Alan Wake 2 has been designed as a psychological horror story told from the perspective of two playable characters. Naturally, you'll be able to spend time with celebrity writer Alan Wake, who has spent the last 13 years as a prisoner of the Dark Place beneath Cauldron Lake – fighting to retain his sanity and write a novel that would sufficiently change reality so that he can escape to those he left behind. But that's not the only web you'll be untangling on October 17.
You'll also have to contend with Saga Anderson, an accomplished FBI Agent who heads to the Pacific Northwest to investigate the murder of one of her own – a case that puts her on a collision course with cultists who share a disturbing link to the missing writer. Here's the thing though, Alan Wake 2 doesn't dictate how you navigate its story, nor the order in which you play through Alan and Saga's chapters. That's something that you can decide for yourself.
"The writing team has a story that they really want to tell, and our challenge as a narrative design team is to make that story playable and interactive," says Molly Maloney, principal narrative designer of Alan Wake 2. "The key thing here is that there's not a right or a wrong way to play through the content. It's literally that the content is different and enjoyable, no matter what order you play it in."
Areas within the Pacific Northwest playground (encompassing Bright Falls, Cauldron Lake, and Watery) and the Dark Place (resembling a twisted vision of New York City) can be liberated with light from darkness – creating a Break Room where you're able to save the game and catch your breath. It's in these Break Rooms that you'll be able to switch realities and freely jump between Alan and Saga's storylines, if you want to that is.
Keeping such an unconventional structure cohesive has been a challenge for Remedy, but one it believes will ultimately be rewarding – more so than a defined narrative frame that guides the player between character beats. "Players should feel like every path that they take through is correct, and also unique depending on the choices they made," adds Maloney.
If you're worried about getting lost in the two stories, which are designed to directly reflect and echo one another, game director Kyle Rowley assures us that Remedy has taken steps to help ease any confusion with a new feature called the Case Board – a physical representation of Saga's investigation which allows you to assess and align all of the clues that you've discovered, make deductions, and gain new mission objectives from a space called the Mind Place.
"The case board actually acts as a nice re-onboarding for players if they have decided to play a different way. It basically tracks everything you've been doing in the game from Saga's perspective. In a way, it's a bit like an interactive quest log from other games. It's tracking what you're doing, but you're the one who's mapping it out."
Maloney points out one other benefit of switching between storylines in Bright Falls and the Dark Place – if you're feeling overwhelmed, a change of scenery may help ease some of the tension. "I don't know about you, but I can find it very draining to maintain a level of anxiety or fear for a long period of time. One of the cool things about being able to flip between these two stories is that, rather than turning off the game, you could switch back to Saga in Bright Falls and talk to some people. That's a really nice thing to be able to do, and that's one of the things that being able to switch through the stories provides us."
Something creative director Sam Lake is keen to emphasize is that while Alan Wake 2 is a psychological horror game at its heart, it hasn't lost any of the heart and hokey humor which helped to define the original adventure. That's another reason why Remedy wanted to give you a pathway out of the Dark Place and back to Bright Falls with Saga.
"Even if this is a horror experience, it's our version of the horror experience. It's still an Alan Wake game, in that there are very scary parts to it, but at the same time there are very tonally different scenes. You will be in the small town setting during daytime, meeting these NPCs – these larger-than-life personalities. Sometimes it's really critically relevant to the case Saga is investigating, and sometimes it's to add color and humor, because humor is a big part of this as well."
"We firmly choose to believe that by giving you a relief and humor as part of the Alan Wake 2 experience," Lake continues, "it will actually make the scary parts when they happen scarier and have them stay fresh through this long experience than if it was always being dark creepy corridors and monsters coming at you."
Alan Wake 2 is one of our most anticipated upcoming horror games and it's set for release on October 17, 2023, for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.