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Alan Wake 2 | Games of the Year 2023

Sophie McEvoy formed an unexpected connection with a certain fictional writer in this long-awaited sequel

This article contains spoilers for events that occur within Alan Wake 2's narrative.

I started 2023 not knowing who or what Alan Wake was, let alone that a sequel was on the way.

This was a blessing in disguise, since I didn't have to wait 13 long, arduous years to discover whether Remedy's favourite tortured writer made it out of the Dark Place.

Instead, it was a matter of discovering this October that Alan Wake was indeed a thing, spending a week ploughing through the first game, then booting up the second at launch.

But the beauty of Alan Wake 2 is that it's made for newcomers and returning fans.

The sequel features a secondary protagonist, FBI agent Saga Anderson, who acts as a vessel for new players. She's drawn to the Pacific Northwest with her partner Alex Casey to investigate a string of murders in Bright Falls, the small town Alan disappeared from over a decade ago. Saga knows very little about Alan outside of his success as a bestselling author, and is experiencing the strange, paranatural events shrouding the town at the same pace as those playing the game for the first time.

Alan, on the other hand, is still trapped in the Dark Place, where we left him at the end of the first game. In this dream-like alternate dimension, fiction can become reality when pushed by a creative mind.

Alan struggles to remember what has and hasn't happened in his efforts to escape, and has to piece together the right formula to write a story that will end his eternal nightmare. His sense of what's real and what isn't constantly changes as he spirals deeper and deeper into the Dark Place, and his attempts to change the story affect the outside world with terrifying consequences.

The game itself is a loop, beginning and ending with the same shot. And with each playthrough after the first, you remember plot points and understand the world more deeply than its characters who are continually stuck in the same cycle. The actions of Saga and Alan either mirror, echo, or foreshadow events depending on which order the intertwining stories are experienced. As a result, the narratives weave and bleed into each other, meaning no two playthroughs are ever the same even when the story is following the same beats.

I've always been drawn to stories that make your mind spiral along with its characters, but Alan Wake 2 makes you feel as much a part of the story as Alan and Saga. This surreal meta experience is what hooked me during my first playthrough, and is further exemplified by its story being told through mixed media.

Alan Wake 2 is an endless loop in itself, producing a surreal meta narrative

Remedy is known for blending filmed segments into its games, but Alan Wake 2 feels like the pinnacle of these efforts. The ratio of live-action to gameplay isn't uncanny or out of place, especially since these scenes are mostly relegated to the dreamscape of the Dark Place, with some of its characters only ever appearing through this lens.

At its core, Alan Wake 2 is a love letter to storytelling and art in all forms, whether that's video games, television, film, music, literature, poetry or photography – it's all in there.

I mean, where else are you going to find a hidden 20-minute arthouse film, or a rock opera, and it making total sense? I'm not sure a developer other than Remedy could pull this off as part of a survival horror game.

The cinematic and environmental storytelling of Alan Wake 2 made me appreciate the mixed-media approach even more, with its misty depictions of the Pacific Northwest and Alan's neon-soaked vision of the Dark Place oozing style and substance.

It's these aspects that made me traverse this world incredibly slowly, taking in every bit of detail from the stunning vistas to search for objects that may or may not be related to the overall lore, from the all important manuscript pages to strange nursery rhymes, lunchboxes adorned with affirmations, or stashes of vital loot left by a disorganised cult.

There's also the fear of not knowing what's around the corner, with the game being a survival horror after all. The suspense of trying to differentiate natural and unnatural sounds had me constantly on edge, slowly dragging my flashlight around dark corners of dense forests or trying to avoid menancing shadows in a labyrinth of subway tunnels.

Petri Alanko's hauntingly beautiful score only adds to this desire to stop and take it all in. Each chapter also ends with a song specifically written to reflect the narrative and overall theme of the story. And Poets of the Fall return as the Old Gods of Asgard, providing two of the game's most memorable moments with rock and roll prowess.

The environmental storytelling in Alan Wake 2 makes you constantly question its mindbending reality

Alan Wake 2 isn't a long game – it takes around 18 hours to complete the story without sidetracking for hidden lore and collectibles. But Remedy invites players to take their time with its narrative, whether out of fear or curiosity.

And as someone who has spent nearly 100 hours in this world, I think multiple playthroughs is definitely the way that Alan Wake 2 should be experienced.

The narratives weave and bleed into each other, meaning no two playthroughs are ever the same

Vibes aside, the reason Alan Wake 2 is my Game of the Year is a deeply personal one. Alan's dark, internal struggles have always been at the forefront of these games. But this time, Remedy has dug even deeper into Alan's troubled mind which, in turn, has made me do the same. As someone who experiences debilitating anxiety, depression, dissociation, and depersonalisation, I connected to how lost Alan feels as he spirals further into his Dark Place.

There's one scene in particular, a video tape entitled "Drowning", that resonated with me. I knew how trapped Alan felt in that moment, drowning in paralysing fear and having to deal with a darker, more cynical version of himself that sees no hope, no way of getting out. Ilkka Villi and Matthew Porretta's heartbreaking performance of Alan's deteriorating mental state made me feel validated and seen – that it was totally plausible to feel like I'm stuck in my own Dark Place.

I'd always viewed my mental health as a loop, a cycle that I would never be able to escape from. But the last line of Alan Wake 2 helped me realise that what I experience in my darkest moments is actually a spiral – something that I can either descend into or ascend out of. It made me acknowledge that there's always a way out, even if I don't always believe there is at a given moment.

This is something I've been needing to hear for a long time; it just took the story of a troubled writer trapped underneath a lake to help get me there.

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Sophie McEvoy avatar
Sophie McEvoy: Sophie McEvoy is a Staff Writer at She is based in Hampshire and has been a gaming & entertainment journalist since 2018.
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Alan Wake 2

PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC

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