Announced with a world premiere trailer at The Game Awards 2021, and followed by a brief interview with creator Sam Lake, details on Alan Wake 2 remain pretty thin on the ground right now. But what we do know is that this sequel will be a survival horror rather than an “action game”, according to developer Remedy Entertainment.
But what else can we expect from Alan Wake 2? Well, we certainly have high expectations for the fictional horror writer’s new outing. It may have been 10 whole years since the original Alan Wake was released but Remedy has created killer games in the meantime with the developer even interweaving the Alan Wake and Control universes into one. As we said, right now we don’t have much in the way of solid details on what to expect from Alan Wake 2, but that hasn’t stopped us rounding up everything we want to see right here (even if some wishes are more likely than others).
Keep it episodic
First things first, it’s worth remembering the elements that gave the first game its charm. Remedy has a real knack for paying homage to artistic styles outside the gaming sphere. Max Payne’s pulp comic style, in both narrative and gameplay, is what made it unique. The same can be said for Alan Wake’s episodic format.
David Lynch’s TV series Twin Peaks is an obvious influence on the game - and that’s not simply down to its isolated small American town setting, surreal horror, mystery, and expansive woodland. Alan Wake’s story was broken up into episodes, like a TV show, complete with recaps at the start and cliffhangers to finish. The fact that it was released as a full product (not episodically over time) gives it a Netflix-y feel. You can take it one episode at a time, or marathon the whole thing.
The new game could take this episodic format one step further, what with streaming services as ubiquitous as they are today, perhaps even treating Alan Wake’s story as a Netflix-like series. If any franchise could offer a meta-horror interpretation of the streaming age, it’s Alan Wake. Though, considering Alan is a writer, it’s unlikely we will see a change this large - but we can always hope.
Stephen King is another on-the-nose inspiration, with the iconic horror novelist’s influence felt in the cliffhangers that occur at the end of chapters. Hopefully, we’ll see even more of King’s influence in Alan Wake 2, considering he is the Master of Horror. But, whatever changes are made to the gameplay, an Alan Wake game needs to be episodic in some way.
Haunting and gloomy, please
If there’s one thing we learned from Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, it’s that the titular character needs a gloomy atmosphere to give us a good story. While the 2012 DLC was fun to play, the plot was lacking. It lacked the psychological horror of the original and replaced suspense with action.
As mentioned above, Alan Wake’s original adventure drew influence from Twin Peaks and Stephen King. Horror writing 101 states that fear lies not in what’s seen, but what’s lurking out of our vision. The Silent Hill-esque mist in the original Alan Wake obscured our sight as we traversed the creepy woodland. Despite a flashlight in hand, Alan – and by extension, us – doesn’t know what’s out there, hiding in the woods. It’s horror done right.
The new trailer reveals an urban environment, alongside the familiar woodland and provincial setting. A city contains a plethora of potential horrors. As The Evil Within has shown us, cities can be just as psychologically terrifying as dark woodland. There is a lot of potential here. We only hope it’s not reduced to the ammo-spraying action of American Nightmare.
Is that a flashlight?
The Alan Wake 2 announcement trailer didn’t give us much of a look at the gameplay. In fact, it didn’t give us anything. But, it did suggest that the focus of the sequel seems to be back on the meta-analysis of storytelling (yay!) and that Alan’s flashlight has received a peculiar upgrade.
In Sam Lake’s interview at the Game Awards, however, we heard something exciting. Lake said that Alan Wake 2 will be Remedy’s first survival horror. As he gave no more hints about the gameplay, that little tease is bound to produce an abundance of speculation. As we’re sure was his intention. With the graphical improvements since Alan Wake’s original release in 2010, however, we are excited to see the tortured writer’s means of survival. Because that flashlight thing doesn’t look very reliable.
The first installment was branded a “psychological action game”, which was in trend with the Resident Evil 4 style of horror in vogue at the time. It did as it said on the tin; creepy and psychological, with a lot of blasting. By the sound of things, the sequel will keep the psychological, but replace the action with survival. We welcome this. We welcome it very much.
The action loop of the first game made big use of the flashlight. The Dark Force (the enemy) had to be lit up and weakened by the torch’s beam before bullets were of any use. Does the urban setting mean we’ll need a different light for different enemies? Is this what the new flashlight gizmo is? Will we perhaps solely have the flashlight? Leaving Alan essentially helpless to face the horrors of the night? Hopefully, it’s not long until we find out how these survival horror elements will play out, though Remedy has said it won’t be ready to share more until at least “Summer 2022”. Sigh.
Open world, this time?
Now we’re now down to pure speculation, but, well, we don’t have a lot else at the moment. And that’s not to say speculative hunches are always wild guesses. By looking at the history of the first Alan Wake’s development, there may be a hint as to where Sam Lake wants to take the sequel.
Alan Wake was, originally, an open-world game. Like the finished product, it was split into night and day – but for a different purpose. The daytime segments weren’t just for dialogue, narrative, and a break from the shooting, they allowed the player to stock up in preparation for the combat sequences at night.
So Alan would have been roaming the open world in the day, looking for weapons and resources to survive the night. A bit like Dying Light but with fewer zombies and more introspective existentialism. Sam Lake must have been sad to let this idea go. And with all this survival horror talk, it sounds like he never truly did.
With the reveal of the city, too, it looks like there might be multiple zones to explore. If Death Stranding taught us anything, it’s that big maps make surreal and ominous enemies all the more terrifying. We would love to take control of Alan Wake as vaults over graffiti-strewn walls, unsure which direction to run, desperate to find shelter before the night arrives.
While an open world may make linear storytelling more difficult, it can still be done. Make it happen, Lake.
A Control crossover
Would this be too much to ask? We know they’re in the same universe, and Control was such a haunting experience, they would surely go hand in hand.
After their crossover in Control’s DLC (AWA), there are so many possibilities. The FBC is already on Wake’s case, and the Dark Force is canonically an Altered World Event. Will Jesse be allies with our protagonist or enemies? We can only hope they’ll be working together, fighting through whatever surreal horror comes their way.
Maybe we’re asking for too much icing on our cake. By the sound of things, Sam Lake is making the survival horror he’s always wanted to make, and we’re in for a treat.
- New games 2021: upcoming game release dates for console and PC
Sign up to receive daily breaking news, reviews, opinion, analysis, deals and more from the world of tech.
Ben is a freelance writer based in sunny North Wales. He has written for The Gamer, WhatCulture, and the mental health charity Safe in our World. When he’s not writing, he can be found playing PS2 games that he missed 20 years ago.