To note, there will be spoilers for Alan Wake in this post. Not for the Writer, you should experience it for yourselves the surprise and twists, but this review takes the position that if you’re interested in playing The Writer you have completed the main game. As this episode takes place after Alan Wake and after The Signal DLC Episode, we take the stance you have already completed those and thus spoilers for those two items will follow. You have been warned.
With “The Writer” now released, Alan Wake (the game) comes to a close, and maybe our title hero too, done and finished with his novel, “Departure.” Alan however hasn’t given up even if his novel is complete, he has become lost in his own mind in the Dark Place, and even after The Signal where he overcome his inner demons, he must now contest his inner fears. The world Alan currently exists in tries not to hide the fact that this place is not normal, it has become a fragmented nightmare and surreal landscape full of symbolism and pieces of memories collected and sprawled across the rim of Cauldron Lake (or the idea of Cauldron Lake, rather). This twisted world really lets Remedy’s team stretch their fingers to create some great level design, if I may dare say it the best design out of every single Alan Wake episode so far. When we reviewed The Signal we loved it even if we had a few complaints with things like too much combat, not enough story… Remedy has fixed all of that. In fact, The Writer simply is better than The Signal in every single way.
As said, the level design in The Writer is absolutely fantastic. It did something that the game got close to doing but never quite reached in Alan Wake. The Writer really captures the imagination, it really captivates you in it’s surreal world and gives you a sense of wonder and excitement as you explore. It entrances you with the unreal fabricated into the familiar, including moments that just make you go wow and original set pieces that no other game has ever tried… I have never seen a video game recreate the whole entire first game experience on a gigantic rotating wheel that quite literally circles through key moments of the first game, for instance. There is emphasis on memories and fears much more this time around. He relives through key moments of the game, but in an act of genius retells memories in abstract ways, which open the doors to new gameplay experiences. Unlike The Signal I never felt like I was retreading old ground, even if some of the locations were the same they retooled them for completely new experiences. And to make it better they retool some of the best moments from the first game, from the “Children of the Elder God” stage fight (now with 100% more satanic undertones) to the Lighthouse from the very beginning of the game, and deliver in equally or even surpassing some of the greatest moments from the first game. While daylight sections are missed, this is definitely one of the best night episodes in the game and manages to feel wholly unique instead of a “Best of” collection thanks to many original twist and abstract design, coupled with many unique and inspiring set pieces that are both imaginative and fun. Combat is used sparingly thankfully, and in fact I would even say the right amount. The enemy fights were welcome additions to the episode and they never felt like they overstayed their welcome, and as with The Signal introduce new elements to fights that keep things interesting, as well as one of the scariest fights in Alan Wake which felt like something out of a horror movie.
One of the biggest complaints about The Signal was that it raised more questions than answers and ended on a cliffhanger. This is not the case here, The Writer has a surprising amount of story to it and actually answers questions, though doesn’t answer all of them and many of the answers come from subtle hints more than the concrete. However Alan experiences a journey which really develops him as a character, and shines light on just who Alan really is and where he is headed. There is much more story here than The Signal, more answers, and more cutscenes. I won’t spoil it here, but this is rather conclusive of the Alan Wake 1 ark while at the same time keeping things open as it doesn’t so much push the story forward as set the stage… And by the end of it you’ll be wanting Alan Wake to “Return”.
The Writer manages to capture many of the things that make Alan Wake good, and unlike the Signal I fully believe The Writer could convert some people who weren’t into Alan Wake much before into full fledged fans. It emphasizes on the great, and the time and love that went into this episode is apparent from the details to the design. Alan Wake The Writer really captures what makes Alan Wake unique and great while tossing all of that repetitive and extra unneeded bits aside. Combined with The Signal (as this is part 2 and continues directly off of that) the two almost seem like two halves of a whole of Alan Wake, except The Writer undoubtedly focuses on the better half. If Alan Wake hadn’t convinced you yet the potential of the IP is in full shine here (pun not intended), it is definitely worth the 560 Microsoft points it takes to purchase it for those who enjoyed Alan Wake and should last you anywhere from one to two hours depending how fast through you go through, a good sized episode. Managing to better than The Signal in every way and surpassing expectations and even their own standards, Alan Wake “The Writer” is a must for any fan of the dubious writer himself.
Final Verdict: 10/10
- Interesting Story which is more conclusive than Alan Wake has been previously
- Surreal, well-designed environments and imaginative and fun set pieces
- Combat is well kept being a fun addition rather than an overstaying chore
- It sets the bar higher taking some of the best elements of Alan Wake and one-upping them
- Dark and creepy and manages to be geniunely scary at some points
- The episode isn’t longer and can be beaten in an hour to an hour and a half easily
- By the time you’re through the wait for a potential sequel will be harder than ever
- If Alan Wake you feel has never suited you this likely won’t change your mind
Alan Wake The Writer manages to take the best elements of Alan Wake and make something like a treat for fans of the game. It’s a fresh experience that doesn’t dwell in Alan Wake’s weaknesses and really presents and at times even outdoes it strengths. While a bit short, this is one of the best single player downloadable content pieces on Xbox Live and reasonably priced for 560 Microsoft Points. Fans of the game owe it to themselves to pick this up.