First Impressions: Alan Wake II

Originally posted on Wordpress on 30 October 2023

Alan Wake II is a game I've been looking forward to ever since I finished playing Control and Alan Wake earlier this year. I preordered the game so I could play it on release because I did not want to run into any spoilers. I haven't even watched the latest promo videos and trailers that Remedy put out.

When the PC requirements were released, there was a bunch of discourse on the game being unoptimized and how it might not run well on non-current gen graphics cards. I wasn't too worried given that I'd upgraded my GPU earlier this year - and as it turns out, I had no reason to be worried at all.

For reference, my PC specs are RTX 3060 (12GB), i7-9700, and 16GB RAM. The game is installed on an SSD, and I'm running it at 1080p with medium settings and no ray tracing. I am averaging 55-60 FPS, with some areas in the 60s to low 70s. The lowest FPS I've seen is 47, and that didn't last very long.

The audio is quieter than other games I've played recently. Even with all volume sliders set to 90-100%, I still had to adjust the volume on my speakers. There's also an issue with the audio cutting in an out on driving cutscenes; I've seen many other people mention this. Audio in all of the other cutscenes is fine.

By the way, this game is gorgeous.

Saga on the way down to Cauldron Lake.

I've taken so many screenshots. There are times I'm stopping every couple of minutes to take a screenshot. Unfortunately, there is no photo mode, so I'm taking all these screenshots with the Print Screen button.

So far, this game has primarily taken place in the evening. It's pretty dark, which makes it a little difficult to play in the morning or middle of the afternoon. You'd definitely benefit from playing at night, or with all the lights off.

Manual saves happen in break rooms, which are located in certain areas. The game does autosave in certain areas, like before bossfights and at the end of chapters. I don't think I found a break room until chapter 2, so I did spend a few hours thinking the game was going to go off of autosaves alone.

Saga in a break room.

You save with the Oh Deer Diner coffee mugs. The game gives you three save slots - which I suppose is better than one, so you can have backups in case one of your saves gets corrupted somehow.

Given that Control had more than a few references to Alan Wake (as both games take place in the same universe), I was wondering just when I would see the first Control references in Alan Wake II. I actually didn't have to wait very long. There's a mention of the Federal Bureau of Control in the first fifteen minutes, notices from the FBC, and an actual FBC agent who you can talk to briefly in chapter 2.

Saga speaks to an FBC agent and Ilmo Koskela.

Like in the first Alan Wake, there are songs at the end of each chapter. There are also television shows (featuring the Koskela brothers, not Night Springs) and radio shows (featuring Pat Maine) that give you background information on what's going on in Bright Falls and the surrounding area.

Speaking of chapters, the next chapter doesn't start immediately upon the previous one being completed. You can walk around and explore as much as you want after the chapter ends and then chose to go to where the next chapter begins.

I had to tear myself away from playing yesterday. I'd reached what seemed like the end of the intro part of the game and had enough to write up this review. But I didn't want to stop playing! I wanted to learn more about what was going on. And I still do. Alan Wake II is definitely going to take up the night hours I don't spend on NaNoWriMo or sleep.

Saga and Casey drink coffee in unison while Alan Wake facepalms in the background.

Some Thoughts On: Night Springs

Posted on 9 June 2024

Nights Springs is the first DLC for Alan Wake II. It has three episodes, which are flavored as episodes of the in-universe TV show Night Springs written by Alan Wake himself. Each episode is around 45 minutes-1 hour long, which feels pretty appropriate for an episode of television.

Each episode focuses on a different character. These characters resemble their in-game counterparts, but are not actually the same. They aren't even referred to by name, just by title: The Waitress (Rose Marigold), the Sibling (Jesse Faden), and the Actor (Tim Breaker). Datamining apparently revealed that there were supposed to be five episodes, with the additional two focusing on Alex Casey and Kiran Estevez. I imagine those were removed after James McCaffrey's death.

Episodes are available through the main menu screen, but I've seen posts on Reddit stating that they can also be accessed in the Dark Place while playing as Alan. I have not tried this myself.

Rose reads a sign telling her which beach to go to.

Episode 1: Number One Fan is one is a Rose Marigold power fantasy. It's very pink. Everything has this pink tinge to it, including the sky and environment. It essentially has the same tone as Rose's fanfiction in the base game, which suggests that Alan was aware of Rose's fanfiction while in the Dark Place.

Jesse stands in front of a bus stop outside of Coffee World.

Episode 2: North Star is Jesse's episode. It starts off similarly to Control, except instead of the Federal Bureau of Control, Jesse arrives at…Coffee World. This version of Coffee World resembles the Dark Place, with similar lighting, enemies, and Tim Breaker. There are plenty of triangles here, including some that resemble the black inverted triangle from Control.

The first thing I actually noticed in this episode were some oddly low-resolution poster textures. That includes the poster in the image above. Despite fiddling with my graphics settings (which were set to high/ultra from the beginning), I could not get those textures to look better.

This episode felt like it needed a bit more work, like it was a surreal episode of TV that didn't quite hit the mark. Maybe that's the point? It's one of Alan's failed attempts at leaving the Dark Place. He tried to have Jesse rescue him outright and it didn't work, so he later “directed” her to the FBC so she could put things in motion to get him out of the Dark Place.

Tim looks at a Posion Pill Entertainment logo on the wall.

The third episode is Time Breaker, which is Tim's episode. Well, the character isn't actually Tim. It's an actor named Shawn (Ashmore), who's being directed by Sam (Lake), who is actually portrayed by Sam Lake, who is apparently very into acronyms.

Remedy Entertainment changed their name on social media to Poison Pill Entertainment before the DLC dropped. I assumed it had something to do with the DLC, but I didn't realize it would be the name of the in-game studio.

This one is the most creative episode out of all three of them. It starts off in the regular game engine, changes to a side-scrolling shoot 'em up, turns into a comic, and then ends as a choose-your-own text adventure with multiple paths. It has references to Control and Death Rally, as well as Quantum Break. I think most of the references, including the plot of the episode, are based on Quantum Break. As I haven't played the game yet, I can't say for sure.

I wish this episode had been longer. I would have been satisfied if an expanded version of it was the entire DLC.

ASCII art of Alan Wake at his desk.