Not a lot of Alan Wake’s gameplay has been shown off, and very little information is available for it–the story is supposed to be one of the most important parts of the experience, and showing off the story would ruin things a bit, no? That’s why getting a look at it at San Diego Comic-Con behind closed doors was great, because you got to see the game in the element it belongs in: in a secluded area, with the lights dim. Psychological thrillers like Wake deserve that, and this one could turn out to be quite the thriller indeed.
Developer Remedy Games was not at a loss for ideas on how to develop the Alan Wake story: “We’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from different forms of popular culture–books, films, TV. We’ve taken our cues from masters such as Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, with his work on Twin Peaks. Bright Falls is the setting, and it’s an all-American town that looks pretty but underneath it has these deep, dark secrets.” You can see the influence just from the demo and from hearing Remedy talk about their game, as Alan Wake is a writer seemingly living in the nightmare created by a book he doesn’t remember writing–that sounds like a playable King novel if I’ve ever heard one. Sadly for Wake, he didn’t write a happy story about rainbows, puppies, and European bikini models, but instead has written a psychological thriller that now seems poised to destroy him and the town of Bright Falls.
Alan Wake is an everyman kind of character, which shouldn’t be surprising given he’s a writer. He’s not a writer that was secretly a former CIA assassin, or some kind of tough guy trying to get away from his past life of violence, he’s just a guy trying to relax so he can write. There is combat in Alan Wake, and there are guns, but your focus is going to be on utilizing light in a way that damages your enemies and allows you to progress. You are armed with a flashlight, and will gain access to more powerful light emitting objects with time, and will also have flares at your disposal. Creating explosions and fires is another way to create light, and if the short demo was any indication, there will be plenty of opportunities for this kind of creativity.
This “everyman” direction affects the gameplay, but in a positive way. “It gives the game authenticity–he’s a writer, he reads books. He’s done research for his work and has been to the shooting range, so he knows how to use a gun, but he’s not a commando or a superhero.” That doesn’t mean Wake is entirely sans powers though, as he believes he has the ability to, “will his light source to burn away the darkness quicker” though as Remedy tells us, that is a limited resource. You can see this power on the right side of the screen as a blue bar, opposite your health. Just because this power recharges though does not mean you should abuse it; just like real batteries, your flashlight batteries will be less effective with more recharges, meaning you will need to find replacement batteries–there’s a limited supply–or be overrun by the darkness.
Remedy has not announced how long the game will be, or how many episodes there will be–the chapters are presented episodically–but they promise that it’s akin to what you are used to with this sort of game. You’ll get what you put into it, as digging deeper into the story and exploring the open-world further will extend the game experience for you.
There is a day/night cycle in Alan Wake, which is intriguing given how important the darkness is to the title. How does this work, if darkness is the key element to Wake? “In terms of pacing, we want to have more story and more interactive segments in the game, and the daytime is a good time for us to show you some of the characters and open up dialogue.” That does not mean that the daytime is going to be limited to just those elements though: “There are dark places during the daytime, so if you have some compelling reason to go into that dark warehouse, something bad might happen.” There may also be daytime segments under the cover of cloud, with stormy weather, rain and the like. “Having the entire game in the dark may make things repetitive; we wanted to avoid that and balance the game out, give you the opportunity to meet the locals of Bright Falls, and have some NPC interaction and some exploration during the day.”
Alan Wake looks to have a tight combat system, some wonderful graphics, and while we know little about the story, what we do know is intriguing enough to make us want to know more. Look for this game in spring of 2010, but we’ll have more details for you as they release.