Alan Wake 2 is the successor to the original Alan Wake (2010) and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (2012). Both games concluded with a somewhat open ending, ending with the statement, “it’s not a lake, it’s an ocean.” Now, 14 years after its initial release, let’s delve into the review of Alan Wake 2 and see if we can unravel this mystery…
- The setting and story of Alan Wake 2
- Navigating puzzles and immersion
- In-game vs. Live Action
- Audio, visual and technical
- Should you buy Alan Wake 2? My conclusion!
The setting and story of Alan Wake 2
Alan Wake 2 expands beyond the story of Alan Wake, introducing FBI special agent Saga Anderson as a playable character. Despite their distinct narratives, both characters share common gameplay elements, a topic we’ll explore later.
As someone who played the first game a while back (2013), I was excited to see where Alan Wake 2 was going and how the story would unfold. I had to jog my memory a bit because it’s been a while since I played the original. Luckily, the game fills you in on past events. Honestly, you don’t have to play the first game to get the second one, but it does give you more background on the story and the Alan Wake universe.
Playing as Saga Anderson
The game kicks off with you stepping into the shoes of Saga Anderson, accompanied by her partner Alex Casey, portrayed by none other than Sam Lake, the lead writer of the Alan Wake games. Their mission takes them to Bright Falls, the setting of the first game, to investigate a ritualistic murder involving the presumed-to-be-missing FBI agent Robert Nightingale.
Gradually, the player is immersed in the eerie atmosphere of the game. Unlike the action-oriented feel of the first Alan Wake games from my experience, Alan Wake 2 leans more towards survival horror. The game keeps you on edge, as enemies could spring upon you at any moment. One minute, you’re in Bright Falls during the daylight, and the next, you find yourself alone in the ominous woods, well aware of the unsettling implications that come with it.
As Saga delves deeper into her initial case in Bright Falls, she gradually connects the dots, organizing the evidence on the Case Board. Located within Saga’s Mind Place, a space dedicated to her research, profiling, and weapon upgrades, the Case Board serves as a storytelling tool. It breaks down the narrative into manageable chunks, making it easy for players to understand. If you happen to forget a crucial event or character, a quick visit to the Case Board allows you to effortlessly identify who they are and understand their role. Moreover, you can trace the actions that led to your current point in the game, enhancing the overall clarity of the story.
As Saga, you stumble upon pages that Alan Wake wrote. He’s trying to escape his own story and the Dark Place where he’s stuck. Whenever Saga finds these pages, they give a sneak peek into what’s coming up soon in the story.
Playing as Alan Wake
Shortly after Saga’s first chapter is completed, you are able to play as Alan Wake who has been stuck in the Dark Place since the first Alan Wake where he has spent the last 13 years writing himself out of his own horror story. In the Dark Place Alan is in a constant struggle the escape the so called Dark Presence and his even doppelganger, mr. Scratch.
Most of Alan’s journey takes place in a Shadow version of New York City where his old appartment was situated. This version of New York City is inhibited by shadow figures. The shadow figures can be real enemies but can also dissapear into thin air whenever you shine your flashlight on them. This make you constantly on edge when playing through Alan’s Story. This makes Alan’s story way more scarier than Saga’s.
Since Alan is a writer stuck in his own story, he’s determined to change it the way he wants. Desperately searching for an exit in the Dark Place, whenever he faces a dead end, you can find clues (echoes) in the area that suggest how he can rewrite his story. To make these changes, Alan uses the Plot Board, similar to Saga’s Case Board, to connect and adjust the story elements. Choosing different plots alters the surroundings, offering new paths for Alan.
Early on, Alan acquires an Angel Lamp that allows him to transfer light from one source to another, changing his surroundings. Alan’s story unfolds like a puzzle, using the story board and light sources to navigate the dark place.
As Alan’s story progresses, you gain more insight into characters from the first game, such as Thomas Zane, a filmmaker who went missing near Cauldron Lake in Bright Falls. It’s great that the game revisits these characters, avoiding loose ends and ensuring they’re not forgotten.
Will Alan Wake 2 have DLC?
So, is that it for Alan Wake 2 after finishing the game? No, definitely not. Alan Wake 2 will receive two paid sets of DLC or expansions.
The first upcoming expansion is called ‘Night Springs‘. This expansion revolves around a fictional TV show named Night Springs, where you play as a familiar character venturing through the set of the fictional TV series.
The second upcoming expansion is called ‘The Lake House’. This expansion is centered on the Lake House, a mysterious facility located near Cauldron Lake where everything went awry in the first Alan Wake game. Secret research is conducted here, once again intertwining the realities of Alan Wake and Saga Anderson.
Navigating puzzles and immersion
As you may have seen in other reviews of Alan Wake 2, the game’s story is widely praised, with many considering it one of the best games of the past decade. While I generally agree with these opinions, I do have a significant criticism.
At times, the game lacks clear direction, leaving players uncertain about their next steps. This issue is particularly noticeable in Alan’s Story, where light-based puzzles are central. I found myself frequently turning to the internet or YouTube for solutions to specific puzzles. Upon discovering the solution, I was either surprised by its simplicity or frustrated that I had previously attempted it but did not solve it. While this didn’t occur frequently, it did briefly break the game’s immersion for me.
In-game vs. Live Action
The game primarily takes place within its in-game environment, but it also has several Live Action segments seamlessly woven into the gameplay. This mainly occurs in Alan’s Story. Without giving away spoilers, there’s a talk show scene where Alan is interviewed about the book he’s writing. In some games, these Live Action parts might feel out of place or disrupt the immersion.
