It’s been 13 years since Alan Wake, the horror-thriller that became a cult gaming phenomenon, introduced its eponymous character: a best-selling author on the hunt for his missing wife, Alice, as the events of his newest serial killer novel — which he can’t remember writing — begin to unfold.
Alan has spent the last 13 years locked in a dream reality known as the Dark Place, attempting to compose a new story that will set him free. “I can very much sympathize,” says Sam Lake, the Finnish game writer and creative director at developer Remedy Entertainment. Lake has been in his own metaphorical Dark Place while working on Alan Wake II, which debuted a trailer at Gamescom on Tuesday and has an Oct. 27 release date.
To summarize, Alan and Alice were on vacation in Bright Falls, Washington, at the start of the first game. There, Alan learnt of the Dark Presence, an evil creature beneath the enigmatic Cauldron Lake that has been taking over the town’s citizens. It was this darkness that captured Alice and strove to free her through Alan’s words. Alan then gave his life to save his wife. Now, after being imprisoned in the Dark Place for more than a decade, the writer is attempting to create a fresh novel that would allow him to escape his nightmare prison.
Previous teasers for Alan Wake II focused on the character of Saga Anderson, an FBI agent working with her partner Alex Casey to investigate a serial of ritualistic murders in Bright Falls. The new Gamescom trailer, on the other hand, focuses on Alan and where he’s been all this time. (In the sequel, players will be able to play as both Saga and Alan.) “I would say that we come upon him in a more raw state than before,” Lake explains. “This kind of struggle and constant nightmare has clearly left an imprint.” We do investigate and discover how, over what has felt like an eternity for him, there have been ups and downs along the way.”
Lake goes down the new Alan Wake II trailer with EW below.
The Dark Place
“They’re only victims and monsters in a horror story.” And the trick is to avoid being either, but trapped by the genre, we’re all ripped apart along the way.”
The trailer begins with a dismal, rain-soaked picture of New York City. Lake confirms that this is the Dark Place. Alan has previously been seen locked in a log cabin, banging away at a typewriter, but “it’s a dream reality that taps into his head and into the fiction he’s creating,” Lake explains. As a result, the setting is adaptable.
Alan used to live in New York, and his crime-fiction novel series was set there. Alex Casey was the main character. (It’s no coincidence that Saga and her partner share a name.) “Because that’s leaking out of him into the Dark Place, he’s now in kind of a nightmare New York City,” Lake observes, though he stresses that this is not an accurate depiction. The atmosphere was inspired by vintage films, particularly Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver from 1976. “It’s very much an iconic, crime-ridden feeling of a dangerous and scary New York City — every surface is full of graffiti, there’s a lot of trash in the streets, it’s always nighttime, it’s always raining,” Lake adds.
Fans with keen eyes will notice a billboard in the NYC-inspired Dark Place environment that reads “Night Springs,” the name of the in-world Twilight Zone-style anthology show introduced in the first game. “Alan Wake wrote screenplays for the show early in his career.” So it’s part of his history,” Lake explains. Because the Dark Place is drawing from Wake’s psyche, the characteristics of the urban scene reflect this. Graffiti, signs, posters, and other features will include hidden messages and Easter eggs for the player to find.
Is there another Easter egg? On the Nightless Night movie poster above, “Thomas Seine” is mentioned as the director; this is most likely a reference to Thomas Zane, a character from the earlier Alan Wake.
A smiling, bearded man in a Coffee World uniform stands out among a flurry of rapid-fire trailer images. Small elements were added to the remastered version of Alan Wake, which was released in 2021, such as a flier on a cork board for a brewer called Coffee World. Lake didn’t want to change the core game in any way with the remaster (“It’s not a remake,” he emphasizes), but he did want to improve it, including tiny hints at Alan Wake II. One of those linking strands is Coffee World. “In most cases, they appeared because they were pointing to something that you will experience in Alan Wake II, in one way or another,” Lake explains.
Ilkka Villi in the flesh
Previous games in the Alan Wake world, such as the DLC additions, American Nightmare in 2012 and Control in 2019, introduced live-action elements into the gameplay. Ilkka Villi, whose image is used for the main character, reprises his role as Alan in the new trailer. (Alan is voiced by Matthew Porretta.)
Lake cites Control as an example of a game that “scaled down” the live-action components of his earlier games while still featuring them in highly “stylized” circumstances. In Control, for example, gamers saw a visual of Villi’s live-action Alan superimposed on top of a computer recreation of Control’s protagonist, Jesse Faden. Alan Wake II will take a similar approach with live-action performances.
“We’re using a lot of live action, especially in the Dark Place because it’s the dream reality,” Lake explains. “It seemed like a fascinating idea to use different mediums to communicate this idea of being slightly unbalanced and not knowing what to expect.” The Dark Place is a metaphor for an ocean of darkness with many distinct levels and layers. On one hand, live action serves that objective. We’re still using it in visions that we’re developing on top of the game image in various ways, but we’ve put a lot more attention into the real live-action content’s high quality.”
