Game design is an art. As years pass, developers learn new ways to perfect age-old mechanics that enhance the experience for modern players. Developer Remedy doesn’t give a damn about all that and instead seems to just do whatever they want and expect the player to keep up. When you boot up a Remedy-developed game, throw everything you know about the adventure action genre out the window because you’re in their world now. Alan Wake 2 only emphasizes this fact as it retains a hint of what your brain considers game design, and then you find yourself shifting between worlds, lost in a puzzle, following a faint clue, or piecing together a narrative that completely changes reality.
I was able to play a few hours of Alan Wake 2 to get an idea of the experience Remedy was crafting, and they don’t disappoint in the slightest. It’s as if this team strives to put you out of your comfort zone to make you feel like the protagonists of the story. It’s an experience that strives to put you on the brink of madness and then reels you back in with a drop of information that will have you begging for more.
During my time with Alan Wake 2, I was able to play as both Alan Wake and Saga Anderson. These stories are taking place during the same campaign, and you’ll need both of them to solve a string of murders that borders on the supernatural. This is technically a horror game, but I’ll through psychological in there for good measure. There are some moments of item management as you aren’t given mass amounts of ammunition, but I wouldn’t place it in the survival horror genre. If you’ve played the first entry, which you definitely should before playing this or Control, you’ll have a rough idea of movement, but I think Remedy doesn’t like to get too comfortable with their own animations because Alan Wake 2 strives to stand out in its own way, while not overshadowing the previous entries.
That said, playing as Saga to investigate the town of Bright Falls puts an interesting twist on some mechanics. It seems like one minute, she’s searching for clues and trying to piece together her next move, and the next, she’s fighting possessed townspeople. However, this just lends to the experience of the player never getting comfortable. The only thing on my mind was trying to think two steps ahead. I was able to do this by going into the “Mind Place.” This pause menu-like area hoses everything you’ve gathered so far. Here you’ll head to the drawing board and piece together your clues, which should give you an idea of what to do next. That said, if you have a handle on things, you don’t need to head to this area at all.
The Mind Place is also an area for you to upgrade weapons and get caught up on specific aspects of the story. Alan even has his own Mind Place, which allows him to change the scene of certain areas as he pretty much writes his novel in real-time. Saga and Alan each have specific abilities that make their approach to situations and people different.
I feel like Alan has just had it with people, and his time in this supernatural solitude has really done a number of his brain. He’s essentially losing it, which is the total opposite of Saga, who does her best to keep a clear head, even in the strangest of circumstances, but there are nightmares that try and slow her down. Further, Alan has the ability to manipulate areas using light, which also serves as a puzzle mechanic.
Puzzle design is kept fairly cryptic, but the developers don’t seem to want to stump you. Instead, they push the player to utilize all the tools they have available to progress. I don’t consider this aspect of gameplay easy, as I was confused about certain parts during my time playing. However, I attribute this to having to play a few missions into the story and not really understanding what was going on.
I didn’t go into this preview to spoil any aspects of this game because I feel like the player should discover it and learn to get comfortable with it on their own. Regardless, I don’t think that’s possible because every time I felt like I knew what was around the corner, a new plot device occurred, which only brought on more questions.
I was in awe of the chances Remedy was willing to take with this release. It’s the definition of unique because I can’t pinpoint this experience to anything else I’ve played. As the player, you’re simply along for the ride and pushing forward, just as confused as the character you’re controlling. Alan Wake 2 is unlike any game I’ve played before, and I can’t wait to jump back into this nightmare again.
Alan Wake 2 is coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and PC via Epic Games Store on October 27, 2023.
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