The dark presence shifted before my eyes like a great swirling abyss, I could feel it gnawing at my mind like a rat on a scrap of bone. Then it turned out it just represented my father and I punched it to death whilst reciting the names of birds… What did you expect when this is heavily influenced by Stephen King?
My triumphant return! Yes I haven’t updated in a while, I’ve been working on a big project which may well appear within the next couple of weeks (at least I hope it does). But since it’s in the weekly Humble Bundle deal (Link at the bottom) I thought it would be fun to restart my regular features with a look at Remedy Entertainment’s Alan Wake.
Alan Wake is a third-person action psychological thriller where the player controls Alan Wake, a celebrity horror writer who, after a severe attack of writer’s block, takes a holiday with his wife Alice to Bright Falls, a small mountain town. It is meant to be a holiday but after a mysterious force drags his wife beneath a great lake, Alan is forced to battle against creatures composed of darkness to find his wife and rescue her. Along the way Alan find s a number of allies to help him but still has to contend with the great dark presence and its army of Taken.
While the game does have a few puzzles it is primarily an action game with a very heavy and, in some places, complex plot. As Alan you have two main weapons, guns and light. In order to even hurt the enemies with bullets you have to remove the shadowy shield around them with flash-lights, flares, and flash-bangs. The game mostly focuses around you following a linear path, holding off waves of enemies as Alan tries to make sense of what’s happening. It’s a simple style with some fun mechanics.
What it does very well, however, is the atmospheric experience it provides. While not the scariest game I have ever played it is certainly tense, frantically trying to get a generator working while enemies are only a few steps away from you makes for quite an experience. In fact the tone of the game is one of the best things about it, making for quite a cinematic experience. It has an interesting blend of horror, comedy, action, and drama that does make it feel like a film. But unlike other cinematic games the gameplay doesn’t take second place. The very streamlined and simple combat system is easy to learn but still challenging enough to be entertaining.
The game is heavily influenced by the works of Stephen King and while King’s stories are iconic they tend to be prey to a number of faults, at least in my opinion. Most of my experiences with King’s body of work has shown terrific build-up for the first half and then thorough disappointment in the second. Fortunately Alan Wake doesn’t suffer from this problem to the same extent but those who are looking for a satisfying ending may be annoyed at the number of questions left unanswered, and sometimes not even raised by the characters, as well as the rather annoying “The End…?” nature of the finale.
You’ve really got to get absorbed into the world to properly enjoy it, the Stephen King references, the Twilight Zone style television shows and this idea that anything could be happening and you don’t know who to trust. If you’re not the sort of person who likes to get absorbed in a game’s world then you may find you have some problems with Alan Wake, most likely due to cheesiness in some of the dialogue. There is also a strange disconnect when you start a new chapter in the game and it plays a Previously on Alan Wake as though you were actually watching a TV show. It’s a fun stylistic choice but sometimes odd.
So Alan Wake is good for those that like to get absorbed in a different universe, it’s got simple but often challenging combat systems and a very pretty art style. If you’re not the sort that enjoys heavy plot and a whole bucket o’ moodiness then you may find yourself a bit let down. But at the end of the day while it is on the Humble Bundle (for one week, link at the bottom) then you can pay whatever you like and get the collector’s edition, with a whole load of bonus features as well as the two DLC missions. You also get Alan Wake’s American Nightmare which I have yet to play but certainly seems worth giving it a shot.
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