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‘Alan Wake II’ Review: Another Amazing Game Of The Year Contender

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Alan Wake II, developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Epic Games Publishing, is a long-awaited sequel to the game from 13 years ago. Just like its predecessor, the sequel is an immersive action-adventure game that will leave a lasting impact on the gaming world. But in order to become a worthy sequel, especially in 2023, Alan Wake II had to remake its form and genre into something else, something darker.

In this non-spoiler review that delves into the game’s remarkable aspects and unique form, I’ll provide information that may be important to know before you buy the game. Is it worth playing If you don’t remember/never played in the prequel? How different is this game from its predecessor? How good of a PC do I need to play on it? Let’s find out.

[Note: While I am reviewing this game independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Epic Games and Remedy Entertainment for the purpose of this review.Warning: Spoilers from Alan Wake and minor spoilers from Alan Wake II are below!]

Alan Wake is an enigmatic tale of mystery and intrigue

Alan Wake draws inspiration from iconic authors like Stephen King and pays homage to classic films and TV series. Both games create something reminiscent of iconic tales like The Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, Rose Red, or IT, enhancing the game’s small-town mystique.

The heart of Alan Wake II lies in its breathtaking and mysterious narrative. You step into the shoes of Saga Anderson (voiced by Melanie Liburd) and Alan Wake (Ilkka Villi, voiced by Matthew Porretta ). In the first game, Alan is a best-selling novelist plagued by writer’s block. Alan travels to the small, enigmatic town of Bright Falls, Washington. There, the game slowly reveals a mysterious and chilling story. Our quest is to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of Alan’s wife, intertwined with the events from his latest novel coming to life. The plot of the prequel was filled with unexpected twists, keeping players on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

During the story, Alan experiences blackouts and visions of characters and ideas from his latest novel, which he cannot remember writing, coming to life. So-called Darkness played a significant role in the game, and the core combat gameplay of Alan Wake consisted of fighting the darkness with light. It was like a TV show set in the game with episodes, plot twists and cliffhangers just waiting to appear.

Alan Wake and Saga Anderson in Alan Wake II
Matthew Porretta as Alan Wake and Melanie Liburd as Saga Anderson in Alan Wake II (Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing)

Alan Wake II is a really different game. For starters, now it’s a horror survival game with elements of action and adventure. In the first missions, we play as Saga Anderson, an FBI agent who seeks the truth about what happens in Bright Falls. But she is in the first game trying to find out where Alan Wake disappeared. But don’t worry, Saga serves as a bridge between the first game and players who never got a chance to play in it. You can easily play the first game after you finish this one because it’s so flawlessly explained, you won’t have to worry about major spoilers.

My favorite part of the first Alan Wake game was its episodic structure. After each episode, there are songs serving as a sort of “ending of the episode” theme. And it was something magical and fresh for that time. In the sequel they’re back, which made me incredibly happy. Some of them are really sad and depressing, but others are emotional and full of energy.

That surely gives a lot of needed vibes when it comes to this game. When you are creating a game that has chapters and it must feel like a TV series, then it’s the way to go. It also provides a very unique feeling for the game, because you know that what you’re doing is actually leading to something/somewhere. And it’s either another clue or another song signaling that the “episode/chapter” is about to end.

But the most innovative feature is the structure resembling that of a thriller television series. The game is divided into episodes, each with a story, plot twists, clues, shocking moments, and scary cliffhangers. Also, something that really widens the spectrum of experience of this game is providing the live-action scenes that mix with game cinematics. That’s something rarely seen in high-budget video games. But it serves a greater purpose that’s meant to properly explore different characters, their personalities, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses.

Atmosphere makes Alan Wake II one of the most immersive games ever

Alan Wake II excels in creating an immersive and atmospheric world. Set in the town of Bright Falls, the game offers a vivid and detailed environment that’s hermetic and has creepy vibes, just like every small city in a horror project. The use of light and darkness is a central theme, but all it takes is playing in a night to get you properly scared. There are different settings that are meant to show you the differences between dual realities. The game’s visuals and sound design work together to build a tense and chilling atmosphere.

In the first game, the game’s combat encounters created a sense of tension rather than fear. This approach was kind of obvious in the gameplay, which required players to employ a “sixth sense” to navigate around numerous menacing foes simultaneously. In Alan Wake II, the tempo of the game has been intentionally slowed, and it now involves fewer yet more formidable enemies, and a lot of thinking (because some actions you can do are happening in real-time, so be careful). This is a formula commonly embraced by horror enthusiasts.

Bright Falls in Alan Wake II
Bright Falls in Alan Wake II (Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing)

Effectively handling a compact group of diverse adversaries, each armed with their unique attack patterns, transforms into a captivating trial of survival. Which is something that may not be for everyone, but it still works. I can say that the gameplay in Alan Wake II is unique and thrilling for this genre.

The soundtrack of Alan Wake is a standout feature. The original score by Petri Alanko perfectly complemented the first game’s atmosphere, enhancing the sense of dread and mystery. Just as it does with this game. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, licensed songs were used to make the atmosphere of the game more real and excellent. That’s the same case here. Songs like “Wide Awake” or “Lost At Sea” fit really well into the whole game.

What’s also worth mentioning is the Mind Palace. It’s full of details and options to interact. When you’re inside this place, you can easily fill out the data about murders, connect the dots, and play a detective all by yourself.

The requirements to run this game are both good and problematic

While modern games have relatively sensible PC requirements, Alan Wake II is one of the exceptions. Game minimal requirements are similar to high requirements from recent games. It’s because the newest originally created engine, the Northlight Engine requires a lot. Basically to show us all those realistic motion-captures of character models, to give us real-life locations, and more. Everything makes us feel amazing and immersed in this world and everything people who worked on it want to show us.  

But what is good is that Remedy and Epic provide support for every PC, no matter which graphic card you’re using. All you have to do is check if your graphic drivers are updated to the latest version in order to run the game better. But if you don’t have a good PC and you still want to buy this game and play it, don’t worry. You can use Nvidia Geforce Now to play in it in the cloud. And you can do it for free, all you have to do is buy the game and have some patience waiting in the queue.

Final thoughts on Alan Wake II

In conclusion, for me, Alan Wake II is a masterpiece of psychological thrills and narrative excellence. With its episodic structure, epic in its own ways story, unique gameplay mechanics, and strange atmosphere, it stands as a prime example of how video games can deliver an immersive and cinematic experience.

Whether you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, episodic storytelling, or simply enjoy a good mystery, Alan Wake II is a must-play title that continues to captivate gamers even years after 13 years. I have to say it, thanks to Alan Wake II, this year the Game of The Year awards will be really tough to choose. There are too many titles that destroyed the gaming market this year, and Alan Wake II is another definite 5/5 GOTY contender. It’s just a journey that fills players with suspense, surprises, and a deep sense of foreboding that will keep you hooked from the beginning till the end.

Alan Wake II is now available on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X&S. Are you hyped to play it soon? Have you played the first Alan Wake game? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus and our own Discord channel.

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Wiktor Reinfuss

Big fan of all sorts of pop culture stuff. I also enjoy ambitious cinema. Games, music and graphics are all within my interests. I have a great fondness for the Arrowverse series, especially The Flash.

Wiktor Reinfuss has 116 posts and counting. See all posts by Wiktor Reinfuss