When I first discovered there were Live Action segments in the game, I was somewhat sceptical. However, these segments turned out to be exceptionally well done, professional, humorous, and seamlessly integrated into the story.
In Alan Wake 2, the combat primarily revolves around facing off against the Taken, townsfolk of Bright Falls possessed by the Dark Presence when controlling Saga, or combating the shadow inhabitants of New York City as Alan Wake. Both characters rely on a pistol as their primary weapon. Similar to the first Alan Wake game, players must first weaken their enemies using a light source. The flashlight serves as the main light source, but as the story progresses, players discover a variety of other light sources to weaken enemies. Additionally, players can find different firearms, such as shotguns or hunting rifles, providing a range of options beyond a single weapon.
The combat mechanics function smoothly and effectively. Weakening enemies with a flashlight and then defeating them with a firearm is a straightforward process. However, players face limitations on flashlight batteries and bullets, therefore the player needs to manage their supplies. In my playthrough, I rarely ran out of supplies in combat, except for a single instance. Without available batteries, options to defeat enemies become limited.
Personally, I have a few concerns about the combat. First off, it feels slow when I try to switch between weapons, especially going from a gun to a light gadget like a Flare or Flashbang. Also, using a light or healing during a combat can be a bit tricky. Healing is better done before or after the fight, and turning on a light can get interrupted by enemy attacks. Plus, if you keep clicking to turn on the light, it doesn’t always work right away. Lastly, sometimes when I’m aiming a light at an enemy, it randomly stops, and I have to turn it back on. It did not happen a lot, but it’s a bit annoying.
To sum it up, the combat in Alan Wake is good, but I do have some small concerns. These might not be a big deal for everyone, but they stood out to me.
Audio, visual and technical
If we step away from discussing the gameplay and zoom in on the audio, visuals, and technical aspects of Alan Wake 2, the game also does quite well with a few remarks here and there.
Audio, music and suspense
The audio and music in Alan Wake 2 are fantastic. The music and sound always carry a mysterious, eerie vibe that perfectly fits the current setting. Whether you’re in or out of combat, the music significantly contributes to the overall suspense and the uneasy atmosphere that lingers throughout the game.
Upon completing a chapter in either Alan’s or Saga’s stories, you unlock a new audio track—an original soundtrack recorded by various artists. One notable returning artist is the Old Gods of Asgard, a fictional Viking band that played a role in both the first Alan Wake and its sequel. The Old Gods of Asgard are portrayed by Poets of the Fall, a well-known Finnish rock band. They’ve crafted amazing songs for the game and beyond.
In addition to the fantastic in-game audio crafted by original artists, there’s also a plenty of additional media to discover. Throughout the game, you can collect radio programs by tuning in to radios found all over the game. Moreover, there are entertaining and witty TV commercials created by the Koskela Brothers that you can find in Bright Falls. If you don’t feel like hunting down these TV commercials on your own, you can take a look at them right here!
Graphics and environment
Much like the captivating audio in the game, the graphics and environment are truly outstanding. Wandering through Bright Falls gives a genuine sense of being in a small American town. As you explore beyond Bright Falls, the wilderness is beautifully visualized, pulling you even deeper into the game.
During my playthrough, I had the opportunity to experience the game on Ultra Settings, and I achieved this with an NVIDIA RTX 3070, coupled with components from 2019 for the rest of my computer. If you possess a mid-range PC with a higher-end GPU, you shouldn’t encounter any issues enjoying the full Alan Wake 2 experience. Moreover, there are numerous guides available to assist you if you ever run into performance hiccups with the game.
Was everything great about my Alan Wake 2 playthrough? No, definitely not. It was actually quite rocky on my first attempt.
The reason behind this? I installed Alan Wake 2 on my HDD, my hard drive. This allowed me to run the game on High settings, but it led to numerous visual glitches. For instance, models wouldn’t load completely and there were a lot of stutters. This meant I could run the game with a high FPS, but it froze every minute or so for a few seconds. This really disrupted my immersion in the game. Apparently, it’s now mandatory for most AAA games to be installed on an SSD instead of an HDD. When I read this, somewhat annoyed, I bought another SSD since my existing one was only used for my Windows.
After I installed Alan Wake 2 on my SSD, all these issues disappeared and it was smooth sailing from there on. Therefore, I’d strongly recommend installing Alan Wake 2 on an SSD. If you want to see what I experienced, take a look at the video.
Should you buy Alan Wake 2? My conclusion!
Yes, you should buy Alan Wake 2 at any price. You don’t need to play the original games to understand this one. However, it does help a lot to provide you context about characters and the universe.
Most reviews are overwhelmingly positive about Alan Wake. Some reviewers even gave the game a 10/10. Do I think Alan Wake 2 is a 10/10 game? No. Is it one of the better games released in the last decade? Certainly. It is a gaming cinematic masterpiece.
My only complaints about the game are that some puzzles feel somewhat unintuitive to me, the story can be somewhat slow at times, and I had some struggles in combat, as you might have read before. These concerns, however, are minor in my overall experience. Alan Wake 2 is a game that should be played by anyone who’s interested in mystery, thriller, adventure, and horror games.
I’ve invested 25 hours in Alan Wake 2, and I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of it. While it’s possible to complete it more quickly, I opted to progress at my own pace. Pick it up; you won’t regret it.
Alan Wake 2 Review
Alan Wake 2 is an extraordinary game that builds on the first game's universe without relying too much on it. This allows the game to be accessible for everyone. Using the unique gameplay elements of Alan and Saga woven into a captivating story creates a masterpiece that everyone should play.
- Unique Gameplay10