Alan Wake 2 – Review

After 13 long years since the first game, Alan Wake has finally returned. However is this new dark chapter worth the wait?

Alan Wake 2 review featured image
Release Date
October 27, 2023
Epic Games
Remedy Entertainment
PC, Xbox Series X|S, PS5
Reviewed On
Review Copy Provided By
Epic Games

As they clicked on the article that took them to a different page, the reader was surprised to find themselves in the narrative. Alan Wake has not resurfaced in eleven years, and they may or may not have heard of this game before or even played the first game. They were curious to see if the sequel lived up to the legend, or at least the hype surrounding it. Has Alan Wake really made his return? Or is this another one of those flawed sequels that should’ve just stayed as a manuscript?

Alan Wake 2 is a survival horror game from Remedy Entertainment. Set 13 years after the events of the first game’s DLC, the titular character, Alan Wake, has been battling the horrors of the Dark Place while constantly writing to find a way out. With bizarre, ritualistic murders taking place in Bright Falls, the FBI opened an investigation into the homicide of one of their own. And with it, a new dark chapter opens.

Alan Wake 2 story and characters

It wouldn’t be too out of place to call Alan Wake 2 a fever dream. Something dark and sinister is happening in a supposedly peaceful town without rhyme or reason. And despite the presence of a murderous cult, most of the residents don’t seem to be too bothered by it at least on the surface.

Alan Wake 2 introduces two playable characters this time around. Starting with FBI Special Agent, Saga Anderson, who is investigating the cult performing murders in Bright Falls. Alan Wake himself makes a return as the other playable character, though his half of the segment involves him trying to escape from the Dark Place. After a while, you can switch between the two protagonists, allowing you to explore each of their sides at your own pace.

Having two protagonists does allow Alan Wake 2 to explore what is happening in the real world and the Dark Place that Alan is trapped in. You’ll be able to alternate between the two characters to explore each of their stories of your own choosing.

While neither the first Alan Wake game nor American Nightmare was lighthearted, the sequel kicks the darkness up a notch. It isn’t particularly shy about the gory details and the opening prologue makes it no secret that Remedy Entertainment means serious business. In fact, Alan Wake 2 fully embraces its horror genre to a mature tone.

Alan Wake 2 combat

Compared to the first game, the gameplay in Alan Wake 2 runs at a slower pace. When you’re not investigating and piecing together clues, you’re fighting the Taken where combat feels a more heavier than before. The Taken are tougher this time and have undergone a significant buff compared to their previous iterations.

Now instead of being directly harmed by environmental light sources, the Taken just simply don’t see you giving you a safe haven to recover momentarily. Some are also capable of moving at super speeds with the ability to close in the distance in the blink of an eye, especially in The Dark Place. In my opinion, this was a bad design as it makes things like strategically keeping track of threats nigh impossible.

Alan Wake 2’s combat doesn’t feel as good or as engaging as before however, it’s still excellent. In the first game, I felt like an utter badass with each encounter, with the Taken leaning more toward action. The sequel shifts away from the action combat and focuses more on slow horror with admittedly some cheap flashes of jumpscares included especially at the beginning segments of the game.

Dying is also pretty easy in this game, with the Taken being able to hit hard and even stagger you. Combat can be a bit disorienting especially at the Cauldron Lake when in the forest. At one point, I found myself stun locked being unable to move and just sitting there while an enemy kept hitting me. Checkpoints are also brutally scarce so death might set you back quite a long while. However, the lack of checkpoints does add much-needed tension and a greater reason to avoid death.

The Mind Place and Writer's Room Alan Wake 2

I can’t really say that I like the new menu as I neither found it intuitive nor robust. Each time you want to look at the map or make upgrades, you’re taken to either the Mind Place as Saga Anderson or the Writer’s Room as Alan Wake. This mechanic reminded me of The Sanctuary from Fable III but pales in comparison.

While Alan Wake 2 is able to do some cool things with it, I felt like I should be able to look at the map or upgrade my weapons without having to break the pace by being teleported to a different dimension, even if it’s seamless.

There are only two unique reasons to even go to these rooms. One is when you’re piecing together clues as Agent Anderson, which felt rather underwhelming as trying the clues together is a no-brainer and doesn’t really make you feel smart. This mechanic does do a really cool gimmick with Alan Wake where he’s able to use it to forge a path forward by adding new story elements to the environment. However, I found this almost a bit unpredictable, making it more of a trial and error than using my wits to solve puzzles.

Alan Wake 2 performance

My initial experience with Alan Wake 2 made me feel it was a mess regarding performance. Even with an SSD, the game has trouble loading assets. This becomes particularly troublesome when it doesn’t load the lights in a room causing nothing but complete darkness when you enter. I even experienced falling through the floor at one time because the stairs didn’t render. That set my progress back a good while.

But, as of the writing of this review, an update for Alan Wake 2 was uploaded, and it seems to have fixed the issues I mentioned previously. I went back to revisit locations where the glitches occurred and they’re no longer present. Transitions to the Writer’s Room and Mind Place are also smoother after the update. Currently, there don’t seem to be any lingering issues when it comes to performance.

I played Alan Wake 2 on an RTX 2060, and if you have a weaker graphics card, you probably shouldn’t consider getting the game on PC. It does run pretty smooth on this GPU, and I didn’t notice any frame drops even in combat or the detailed streets of New York City.

Alan Wake 2 environments

It may sound like I have a lot of issues with the game, but I actually love Alan Wake 2 a lot. As an older fan who played the first Alan Wake, its DLC, and American Nightmare I have nothing but praise for the franchise. However, I can’t help but feel that the sequel takes the franchise a few steps backward due to some questionable gameplay designs.

Despite my issues with the game, I did still enjoy it quite a bit. What Alan Wake 2 does incredibly well is in its oppressive atmosphere. There’s no denying the game is graphically gorgeous. And the sequel is more open this time around, allowing you to explore and find new items.

The dialogue was a bit awkward at times, but I don’t have anything really negative to say about it. Alan Wake 2 is a gripping thriller whose story more than makes up for its numerous flaws. It does what every story of the mystery genre should always do, and that’s keeping its audience curious and wanting to find out more.

Alan Wake 2 the Taken

The gun sounds in Alan Wake 2 is visceral and loud. The sound effects of shooting a firearm give weight to firing an actual weapon. I could feel each shot’s impact whenever I hit one of the Taken.

In the original Alan Wake game, there’s usually a song that plays at the end of each chapter as if it were a TV show. Those are back, and they’re quite a treat. You can’t fault Remedy Entertainment for one thing, and that’s their taste in music.

Alan Wake 2 is a worthy successor to the original. However, it does come with some flaws that may grate older fans. This is the horror genre we’ve always thought Alan Wake could be if it shed some of its more action elements. After witnessing its gripping horror firsthand, it makes me feel like Alan Wake, too.

Alan Wake 2 review featured image
Alan Wake 2
Score Definition
When the issues of a game are rolled and stomped by its greatness, then it’s something to invest in if you have some spare.
The Writer's Room is a great addition that shifts the environment itself.
Sound effects, soundtracks, and music choices are amazing. A true delight for the ears.
Environment is highly detailed and can impressively shift in design especially in The Dark Place.
The story and narrative is engaging and never once gets boring.
Engaging environmental puzzles that shift reality itself.
The Mind Place could be better and more challenging.
Combat has some flaws that could use refining especially against enemies that can supernaturally run fast.