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The newcomer’s guide to Alan Wake 2

Before you head to Bright Falls this October, here's everything a beginner needs to know about Alan Wake 2.

For us longtime Remedy fans, the announcement of Alan Wake 2 at The Game Awards 2021 sent shivers and jubilation down our spine. For over a decade now, we’ve been anxiously waiting for the next chapter in the Alan Wake saga. Now, with Alan Wake 2 almost here, it’s a good time to guide newcomers in before they pick up the sequel.

The trailer certainly attracted attention from all corners of the industry, not just the hardcore fans. Many gamers want to pick up Alan Wake 2 when it launches in October having never played the original. Naturally, they’re wondering what they need to know before heading in.

That’s where this Alan Wake 2 beginner’s guide comes in. We’ll cover everything you need to know about the first game and what the series is about. For those who are jumping into the mysterious world of Alan Wake for the first time, here’s all the essential knowledge you need.

The story so far

Alan Wake Beginner's Guide
Alan Wake is no stranger to the darkness.

[WARNING: Spoilers for Alan Wake and Control below!]

Alan Wake (the guy, not the game) is a best-selling horror novelist who’s been struggling to write his next book. He and his wife Alice take a vacation to Bright Falls, Washington to get him some inspiration. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst when Alice is seemingly taken by dark forces in Cauldron Lake, leaving Alan to dive in to rescue her from the abyss.

A week passes and Alan Wake mysteriously wakes up, forced to unravel the mystery behind the town and its anomalies. There’s a Dark Presence inhabiting Cauldron Lake which has kidnapped Alice to force Alan to help it escape. Alan evidently wrote a story during his week of unconsciousness which is slowly coming alive, and he needs to find a way to stop the madness.

He does so by contacting the spirit of Thomas Zane, a poet who also gained the power to make his fiction into reality. Zane apparently created Alan as a character in a story to one day banish the darkness. In doing so, however, Alan ends up trapped inside the Dark Place, an alternate dimension where the Dark Presence resides. There he remains, struggling to write the story that will set him free.

No one has seen Alan since then, but his memory lives on. Jesse Faden, after confronting the Hiss inside the Federal Bureau of Control, witnesses one of Alan’s attempts to escape and ultimately thwarts it. To the outside world, however, Alan is missing presumed dead.

A quick story guide for Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2 Digital Only
Darkness, cults, and murders? Alan Wake has definitely seen better days.

Thirteen years have passed since the events of Alan Wake. Now, there’s a new terror in the town of Bright Falls. Ritualistic cult murders have transformed the idyllic town into a haven of death and unwelcomeness.

FBI investigators Saga Anderson and Alex Casey arrive to investigate the murders, but find far more than they bargained for. While the two experience no shortage of reality-bending phenomena, Saga finds the person no one expected to see: Alan Wake.

Alan’s still trapped in the Dark Place, frantically trying to find a way out. Doing so means confronting the deepest and darkest layers of himself. As he puts it “this story is a monster, and monsters wear many faces.”

Do you need to play Alan Wake first?

Alan Wake Flashlight
The first game is fraught with intrigue and mystery, but do you need to know it ahead of time?

One of the biggest questions beginners might have before playing Alan Wake 2 is whether or not you need to play the first game. We emphatically recommend you do anyway because the game is incredible, even today. But do you actually need to play it to understand the second game?

According to Remedy, you don’t. The writers took care to make this a very beginner-friendly game. The developer knows that it’s been a long time since the original title, and many players have moved on. Many can’t (or won’t) play the original game first nowadays, even though it is readily available on modern consoles and PCs. So a game that acts just as well as a standalone title was definitely the right move.

That said, you’ll definitely get a lot out of the sequel if you play the original game first. You’ll definitely pick up on a bunch of smaller details and references with Alan Wake fresh in your head. You also won’t need to play the Control crossover DLC AWE to get the game. (But we also recommend you play Control anyway because that game is also phenomenal.)

Beginner’s tips for Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2 Saga
FBI investigator Saga Anderson will confront the darkness hiding in Bright Falls.

Even if you’re well-familiar with Alan Wake 2, the game is going to through a couple of surprises your way. The original game took heavy influence from horror as an aesthetic and tonal genre, but not necessarily mechanically. It was primarily an action-adventure game; there’s some resource management elements but you’ll usually have all the tools you need to escape.

Alan Wake 2 doesn’t hold you hand like that. It’s a survival horror experience through and through, bumping up the scares and the strain. Playing as both Saga and Alan, you’ll have to confront several dark monsters and forces to uncover the truth behind the Bright Falls anomalies.

As you’d expect from a horror-mystery game, there’s plenty of twists and turns along the way. Alan Wake is anything if not twist-heavy, taking inspiration from legendary horror authors and classic stories. Some might find its narrative a bit confusing — I certainly didn’t pick up on a lot of details my first time through. It’s reasonable to expect that Alan Wake 2 will be no different.

Experience the madness in Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake Forest Shack
Beginner or veteran, you’ll find plenty of things to absorb you in Alan Wake 2.

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the series or you’re already an Alan Wake fan. Alan Wake 2 promises to be a scary and engaging horror game. Beginners and veterans alike are sure to get a thrill when it hits digital store shelves this fall.

Alan Wake 2 is developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Epic Games Publishing. It will launch for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via Epic Games Store on October 17, 2023. As of now, the game will be a digital exclusive. There are no plans for a physical disc version at this time.

There will be a standard edition of the game and a deluxe version. The deluxe version includes an expansion pass that features the Night Springs and Lake House story expansions. You also get the Nordic Shotgun Skin, Crimson Windbreaker, and Lantern for Saga, and the Parliament Shotgun Skin and Celebrity Suit for Alan. If you pre-order the game, you’ll gain access to the Ornate Revolver Skin for Alan and Survival Resources Pack for Saga.

The standard edition will cost $49.99 USD on PC, and $59.99 USD on consoles. The deluxe edition costs $69.99 USD on PC and $79.99 on consoles. 

What are you most excited for in Alan Wake 2? Let us know!

Daniel Hein

Daniel Hein is either A) a lifelong video game fanatic, writer, and storyteller just sharing his thoughts on things, or B) some kind of werewolf creature. We're not quite sure which yet. He also makes mediocre video game retrospectives (and other content!) on YouTube where you can watch him babble on for hours about nothing.
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