her down as he is attacked by “Taken”, shadowy figures devoured by “darkness”. He needs a combination of his flashlight and various weapons to get out alive.
The game recently received a remaster late last year that made some marked improvements in how it updated the graphics and removed a rather clumsy product placement. It revived the admiration and love for the game that has lasted after more than a decade. As expected after such a remaster, a sequel to the game has also been announced. Hosted the 2021 Game Awards ceremony Geoff Keighley announced it officially Alan Wake II comes sometime in 2023. He also spoke with the creator Sam Lake which promised that more details would be revealed about the game in the summer of 2022. Lake, however, said the game would “pave new ground” by leaning into the horror elements of the story.
This news and the still long wait ahead provides a perfect opportunity to look back on what made the first game great, as well as break down why, among all the games out there, this is what really deserves another access to continue with . Most notable is the fearsome story with all its twists and turns that provides a compelling narrative that still has more to tell. Nor is it afraid to embrace the absurd. Alan’s monologues and writing are completely on the nose, a playful imitation of the type of thriller fiction for which he is a clear stand-in. It provides a surreal cocktail of having to wade you through scary images while still giving a chance to breathe when you laugh at how silly it all is.
The idiosyncratic elements of the gameplay that make you always look into every corner of every new environment are also commendable. Alan is constantly threatened and keeps you on your toes, demanding that you act quickly when an attacker jumps out of the darkness. Having to keep an eye on both your remaining ammunition and the battery power in your flashlight is a compelling challenge. The way you use them both to fight the enemies that are starting to swarm you creates exciting engagements with each turn.
Especially the meeting where you have to defend yourself against wave after wave of Taken while on a stage in the middle of a deserted yard is an eye-catching one. There are moments like these where you are surrounded on all sides that you have to keep your head on a swivel so as not to be caught unawares and taken down from behind. Once trapped in the darkness of the forest or the borders of various abandoned buildings, there is little time to maneuver away from danger and you must think fast to survive.
With all that in mind, to be honest, there are also elements in the game that could be improved. Even in the remaster, it’s hard not to feel that the game only just scratches the surface of the potential for what could be done with the material. While certainly a powerful work for its time, a new entrance could polish the rougher edges of the experience, such as the rigid character animations and narrowly focused settings. Even if you just look at the first trailer for the new game, the beauty of the horror etched in Alan’s face and the vividly rendered world around him show how much room for growth there is.
You can also expand the range of abilities you have. Although there is a lot to love in the original solid gameplay, when you unfortunately reach a ceiling on what is possible in the game. With a short game like this you can easily see yourself running out of new things to do or experience. While it’s nice to see the simplicity of a game without massive skill trees that never seem to end, it can be borderline repetitive when faced with the same enemies with the same range of weapons and abilities available to you. . It’s by no means a boring experience, but it could be so much more.
A good example of what this might look like can be seen in one of Remedy’s latest excellent games: 2019’s Control, a game with many explicit allusions to Alan Wake. Also centered on dealing with paranormal enemies, the scope and ambition of the game is still one of the media’s highlights in recent memory. In the game, you develop the ability to use psychokinetic forces that range from the ability to fire projectiles at enemies or even control their minds to turn them against each other. You also have a special range of weapons that change shape based on your different needs in a world that is constantly changing.
Control shows how Remedy, when given the right resources, can consistently challenge your expectations and a new one Alan Wake would be the perfect game to do it with. If the new game follows in the footsteps of Control, then we really wanted to be part of something special. In a world of endless remakes, reboots and sequels that make money on nostalgia, Alan Wake is a game that really deserves and would benefit from a reunion. The potential is there, and with all that is possible in more modern game design, it’s hard to think of a more anticipated sequel than what we’re waiting for. Alan Wake II.
We are going to see the big improvements of the game
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