You know what they say about the pen
It may have taken about 15 hours, but I can say I’m finally happy with how “Alan Wake” wraps up its nightmarish story line. I mean, it took two extra pieces of downloadable content and some extra research on the side, but hey, you take what you can get.
The second, and final, DLC for “Alan Wake,” “The Writer,” neatly concludes the mini-story arc that the two DLCs set out to tell. I also still continue to believe that the extra content was simply ripped off the end of the main game and sold as DLC, but that’s beside the point. “The Writer,” much like “The Signal,” doesn’t possess the same sense of chaotic action that permeated “The Signal”; instead, it chooses to attack protagonist Alan Wake with words, literally and figuratively.
Picking up right where “The Signal” left off, “The Writer” finds Wake still locked away within his own twisted mind, with the darkness wreaking havoc on his sanity. His own mental prison is the stuff of nightmares, but considering he’s a Stephen King-like horror writer, the haunting imagery and violent enemies throughout should come as no surprise.
By this point, it’s clear to the player (and eventually Wake himself) that the character we control isn’t the real Wake. His goal, then, becomes simple: to regain his sense of self by escaping the hold the Dark Presence has on him. Simple, right? Well, Wake is deep down the rabbit hole in this one.
Rather than relying on action, “The Writer” gets a bit more cerebral in its gameplay. Puzzles and dialogue play a more prominent role this time, with wit being valued more than brute strength (though you’ll have plenty of action sequences to contend with).
The idea of being confined in a mad writer’s world, with a shifting landscape and danger seemingly everywhere, is fantastically executed. Wake’s own words litter the environment, demanding your light to change reality. Memories take on a dark twist, trying to trap Wake in his own mind.
And the lovely little Pacific Northwest town of Bright Falls, Wash., turns into a hellish version of itself yet again, changing its geography and throwing new obstacles at you as you make your way to where everything started.
When you do have to fight, the 90-minute adventure doesn’t much deviate from the previous installments. Wake picks up standard weapons such as a pistol, shotgun and rifle along with the game’s heavy hitters: light-based weapons. As before, his flashlight proves to be the most useful weapon in the DLC, followed by powerful flares. The game continues to use a light-is-might approach: You generally need to use a light source to tear away the darkness protecting the Taken trying to kill you and then follow up with a bullet.
In the end, I suppose my only issue with “Alan Wake: The Writer” is that it clearly sets up a sequel. We now know a coming sequel is about as real as Wake’s nightmare. (A lot of what would have made its way into a sequel instead went into developer Remedy Entertainment’s “Quantum Break.”) It’s a shame, really, but it would have been fascinating to see how Wake contends with the Dark Presence. Maybe one day. Until then, I’m going to read some Stephen King books, and I’ll leave you with the first lines of the original game, what I consider a fitting tribute for a game that ends where it started:
“Stephen King once wrote that, ‘Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear.’ In a horror story, the victim keeps asking, ‘Why?’ But there can be no explanation, and there shouldn’t be one. The unanswered mystery is what stays with us the longest, and it’s what we’ll remember in the end. My name is Alan Wake. I’m a writer.”
You can contact Dominic, especially with game suggestions, at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Silver_Screenin. You can check out his blog at silverscreeningreview.com.