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17 April, 2024
Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2 is a Video Game Storytelling Masterpiece


When it comes to telling a story in a video game, the only real limitation is that of creativity. In my opinion, some of the greatest stories ever told have come from video games, including the likes of the Bioshock franchise, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Secret of Monkey Island, or Half-Life 2. To my complete surprise, Alan Wake 2 has boldly entered that pantheon of games, and is one of the best video game stories ever written.

Note: This article will contain slight spoilers for the first Alan Wake and the 2019 game Control, as well as very minor spoilers for Alan Wake 2, but we’ve done our best to avoid ruining any surprises. However, please keep this in mind before reading further.

Alan Wake's Humble Beginnings

For some light context, the original Alan Wake was developed by Remedy Entertainment and released in 2010. The game focuses on Alan Wake, a horror novelist who takes a vacation with his wife to the scenic lakeside town, Bright Falls. Before long, Alan discovers that his creepy stories are coming true, causing chaos around town and forcing him into action. For the most part, it was a spooky third-person shooter horror game that lifted a lot of inspiration from Stephen King novels, with some cool twists and turns.

Alan Wake 2
Alan Wake 2 Storytelling

Overall, Alan Wake was received pretty well by critics, sold over 1 million copies, and even had a spin-off, and became a low-key cult classic. However, it wasn’t until Remedy made the award-winning Control in 2019 when the gears of the story started turning in earnest. In a downloadable expansion titled AWE, the worlds of Control and Alan Wake become linked, adding more context to Alan’s story. Then out of left field, 5 years after Control and over 10 years since the first Alan Wake game was released, Remedy unleashes Alan Wake 2, a story that is so complex, mind-bending, and mystifying, forming an engaging meta-narrative that always leaves the player guessing.

The Saga of Alan Wake 2

At the start of Alan Wake 2, you don’t play as Alan (he’s been mysteriously missing for 13 years); in fact, you play as a naked man who has just washed up ashore at the lake in Bright Falls, hunted by a tribe of masked killers. After a brief prologue, you take control of FBI Agent Saga Anderson, along with her partner, Alex Casey, as they enter Bright Falls to investigate a string of ritualistic murders. After putzing around and tracking some clues, Saga and Alex eventually find manuscript pages seemingly written by Wake, describing the scenes they are living in.

Eventually, you do get to play as Alan Wake, but compared to Saga’s gameplay, it’s like a fever nightmare where nothing makes sense, time is an illusion, and sense of direction or place is a joke. In Alan’s story, you try to rewrite a book called Initiate as a means to escape your captivity, all while trying to derail an evil entity from distorting reality. If playing as Saga feels like an episode of True Detective, Alan’s segments feel like the most uncomfortable moments of Twin Peaks, but cranked to 11 and with more tension than you can bear to stand.

Alan Wake 2 Masterpiece
Alan Wake 2 Storytelling

To put it lightly, Alan Wake 2 has a story with many layers and can be extraordinarily confusing, but it all makes sense under careful examination. Better yet, the player gets a hefty amount of control over the progression of the story, as you can freely swap between Alan and Saga’s interconnected stories basically at will. This active control over the ebb and flow of the narrative is not only an example of smart gameplay design, but it also adds variables into how the story might be understood by any given player.

Remarkable Creativity Leads to One-of-a-Kind Immersion

It’s not just the story that Remedy tells in Alan Wake 2 that makes it so good, it’s also the way they tell it. Disregarding the character shifting and huge narrative questions, Alan Wake 2 features some of the coolest visual design and player immersion I’ve seen in years. Like in Control, Alan Wake 2 uses full motion video from time to time and it’s truly top-notch. Between the FMV production quality, insanely realistic graphics, and mind-boggling cross-media moments, Alan Wake 2 is an absolute trip.

Alan Wake 2
Alan Wake 2

Like any great psychological twisting tale, Alan Wake 2 only becomes better after the credits roll. Even with the full picture revealed, it takes a lot of mental reflection to assemble the pieces of this narrative jigsaw puzzle. Revelations may come days after you’re done playing, while secondary playthroughs shed even more light on various sub-plots. In truth, I could go on for days about the brilliance of the writing and the lingering thoughts it leaves in your mind, but for now, I’ll simply say that Alan Wake 2 is a true masterpiece of video game storytelling and should be played by any aspiring writer, game creator, or fan of gripping and intense tales of the supernatural.

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