In this last piece of episodic content, Alan Wake dives further into the dark place in a bid to free his psychotic mind and return to the one he loves. ‘The Writer’ starts to answer some of the title’s most bewildering questions, while experimenting further with the twisted locale of Bright Falls and its possessed inhabitants.
The level design in The Writer is fantastic, constantly reminding the player that they’re exploring the dark delusions of a writer’s mind. Wake will often need to fight the natural laws of physics as houses flip upside down or slowly churn themselves inside out. Many of the textures and objects are re-used from the main adventure, but they’re implemented creatively and reflect Wake’s memories in the town. Remnants of the garden’s rehabilitation centre, the police headquarters and Diver’s Isle are all combined in a warped and twisted reminder of the journey you’ve undertaken.
Combat is balanced far more effectively this time around, with a few simple puzzles and plenty of breathing space for plot development. The quieter moments do a good job of mounting tension for the encounters with the taken, with the narration of Wake and the voices of Zane and Barry reminding the player of what is still at stake. When the taken arrive they’re in huge numbers, so you’ll need to use the plentiful ‘words’ that are glowing throughout the environments. Effectively using cliff faces and lighthouse towers to dispatch your enemies is far more rewarding than hammering the batteries button.
There are ten Bright Falls video games to collect, but they feel tagged on and retract from the sensation of Wake driving forward to the finale. Unless you’re an avid achievement junkie, I would leave them alone and prioritise the main experience.
The presence of Thomas Zane was my highlight of the episode, peaking with his faltered and human reaction once Alan Wake confronts him about Mr. Scratch. We’re so used to seeing him as some kind of messiah or god, I felt that it was interesting to portray Zane as a flawed persona. Trapped in the dark place with no way out, he’s arguably worse off than the player. I had hoped that Alan would escape to reality by the end of The Writer, so it was very disheartening to see him ultimately in front of the typewriter in the cabin. It’s a perfect set up for a sequel, but one that will presumably continue to take place in Alan’s mind, rather than than new locale which I was expecting.
Alan Wake: The Writer clocks in at under two hours, so it’s a little short for the price they’re asking on Xbox Live. Still, if you were a fan of the original experience and want to know a few more details about the over whelming storyline, you’ll probably be sold by intrigue alone. It’s a far more engaging and original experience than The Signal, setting the bar high for Remedy’s inevitable follow up.