I recently got my hands on Alan Wake 2 at a preview event, allowing me to explore two parts of the game as the titular author and FBI agent Saga Anderson. You can read about my experience with Alan’s section here, but Saga’s site is promising and narratively interesting.
My demo begins with Saga in the third chapter of her campaign. She arrives in the small town of Watery in search of the Clicker, a serial killer who appears to have ties to the menacing tree cult.
Investigation is Saga’s forte, and I’m tasked with scouring the various villagers of Watery in search of clues. Walking around the city brings back strong memories of the first Alan Wake game; In fact, at this point I have the option to hop in a car and make a quick trip to Bright Falls. As an FBI agent, this early stage focuses heavily on clue gathering, based on gathering information from specific residents and reading documents, signs, and other texts.
The investigation progress is tracked in a menu called Mind Map. This feature is presented as a booth-like space that acts as an interactive menu. You can go to different sections to access categories like flowcharts for posting and linking clues to various mysteries, upgrading weapons, and following subject profiles and other things. The Case Board, for example, is a wall that displays a flowchart with photos, clues, and relationships connected with tape. As I gather new information, I place photos on the wall in the appropriate category, such as those related to specific places, an interesting person, or a specific event.
The room-like presentation made entering Mind Map confusing at first, as it seemed like I was suddenly fast-traveling to a new area rather than bringing up a menu. Luckily, you can switch to a more traditional menu screen, with categories presented as tabs rather than physical locations to go to in the mind map.
After a few conversations with the quirky residents, I’m pointed out two brothers who speak as if Saga has been living in Watery for years, and see their presence as a kind of return. Saga is surprised at first, but smart enough to play along. Our strange conversation takes me to my “home” in a nearby trailer park. However, access requires a key at Coffee Land, a nearby coffee-themed amusement park.
As I cross an eerie forest path to the park, I get my first glimpse of combat when a shadowy speedster attacks. Shooting over the shoulder feels good, with weapons like my pistol and shotgun packing a satisfying punch. I remember the action of Resident Evil 4, dodging the incoming hatchets that the enemy throws while firing shots. Hitting headshots is difficult because my pistol doesn’t have the greatest accuracy; Luckily, you can upgrade this and other attributes in the Mind Map’s weapon upgrade menu. Of course, holding a shoulder bumper to focus your flashlight’s beam can make these shadowy threats more vulnerable to gunfire.
On the way I find various locked coolers that were set up by cult members. These are tied to optional puzzles to find their combination and the rewards can be considerable. In addition to resource caches, you will also find a crossbow to add to your arsenal.
I arrive at Coffee Land, which is currently closed. The lack of visitors and the unsettling atmosphere make the otherwise silly destination a spooky excursion. To get into the locked personnel office, you have to find a screwdriver to break the lock. Coffee Land is a small maze of caffeine-inspired attractions, and I solve a few environmental puzzles during my stay. This includes deriving padlock combinations based on staff tasks or identifying the correct cabins in the Ferris wheel. I generally found the puzzles I encountered to be clever and well-designed, challenging me to think and observe carefully without the game giving me too many clues as to how to proceed.
Eventually I find the Perculator, a rotating cup ride guarded by hook-throwing enemies (possibly twisted versions of the park staff). While I have to get them out to collect a screwdriver in the operator’s cabin, I do my best to avoid other threats patrolling the park. This eventually goes wrong and it’s challenging to counter multiple threats due to my limited ammo and flashlight battery. I manage to fend off the onslaught of the small group of enemies, but just barely. I reach and unlock the personnel office, find the key in a safe and head towards the trailer park.
The Saga section offered a nice mix of low-key investigative gameplay and tense action. While it’s a little more down-to-earth than Alan’s version of the story (relatively speaking), it still contained plenty of bizarre moments and feels like an improved, modernized take on the atmosphere of the first game. I look forward to seeing how their story unfolds when Alan Wake 2 releases on October 27th.