Providing a long-awaited return to The Dark Place, Alan Wake II significantly ramps up the horror and introduces a new cast of interesting characters with some familiar ones returning from other games under Remedy’s belt. Featuring two leads in two separate stories, players can control Alan Wake and new protagonist Saga Anderson, an FBI agent working out the puzzles in the pages of her very own manuscript.
Stay in the Light
Firstly, players may notice more limited movement when traversing the tighter locations of Alan Wake II’s world. Attempting to focus more heavily on horror, players are given a closer over-the-shoulder perspective that correlates closely to the Resident Evil and Dead Space games. The original Alan Wake used more fluid movement and dodge mechanics so players could weave in and out of an enemy’s grasp, especially considering the number of enemies that players would encounter at once. In Alan Wake II, enemies are beefier and appear in less frequent numbers but are still incredibly dangerous. The Taken have been designed to instill intense fear in the player, and certain sections of Alan’s storyline include shadow figures with deep, unsettling voices that would give chills to any headphone user. Providing slower movement, combat sequences become more tense and bypass any means of escape without killing all enemies in our protagonist’s path.
Our new protagonist, Saga Anderson, stars in her own horror story written by Wake called “Return”. Players will discover clues within several cases that will need to be unraveled to progress further in the story. For instance, Saga’s theories can be explored within the Mind Place, covering various character profiles by venturing into the far reaches of her psyche to discover hidden details for her cases. As players explore the world of Saga’s side of the story, they can find lunchboxes containing manuscript pieces that are used as upgrade points in the Mind Place for her weapons, like handguns, shotguns, and a very special, highly damaging crossbow. In contrast, Alan Wake’s own story of “Initiation” is presented differently as it’s a story written by Alan for Alan whilst trapped in The Dark Place. Alan has the power to physically transform certain scenes during gameplay by visiting The Writer’s Room, Alan’s very own Mind Place, in order to access previously inaccessible areas or to change the scenery for story progression purposes. Alan’s story uses Words of Power as upgrades in comparison to Saga’s manuscript pieces. Feeling like you need a little more Fus Ro Dah is the best way to get stronger, apparently.
Alan Wake II ramps up the horror significantly and introduces enemies unique to both storylines. For example, Saga Anderson witnesses Taken versions of The Cult of the Tree, a faction with the goal that is ironic in the way that they wish to purge Bright Falls from anybody infected by The Dark Presence, a malevolent entity originating from The Dark Place. Not just humans, but even wolves in the forests have become Taken, acting violently and hunting anybody who dares venture into the woods. Playing through Alan Wake’s story brings the player to a distorted version of New York, encountering shadow figures that love to aggressively whisper Alan’s last name to make any headphone user feel uneasy. Players can visit familiar locations like the Parliament Tower and the Oceanview Hotel, further expanded for this sequel. Alice Wake makes a comeback through live-action video recordings that detail her own experiences with Alan’s obsession with The Dark Place and the demonic entity of Scratch, plaguing Alan’s life as a doppelgänger and being referred to as the literal devil of the game.
Flashlights Are My Friends
As dangerous as the world of Alan Wake II is, it’s no walking simulator. Players are provided a handful of firearms and weaponry to send The Taken back to The Dark Place. Once players engage in battle, they can use strong boosts of light to deplete the shield from enemies before opening fire on the dark abominations. Alan Wake II uses an improved gore system that allows players to visualise points of impact from bullets. Basically, if it bleeds, it can die, and Alan Wake II loves nothing more than covering the forces of darkness in blood and gore. For example, Saga may use her crossbow for long-range quick kills, gaining the ability to increase damage when standing perfectly still. Once players find the rifle, they can also save precious batteries by adding the ability to break through the shadowy shield of an inhuman monster, surprising the foe with a face full of lead. All in all, our protagonists are definitely more than The Taken bargained for.
Alan Wake II exceeds everything that the original game brought to the last generation of consoles. Remedy has proven itself to be one of the powerhouses of video game developers with the release of 2019’s Control. A captivating storyline, interesting side quests, and memorable characters create one hell of a cinematic experience that is one of 2023’s best horror titles.
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Epic Games Publishing
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Windows PC
Release Date: 27th October 2023