Alan Wake 2 isn't what I was expecting, and it's all the better because of it
It was impossible to anticipate what Remedy Entertainment would do with Alan Wake 2. Trust me, I've spent much of the last decade trying to dream this sequel into reality. Wake's long-awaited escape from the Dark Place had always seemed so obvious to me: the writer would commence work on a new novel, allowing us to explore a twisted shadow of Bright Falls while Wake inadvertently rewrote reality around him, with Remedy using this frame to pull focus onto larger combat scenarios and a more authored open world – less of a Departure, and more of a continuation. Thankfully, Remedy has gone in an entirely different direction with its upcoming sequel for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.
The Alan Wake 2 set for release on October 17 appears to be far more thematically adventurous, mechanically interesting, and narratively dense than anything I could have ever imagined that we'd get. Wake has spent the last 13 years as a prisoner of the Dark Place, trapped beneath the nightmarish waters under Cauldron Lake. But the thrust of Alan Wake 2 won't seemingly be in us attempting to secure his Return, but rather in seeing what horrors his ongoing attempts to write himself out of a nightmare have wrought on the small town of Bright Falls.
Into the unknown
Introducing a second playable character to Alan Wake 2 is perhaps the boldest creative decision Remedy could have chosen to make here. Players have been waiting 13 years to reunite with Wake, and by putting us in the position of chasing his shadow – as the consequences of his actions in the Dark Place begin to have horrendous ramifications in the real world – is inspired. How this will work in practice is speculative at this stage, but the gameplay reveal trailer offers hints: FBI Agents Saga Anderson and Alex Casey are assigned to Bright Falls to investigate a series of ritualistic murders, following the death of one of their own. We see Anderson discovering pages of a horror story that is beginning to come true around her, leaving us to question whether Wake will be friend or foe.
That point is further emphasized by some of the stranger things we're seeing on our screens. The victim who acts as a catalyst for the FBI to arrive in the Pacific Northwest is none other than Robert Nightingale – the special agent who becomes obsessed with hunting Wake in the original game, appearing as a haunted husk in the closing scenes of the adventure just hours after we see him supposedly consumed by the Dark Presence. Then there's Agent Casey himself, a fictional construct – the protagonist of an action-thriller book series written by Wake in-universe.
That Casey has any sort of tangible presence within Bright Falls highlights Wake's desperation to escape his supernatural prison. It indicates that he's willing to go to any lengths – willing to write any image his mind can conjure – in an attempt to return to the real world, consequences be damned. It's such an interesting narrative concept, particularly as Remedy has confirmed that Alan Wake 2 will feature two story paths that can be played seamlessly in any order; intertwined adventures that will reflect and echo one another.
Alan Wake 2 will get free DLC and two full expansions
We know that Anderson's story path will see the veteran detective attempting to solve the murders occurring all across Bright Falls, but what of Wake's journey? That's more difficult to figure out. The writer may be trapped in a nightmarish reality but the Dark Place operates on dream logic – which would explain why it has taken the form of a twisted, nocturnal New York, the city Wake once called home and provided the setting for his Alex Casey crime books. Is this where we'll see Alan Wake 2 collide with the wider Remedy Connected Universe? A tease of what appears to be the Oceanview Hotel certainly seems to suggest so, given that The Oldest House's relationship to dream logic often led Jesse Faden into an Oceanview Motel throughout Control.
A lot of questions and not a lot of answers. But that's how it should be. Remedy had two paths at the outset of Alan Wake 2's development: the easy route, another Stephen King inspired action-horror game which gives us more of a good thing; or the more challenging, which attempts to explore the actions of Wake from a new perspective while allowing us to delve first-hand into the tangible dangers of the Dark Place. It's this more adventurous framing which is driving my excitement, and apparently some big changes to combat and world design too.
Alan Wake was a linear adventure interspersed with wide-open areas, an uncomfortable hangover from when Remedy had hoped to make it a full open world game. For Alan Wake 2, it sounds as if the game will be contained to more distinct areas – Dark Place New York, and three key locations in the Pacific Northwest region; Bright Falls, Cauldron Lake, and then a new area known as Watery. So long as these locations are densely detailed, and packed with an array of quirky characters, then a more intimate scale should work wonders for Alan Wake 2.
Image 1 of 2
Image 2 of 2
As for combat, we can see in the trailer that Saga is able to use light to burn shadows, but it would appear that some fundamentals are changing. The camera now clings more closely to the protagonists, reflecting inspiration from Capcom's remake of Resident Evil 2, while it looks as if Saga and Alan will face different scales of threats. Anderson is only ever seen in the trailer combatting single, towering enemies, while Wake appears to be being hunted by hordes of flickering creatures. A tantalizing divergence, given the nightmare each character finds themselves enveloped within.
There's a lot of Alan Wake 2 left for Remedy to showcase as we inch closer towards the October 17 release date, but I'm desperate to see more. After years of speculation, Alan Wake 2 has arrived, and it's done so in a way that I would never have dared dream. Whether this massive shift in tone, style, and action will be a success will depend entirely on the execution, of course, but Remedy has put a convincing proposition forward here. I always wanted to help Alan Wake escape from the Dark Place, I just never thought it would be quite like this – and that's damned exciting.
Alan Wake 2 is one of the most anticipated new games of 2023. While you wait for it to land this October, why not check out some of the other upcoming horror games we're waiting on.