Remedy captured live-action environments and incorporated them into Alan Wake II, sometimes as 1:1 recreations. That brings us to…
In the clip, we see a live-action Alan on In Between With Mr. Door, a late-night discussion program. Trippy late-night TV sequences aren’t uncommon in Alan Wake games, but this one appears to be related to Control. Jesse’s brother, the unstable yet supernaturally powerful Dylan, claims to have met a man named Mr. Door in his nightmares in that game. He portrays himself as a multiverse traveler, always “shifting” between realities. Now, we see actor David Harewood (Supergirl, Homeland) as Mr. Door in the Alan Wake II trailer.
Lake hints, “It’s an interesting question; how much can you trust anything Dylan says?” Because he doesn’t feel fully present in some ways. But very nothing of how we approach the Remedy Connected Universe, Control residing in the same universe, is by chance or coincidence. There is usually a payout and a meaning. So I’d guess we’re talking about the same guy, one way or the other.”
According to one fan hypothesis, Mr. Door — or a version of him in another realm — is actually Martin Hatch from Remedy’s 2016 game Quantum Break. Is he then? “The simple, straightforward answer is that Max Payne and Quantum Break are not part of the Remedy Connected Universe.” “They aren’t in Remedy’s plans,” Lake says. “That being said, I do like the idea of allowing our audience to come up with theories in a purely speculative, Easter egg kind of way.” On that level, I don’t want to shoot them down. We make questions possible and provide suggestions for people to create their own theories. That, I believe, is a big part of the fun.”
The number 665 appears in several Remedy games, and it appears again here. Lake simply laughs when asked about it. “I keep pushing that in and finding it amusing,” he says. “It was just a one-liner joke in the original Max Payne.” I won’t lie: some of the Remedy team members roll their eyes when they learn that I haven’t moved on from that joke.”
Giggles aside, Lake teases in Alan Wake II, “There may be more meaning to be found in its use.”
“There is a mention of a double in this [trailer],” Lake admits. We get creepy views of a menacing figure who resembles Alan Wake.” The trailer alternates between live-action Alan at his desk in the Dark Place and a version of Alan clothed in black climbing on top of the desk in the beginning. Who is the doppelganger? Lake will not provide a definitive response, but fans can speculate.
Mr. Scratch is a strong contender. A doppelgänger introduced at the end of Alan Wake, he later appeared to torture the novelist in Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. He was also mentioned throughout the Control events. As Lake points out, the clip contains a whispered chant — “your friends will meet him when you’re gone” — that fans of the original game may recognize in reference to Mr. Scratch.
“I think it’s safe to say that, once again, in some way or another, Alan Wake’s dark double is a part of this experience,” Lake explains in his usual enigmatic tone.
There’s also the mystery of the unknown man (who resembles Lake) who we see accosting Alan in a side lane of the nightmare New York scene. Lake has previously lent his likeness to the Max Payne character, and he does it again for Alex Casey. Is this the real-life Alex Casey from Alan’s novels? Is that you, Mr. Scratch? Is there anyone else? That has yet to be confirmed.
Lake, on the other hand, explains how duality is central to Alan Wake II’s plot. “There are two hero characters, two worlds, and two separate journeys that are still very much connected,” he explains. “And a lot of mirrors, twisted reflections, which is also immediately a double in itself — Cauldron Lake being the central point and landmark in the experience, and that being the doorway into the Dark Place has already been established in the franchise.”
The trailer concludes on a chilling note. The hushed chanting sound eerily similar to the Hiss, the interdimensional energy established in Control. Meanwhile, in Alan Wake II, red lights invoke Control. Lake, on the other hand, clarifies, “I can clearly confirm the Hiss does not play, in any significant way, a big part of this experience.” The red lights, on the other hand, are slightly different.
“The red light, for sure, is part of the journey we started with Control on looking at striking visualizations, art house horror films,” Lake explains. “Light and darkness play important roles, and when it comes to light, it’s not always pure white light.” This trendy flash photography adds to the stylization. As a result, we are tying colorful lights to supernatural phenomena. There are red lights and various colored elements, but each has its own importance inside this game and the Dark Place. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘This game is part of the Remedy Connected Universe.’ I believe that our audience and Control aficionados will be astonished by the number of connection points, although within the perspective of Control, it may not be what you would expect.”
Nonetheless, Lake affirms that several concepts introduced in Control will be elaborated upon in Alan Wake II, some of which the team has picked up and is currently “running crazily with.” But, at the end of the day, this is still an Alan Wake sequel. “We have been really mindful of creating an experience where none of that is required homework,” he says of previous entries in the shared universe. “Perhaps [Alan Wake II] will inspire you to seek out and play some of these previous games after the fact.”
Alan Wake II will be available on the Epic Games Store on October 27 for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.