Unfortunately, there are times where a game will find commercial and critical success but will, for whatever reason, not be given a sequel. Alan Wake, released in 2010, is one such game. An action-adventure game that unraveled like a psychological thriller novel, this should’ve become a staple in Microsoft’s exclusive library.
Developed by Remedy, creators of Max Payne, Alan Wake was narrative heavy and featured unique gameplay elements that differed greatly from the run and gun style of Max Payne. The primary enemy that the player confronts is the Taken; humans, animals, and objects that were corrupted by darkness and have shadows that act as their shields. They are unable to be killed by conventional means as the shadow has to be removed before any damage can be done. Players must use various light sources, such as flashlights, flare guns, and flash bangs to eliminate the shadow and then follow-up with a conventional weapon. Flashlights do need to be recharged if they run out of power and it was recommended that the player search the environment for other sources of light to use as cover. Titular character Alan Wake is not your typical action hero. He is a successful but struggling writer that needed a short vacation to break his writer’s block. It leads him and his wife to the small mountain town of Bright Falls, which at first glance is peaceful and idyllic, but once the Darkness spreads, it becomes a twisted version of itself that the player must escape.
What made Alan Wake so great was it constantly forced the player to question whether or not the events taking place were real or merely a construct of Alan’s mental state. There are numerous occasions where Alan will interact with a Psychologist who is concerned that he is suffering from a mental break. As events unfold through the game, the player will begin to question Alan’s stability as some of the supernatural phenomena seem to be specifically targeting him. Remedy did an excellent job of crafting a psychological thriller with a fully realized world that seemed to be set up for multiple sequels. The two DLC that followed up the main game acted as a bridge for a sequel and I was looking forward to revisiting the world of Alan Wake.
New IP’s are always risky propositions regardless of the platform. There is a chance that the return on investment will not meet the costs of production. But Alan Wake was a success, selling over 3 million copies and a true sequel has yet to surface. A spin-off known as American Nightmare was released in 2012, but was widely considered an arcade game. It was far more action-heavy and had a drastic change in tone. Instead of being a psychological thriller, it was more akin to a grindhouse film featuring elements of pulp and black comedy. Since its release, Remedy has released a sequel to Max Payne and the highly ambitious Quantum Break. As of today, Remedy is currently working on two other projects, neither are related to Alan Wake.
For Microsoft, this feels like a missed opportunity to capitalize on a new IP. Alan Wake deserved to be made into an series exclusive for the Xbox. It was a unique take on the survival-horror genre and had piqued the interest of fans. Hope still remains that a true sequel will be released as Alan Wake is still fondly remembered, but as it stands right now, it’s just another IP that is catching dust in Microsoft’s library.
A good book should never succumb to that type of fate.