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Alan Wake 2 Review

Alan Wake 2 Review

Alan Wake 2 immediately establishes the kind of sequel it is in its opening sequence. If you’ve managed to avoid spoilers so far, I won’t describe it in detail here. All you need to know is that it’s weirder, darker, and scarier, expanding on the original’s creepy, strange atmosphere tenfold. Remedy didn’t show up with Alan Wake 2 to play things safe; the studio takes creative risks with the full force of a trust fall and ultimately delivers a narrative with a decisive, unique vision. If you loved the original Alan Wake, Remedy’s other hit title Control, or classic media like Twin Peaks, The Shining, and True Detective, you’re in for quite a ride (and plenty of easter eggs).

Taking place 13 in-game and real-life years after Alan Wake, the story delivers us back to Cauldron Lake and Bright Falls. This time, we’re not just stepping into the eponymous writer’s shoes; instead, we get the lay of the land from the perspective of our new deuteragonist, FBI Agent Saga Anderson. With her partner Alex Casey — yes, his name is the same as the character from Alan’s crime-thriller books — Saga investigates ritualistic murders in Bright Falls, which ultimately tie back to Alan’s disappearance years ago. Things, of course, progressively get weirder, which is part and parcel of Remedy’s storytelling.

alan wake 2 narrative

The narrative is paced out exceptionally well, building the mystery and tension with care. Departing from the linearity of the original, Alan Wake 2 lets you seamlessly swap back and forth between Saga and Alan’s chapters as you please. Both campaigns are vital to the themes the story explores, from what it means to create art to the oppressing nature of self-doubt. If you asked me on my first run, I’d have said I liked playing Saga’s sections better. There’s just something about exploring the rainy Pacific Northwest and interacting with the locals that draws me in. The mystery surrounding her family also had me on the edge of my seat. But after having played the game a couple of times through now, especially since the release of The Final Draft NG+ mode, I have a lot of love for Alan’s Dark Place chapters. You can’t help but feel as lost, confused, and stuck as he does.

As far as gameplay goes, Saga’s investigation primarily happens in her Mind Place. Akin to Sherlock’s “Mind Palace,” this internal space allows Saga to pin clues to a case board, profile suspects, upgrade her weapons, and keep track of collectables. For me, threading the evidence on the wall wasn’t the most exciting part. It felt more like an interactive journal, keeping track of all the plot points and characters, than it felt like making substantial, investigative discoveries. That said, it’s much better than the standard journal most games give you, so I won’t complain too much. With a story as complex as this, it’s easy to lose track of all the moving parts. Additionally, completing each case file was pretty satisfying, even if the process of pinning clues to the wall was a bit tedious.

alan wake 2 plot board

Alan’s version of this mechanic is his Writer’s Room, which you’ll recognise as the room from the first game. This is where you’ll alter the environment of the Dark Place by choosing different scenes on a Plot Board. One location could have anywhere from three to four different scenes, all created by Alan in an attempt to discover new information, find key items, or escape from danger. Manipulating the Dark Place is such a cool mechanic, and it’s downright scary, as each change is creepier and more shocking than the last.

Alan Wake 2 still arms you with your flashlight and gun-of-choice duo, but it also makes some changes to the original’s combat in the form of more weapon variety, slower and less frequent Taken encounters, and an upgrade system for Alan and Saga, all of which are done very well. Additionally, I appreciate the absence of enemies constantly appearing behind you, as well as the less tedious fights. Overall, I’d take this combat over the original’s any day.

alan wake 2 combat

However, you might not share the same sentiments if you liked the gunplay of the original; this sequel definitely leans more into survival-horror mechanics than action. Your flashlight doesn’t refill itself anymore, so you’re much more dependent on collecting batteries this time, and the new flashlight boost can also be a bit inconsistent, as it’s used to deplete darkness from a Taken enemy, but it’s unclear how much charge is needed to do so. This will feel a lot different if you’re accustomed to the flashlight always burning off the darkness in the first game. Enemies are also much more spongy on Normal difficulty, which would probably be more annoying if there were more combat encounters to deal with.

Boss fights didn’t add too much fun to the game, unfortunately. Aside from one terrifying fight that I loved and won’t spoil here, most were frustrating or unmemorable. The first boss was also excessively overtuned, making it a slog to get through. The upside, though, is that the aesthetics of these encounters were always very interesting, blending reality and the nightmares of the Dark Place in such a strange and mesmerising way. Speaking of, the game delivers impressive visuals all throughout, whether you’re looking at the beautiful Cauldron Lake landscape as Saga or traversing the dark, shadow-infested streets as Alan.

alan wake 2 the dark place

Alan Wake 2’s optional puzzles and collectables are also a highlight, making exploration more than worth it. As Saga, you’ll come across Cult Stashes with supplies, Alex Casey Lunchboxes containing pieces to upgrade your weapons, and Nursery Rhymes that yield interesting perks for completing them. Then, there are Deer Heads, Koskela Commercials, and Mayor Setter posters that will make every room and cabin an opportunity for discovery. On Alan’s side of things in the Dark Place, you’ll recover Echoes that yield interesting lore and Words of Power that offer upgrades, too. The game never feels empty, as a result, and you’ll find yourself exploring quiet, dark locations to satisfy the completionist in you. Plus, you get to use your flashlight to uncover secret arrows or clues, which is a nice callback to the first game.

If I had to describe this sequel in one word, it’d be unpredictable. Remedy has plenty of surprises up its sleeves and it executes them in style. Jumpscares are a great example of this, as they’re meant to be surprising in the first place, but my favourite by far is the way live-action footage is incorporated into in-game moments or cutscenes. It makes things even stranger and surreal, similar to Control and Quantum Break. You can always trust Remedy to experiment with mixed media techniques.

alan wake 2 cutscene

If you’ve read my piece on how to overcome the post-game blues, you’ll already know that Alan Wake 2 was so fun for me that it ruined other games for a good minute. You could say it sent me into my own Dark Place. Despite some of its combat pitfalls and lacklustre bosses, I just can’t get over how compelling the narrative is, along with its solid cast of characters. Saga is relatable and enjoyable to play as, and Alan continues to be such an interesting character. It’s a fantastic follow-up that will keep you engrossed for hours, as its runtime is anywhere between 25 to 30 hours. If you’re looking for one of the best horror games to play, you won’t regret picking this one up.

9.50/10 9½

Alan Wake 2 (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

Alan Wake 2 is a thrilling follow-up to its original, with a rich, intertwining narrative and genuinely terrifying moments. Aside from some combat pitfalls, it’s a nearly flawless sequel.

This game was purchased at retail for the purpose of this review
Alyssa Rochelle Payne

Alyssa Rochelle Payne

Staff Writer

Alyssa is great at saving NPCs from dragons. Then she writes about it.

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