“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.”
– Alan Wake, Alan Wake
Notice: I focus more on the story rather than the gameplay!
It’s a survival horror game! Now, personally, I am not a hardcore fan of horror games; rather, I played this because one of my lecturers needed some assistance in collecting data regarding one’s writing style after playing the game. Hence, I played it with helping my lecturer in mind, but soon, I found myself immersed in the dark yet beautiful world of Brightfalls.
The strongest point of “Alan Wake” definitely lies in its storytelling. You play as Alan Wake, a famous thriller writer who goes on a vacation with his beloved wife, Alice (coincidentally, it is my favorite name as I love Lewis Carroll’s fantasy :D), to a town called Brightfalls. There, Alan hopes to sit back and relax without having to worry about his writer’s block while Alice believes that the place is the perfect location for her husband to write again like he used to.
Just when they arrive at the beautiful town, Alan is handed a key to their lodge, oblivious to the fact that the key is handed by a suspicious spooky woman in black (not James Watkins’ woman in black, though, no worries!). Hence, the pair arrive at Bird Leg Cabin. After a small quarrel, Alan finds his wife drowning, and jumps to the lake in order to save her, only to find himself waking up inside his car in bruises. From that moment, Alan soon realizes that everything is not normal, especially the fact that he had written a manuscript of a horror story without realizing it, and what he wrote in those sheets of paper, come true.
That, in my opinion, is a nice setting for a horror game, involving relationship drama and what you call as ‘a strong bond of love’ (kind of cheesy, I know, but not many horror games have this with a good storytelling). The story, however, is more than just about Alan saving his wife; it’s about Alan discovering an equally good, yet tragic, story about the previous writer influenced by the dark force of the cabin by the name Thomas Zane and Barbara Jagger. With several more characters and an interesting concept of other dimensions and being entrapped in one’s sanity, “Alan Wake” explores more than just a spooky physical world; it creates unnerving psychological influences upon the characters in the game, with the antagonists not only being the dark force, but also fellow humans with equally dark motives.
Although there are bound to be confusions near the end of the story, it is not to the extent that things are way too messy; rather, it can be thought as ‘things are not explained, yet’ (hopefully), and with some logical thinking and guesses, players can soon believe that things actually make sense, even though they might not think so at first.
Lastly, the way the game presents its story is just magnificent; the world of Alan Wake is deep, Brightfalls is not as small as it seems to be. Players can walk around during daytime, listening to the locals’ talking to one another to gain a better understanding regarding the world, and there are also posters and banners scattered about the town that provides even more clarity. Not to mention the collectible radio broadcasts to make the world even more alive as well as episodes of Night Springs (a short mystery collection).
If you have the time, do explore around, and be surprised at how much effort the developers put into the creation of this seemingly small town. Oh, there are also manuscripts to be collected, and they can be read like short stories; these manuscripts reveal the story unfolding in the other characters’ perspectives, such as what happens to the locals in Brightfalls while Alan is busy shooting Takens (the name for the ‘monsters’ in the game) in the middle of nowhere. There are quite a lot of things to be done to fully enjoy the game, if you are willing to really understand the world of “Alan Wake”, that is.
Although I lack the time (and will) to truly collect all these manuscripts (some of them require you to play the game after completing it once in the hardest difficulty), I find it very nice to deepen the story through the reads. “Alan Wake” has successfully combined a game with literature with its usage of frequent readings and even the subtle techniques of foreshadowing.
In terms of gameplay, “Alan Wake” offers a surprisingly simple, but still deep combat. The only things you will be doing in terms of the gameplay are basically:
1. Walk around
2. Aim your flashlight at Takens
3. Shoot them
4. Find switches
5. Go back to step 1
Yes, those are most of the things you will be doing. An interest in point is that you actually have to aim your flashlight first to the Takens, or they will not be able to be damaged by your weapons; this makes prioritizing which one to be TAKEN down (get it?) an important task as the decision-making may result in a life or death situation.
Aside from this, with a variety of weapons from handgun, shotgun, rifle, flare gun, flash bang, and flare, each offering different efficiency, the combat is not as tedious as you might expect, it can be pretty fun XD . Moreover, Takens come in different types; there are those who move pretty fast but has lower durability, huge ones with slow movement but has more health, and those with ranged attacks as well! this adds even more variety to the unique combat system 😀 .
Oh, you can also drive cars around and annihilate the Takens in a more satisfying and retributive fashion. Sick!
“Alan Wake” is, by no means, a long game, unless you would like to spend time collecting all those manuscripts and thermoses scattered around, but it manages to provide an engaging story with its compelling narrative and storytelling system, that you will feel that you have stayed in the world longer than you have. Story-wise, we need a sequel!
Rating from me: 4/5