In Memory of Alan Wake

We’re kicking off October in a scary way, starting off with a retrospective on one of the most interesting horror games I’ve played on Steam.

Fans of writer Alan Wake and followers of Remedy Entertainment know the unfortunate story of Alan Wake‘s disappearance from stores: 7 years after it’s release in May 2010, the game lost the licensing on its soundtrack. The game went out with a bang with a Sunset Sale, selling the game for 48 hours before Remedy pulled the plug selling the game for an indefinite amount of time. The game can still be bought through eBay and other third party sellers for Xbox 360 but the base game cannot be freely bought. Only its DLC is available for purchase. One can only hope this game will come back for more people to play.

(Please note, this article contains summary spoilers of Alan Wake)

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The rustic setting is serene yet frightening in the little town of Bright Falls. As the moon rises in the eve, nature calls for you to solve the mystery in the shadowy depths of creaky corners and forestry. You’ve vacation turns into an exploration of the enigma called Cauldron Lake.

Light is a very obvious motif in this game, but that did not make the symbolism and gameplay any less exciting. Flares, lightposts, flashlights, and lanterns represent life and truth. You chase after a lighthouse to escape horrifying fictitious worlds from your imagination. Light sources are the method of taking out the Taken (heh) and they are the method to following the correct path. The variety ways to utilize these objects allow the player to attack cleverly in these environments.

Storytelling is another motif in this game and can be found in different types of mediums. The obvious one being pages of an unfinished novel called Departure. The game is represented in chapters as if the player is actually experiencing a book. Alan can even watch Night Springs on various televisions, which is self-referential to the writer’s humble beginnings. The biggest question the player asks: who is telling the story? More on that later.

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The game storyline is a little convoluted and some aspects of it remain unsolved. I try to piece everything together and can’t figure out a cohesive ending for myself. Not that there was a clear solution to the game in the first place, but a few things were underwhelming. I did not like Alan saving his wife because I felt no connection to the wife. Alice and a lot of the characters fell flat for me. Lastly, was this entire game a novel by Thomas Zane and the real Alan is trapped writing in a cabin forever? Mr. Scratch taking his place? This game is definitely up for interpretation, and the biggest question is who is the ultimate author of this story? Has Alan been a fake character this entire time, or does Alan become the ultimate writer of his destiny? This adds another layer of mystery for the player to decide, as well as the final line to deliberate:

It’s not a lake, it’s an ocean.

This game is an example of looking at everything as a whole package. Parts of the narrative fall flat, but its climactic moments make an impact. The eerie setting and soft tones are a haunting reverie. Gameplay is exciting and employs artistic elements to defeat the Taken. Alan Wake is a mix of thrills, beauty, and essence of writing that make this theatrical game a feat to experience at least once.

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