Actually, the game weaves its presentation using cinema and TV series as its primary expression medium. The six chapters are called episodes, each of them finalizing with a song followed by a short sequence that depicts the past major events. The songs talk more or less about what is happening in Bright Falls and not all of them are classics that can easily be recognized, such as “In dreams”, but all of them are superb and deserve those few minutes of listening to them.
In 2010, when I first listened to the soundtrack, I told myself that a game with such a musical score can only be great. Sadly, a carefully chosen soundtrack cannot replace the monotony of the gameplay from the first three chapters. Listening to the songs, I felt myself detached from what had just happened, but in a conflictual way.
Firstly, the songs are a welcome reward and whoever decided their inclusion deserves praise for their good taste and effort. But knowing that I didn’t get to them very motivated, it seemed that the game was trying to redeem its shortcomings and lack of diversity and no matter how much they hypnotized me, I can’t forget the mostly bland road I had to walk to get to them.
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Other moments that allow for short relaxation periods, along the sight-seeing, are those in which you find working radios. Here you can listen to short portions from the local emission, moderated by a certain Pat Maine, who even though is another “thin” character, remained for me as a bit more memorable, especially thanks to his warm and fatherly tone which comes as an oasis in between Alan’s running through Bright Falls. And after some of Pat’s interventions, other great songs are broadcast, sometimes while Alan is under attack.
A less annoying mechanism for the depiction of the context is represented by the pages of a novel, apparently written by Alan, scattered all over the place and which can be read or ignored. They describe past and future events and feature additional detailing of the characters and are pretty much mandatory for those who want a clearer idea about the present situation. Also spread out all over the place – I found two in restrooms – are coffee flasks which Alan, although a writer, only collects to complete the Achievements list.
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Those who favored or at least remember TV series such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits or Twin Peaks, might more easily bear the twisted assault of events that are plaguing Alan. From what I personally remember, the first two mentioned series brought an explanation at the end on each episode, while Twin Peaks only became more indulgent with its madness. Alan Wake comes with its own reason for which all these events are taking place, an explanation that it’s really just as good as any other “classical” solution from this kind of mysteries. Whether Alan is dreaming, is already dead, trapped in limbo or in some parallel dimension doesn’t really matter as much as the theme park through which Alan has to go through to get out.
Further conforming with these influences, on some TVs you get episodes of a series called Night Springs, which makes just as much logic as everything else that is happening. From time to time, the star of the show is Alan himself, talking about his current situation in similarly mysterious terms.
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Let there be light
Seeing the almost total lack of motivation that the intro “offered” me, the only reason that helped me guide Alan through his whirlpool of problems is the gameplay. Partially original, but continuously exploited without time for recovery for about 10-12 hours, the mechanics of the game happily integrate the narrative context with the need for physical skill, especially on the Nightmare difficulty mode.
All the action sequences take place during the night, when more or less justified, Alan usually strolls all by himself in or around Brigh Falls. During these walks he is hunted by possessed humans, called “Taken”, some of them very spiritual, with the first such line remaining the most memorable for me: „You’ve missed your deadline!”.
His main weapon against them is light, emitted mostly by the lanterns that Alan, willing or not, eventually gets somehow. With the help of light he removes the “armor” of darkness from the possessed, after which he resorts to more conventional methods of killing, with a handgun or rifle. He also frequently finds flares and flash-bangs that come with impressive light effects and, for a more dramatic effect, with slow-motion.
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Through a method that is equally occult as the story, Alan can “concentrate” the light in the direction of a Taken (human, object or industrial equipment) for a faster elimination of darkness, a mechanic that must be balanced with the very fast consumption of batteries. Which you generally get in sufficient quantities and if not, what do you know, the flashlights will recharge all by themselves, albeit slower.
The most important problem of this mechanic is the lack of variety of which it suffers until the closing of the story. I can sincerely say that after 12 hours, and finishing the second DLC, I had enough mixture of light and guns to last me a lifetime, but not because it’s tiring or at least boring in itself, but because there’s really not enough diversity in it for the game’s duration.
An illogical enough trick also rears its ugly head here: the inventory gets reorganized without asking your permission. And the direct result is that Alan gives up his weapons and flashlights with no concerns during chapters, offering no explanations as to how he lost the hunting rifle and the flash-bang collection from the previous night.
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