Alan Wake: The Writer Review

Alan Wake: The Writer

At long last, players perpetually starved for the next morsel of Alan Wake content can peacefully enjoy at least a temporary respite from the game’s roller coaster of suspense. Watching the credits roll on The Writer, Remedy Entertainment’s latest episode in the Alan Wake saga, players will have finally arrived at a satisfying, if inconclusive stopping point in the game’s convoluted narrative, and an even more appropriate starting point for whatever is to follow.

Like The Signal before it, The Writer is an essential component of the Alan Wake story, and picks up precisely where the previous episode deceptively left off. This time, however, Remedy more successfully capitalizes on the opportunity to explore Wake’s increasingly twisted and unstable psyche, which manifests primarily in the game’s unorthodox level structure. Considering this psychological subject matter is what the game has been best with since its initial release, The Writer turns out to be one of its better, more interesting episodes, despite its brevity.

Although The Writer takes little more than an hour to complete the first time through, it achieves its succinctness by trimming away some of the more frustrating aspects of previous Wake offerings. Especially coming off of The Signal, which featured more backstabs than Julius Caesar’s autobiography, The Writer‘s less strenuous approach to combat is refreshing. Not only are there fewer protracted encounters with multiple Taken at seemingly randomly selected points along the path, but there are also more frequent environmental triggers that will allow players to commit small-scale genocide on numerous occasions. These varied ways to dispatch enemies definitely limit the feeling of monotony one may have felt during other episodes. One particularly enjoyable example involves the sweeping, high-powered lamp of the Bright Falls lighthouse… and many obliterated Taken. Nice.

Alan Wake: The Writer

Once again, environmental interaction and inventory replenishment are frequently achieved via the floating, typewritten words that were first introduced in Episode 6, and they feel more natural and less overused here than in The Signal, thanks in part to this episode’s continual spotlight on Wake as a writer influencing the story. Again, getting back to Wake’s writing and inside his mind serves the game’s purposes very well, and it contributes especially effectively to the game’s most appealing aspect: the construction of its environments.

As Alan becomes more aware of his dichotomous mental state, the subtle abnormalities previously experienced in "The Dark Place" give way to wildly surreal dreamscapes that have spiraled into the depths of incoherence. Boulders, bridges, buses, and other objects float as bridges suspended in midair, the land below Alan’s feet bends back upon and around itself, doors and paths lead where memory and logic both say they shouldn’t, and at one point, a random collection of rooms is found to be confusingly interconnected as the entire structure spins as if it were some kind of ferris wheel.

The floodgates have clearly been opened, but just as soon as we see that happen, the experience is over and the current leg of Wake’s journey has been resolved. It would have been nice to see more of this and other types of psychologically challenging play explored and expanded throughout Alan Wake, giving players less ground to stand on and more to ponder, while still avoiding deteriorating the plot to the point of irrelevance. And although we’ve seemingly come to an end point with The Writer, Thomas Zane once again makes an appearance and does his best to let the player know that there are still more secrets to be unraveled. Zane himself is less intriguing with every appearance, however, as his effectiveness as a character is linked directly to the mystery that surrounded him earlier in the story. The ambiguity that characterized much of Alan Wake‘s early narrative may yet make a return, however, if The Writer can be used as a barometer for what Wake’s future holds.

At 560 Microsoft Points ($7), The Writer is a fairly expensive piece of add-on content, but is required reading for anyone who is invested in Alan Wake‘s narrative; only after finishing this episode does the game feel truly complete. It’s a wonder, then, why both downloadable episodes were not included as part of the initial, disc-based content, where they would have been better delivered and appreciated. Regardless of those concerns, though, The Writer is indeed a very good Alan Wake episodes. It shows that Remedy has been working to refine their craft, and have provided some very interesting play mechanics and a trippy dreamworld for players to get lost in.

4 out of 5


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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