Alan Wake: The Writer

In Alan Wake: The Writer, the second and last DLC add-on for the XBox 360 title, Wake is still lost in his own twisted imagination, surrounded by the possessed masses of Bright Falls.  Like the previous downloadable episode, The Writer picks up after the main story's ending and serve as a bridge between the first game and a possible sequel (or second season, if you will).  Picking up immediately after The Signal, Wake must traverse a threatening and ever-changing environment to reach a lighthouse off in the distance and make his way out of the Dark Place.

The Writer continues the trend started in The Signal of dotting the landscape with word-imagery that, when illuminated, provides supplies, clears a path for travel, or helps eliminate the hordes of enemies.  These latter words are a tremendous help, as there are several instances where Wake is overwhelmed by the Taken and any assistance he can get is certainly welcome.

The level designs are much more vivid and imaginative than The Signal, providing some fresh takes on experiences that were hinted at or briefly examined during prior episodes.  There's a moment in the game where Wake enters what appears to be a cellar, traveling up a staircase made of enormous typewriter keys, and into his apartment.  Things then take a turn for the worse, as the level begins to contort itself and revolve, creating a dangerous, stomach-turning vertigo if players don't make their way through the areas quickly enough.

 

Revolving around a slightly amnesic writer searching for his missing wife, Wake is confronted by the evil of literal darkness.  It's a visceral psychological thriller, soaked in a creepy atmosphere with regular doses of horror.  Heavily inspired by the works of Stephen King, Twin Peaks, and LOST, Alan Wake is broken up into "episodes," turning the video game into a nifty rift on interactive television.  It presents gamers a fully realized story arc that is deftly told, sucking players into the reality of the plot and the challenges the cast faces.

It smartly converges the various media types into one interactive experience.  It's a season of a fantastic new TV series, which presents small episodes of another in-game TV series within it that can be viewed between fighting demonic townsfolk and gathering pages from a manuscript Wake doesn't recall writing.  The authorial premise is so strong that a collector's edition of the game was released in a book-shaped package.  Prior to the game's release, Remedy issued a six-part live-action downloadable prologue to help flesh out the story's background and give future players some insight into Bright Falls.  The story of Alan Wake is so strong that it cannot be contained by one form of media.

Unfortunately, despite strong critical acclaim upon its release in May 2010, Alan Wake failed to make much headway in sales.  It went up against Red Dead Redemption and sold only 145,000 copies (versus more than a million copies in the same month for RDR).  According to one chart, Remedy has failed to sell even a million copies of Wake to date.  The disappointing sales figures do not bode well for the future of this potential franchise, which is truly disheartening given the absorbing experience the game provides.  On the other hand, not all hope is lost.  According to reports, Remedy seems eager to do a follow-up and has already plotted out a second season.  In fact, The Writer ends in James Bondsian fashion with a post-credits tag promising Alan Wake will return.

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Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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