From the outside, Alan Wake 2 might seem a little daunting. It continues the expanding Remedy Connected Universe, all while picking up the story 13 years later. A lot has happened in that time for Remedy Entertainment, and in a time where connected universes are all the rage for movies and games, there’s the danger of Remedy falling into the same pratfalls that the MCU is currently experiencing. Thankfully, Alan Wake 2 is a sublime exercise in establishing connected narratives the right way.
It wasn’t until I stepped out of a showing of Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon earlier this week that I realized The Marvels release date is imminent. As my friends and I planned our next big outing at the movies before parting ways, we collectively shared a feeling of dismay toward the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its thirty-third entry. There used to be a time when these movies felt less like homework, and more like events of pure escapism. Some of my favorite movie-going experiences are often tied with Marvel’s biggest tales. I add this context because while putting together my Alan Wake 2 review, it brought back a refreshing outlook when it comes to interconnected media.
The wait for Alan Wake 2 has been long, and even more so if you’ve been onboard with the franchise since the first game’s release in 2010. Despite plans to bring forth a sequel sooner, that eventually materialized into 2016’s Quantum Break at the behest of Microsoft forgoing interest in another Alan Wake adventure. We’ve also had the release of Control in that time, which truly expands the Remedy Connected Universe into mind-altering territory. The game’s AWE expansion directly crosses paths with Wake’s story, laying the foundations for Alan Wake 2 with aplomb. And the greatest thing is that you don’t necessarily need to know about any of this while playing one of the best horror games of the year.
Right from the get-go in the long-awaited Remedy sequel, co-directors Sam Lake and Kyle Rowley waste no time in merging different elements of the RCU together. The Federal Bureau of Control has already established a presence in Bright Falls, but the nature of their arrival is kept a mystery, although it isn’t hard to hazard a guess why they’re in town. Without getting too deep into spoilers, the game’s second DLC pack, The Lake House, is likely going to explore a far more sinister story about the bureau’s entanglement with Wake’s nightmarish narrative.
There are so many dangling threads in Alan Wake 2’s strive to lay more foundations down in the RCU. Some are resolved and some are left open, but Remedy never makes you feel alienated for not being in the know. Instead, the studio playfully uses these elements to enrich Alan Wake 2’s story, strengthening the relationships of its vibrant array of characters. You don’t need to have read any external media, watched a 4-hour lore retrospective, or even have to play the first Alan Wake game. Remedy supplies you with enough lore to dip your toes in and get acquainted with the weird and wonderful world of Wake, and leaves enough out to entice you to uncover its deepest secrets.
It all ran through my mind in that instant The Marvels returned to the fringe of my mind, as I attempted to recount what essential MCU entries I’d need to have a modicum of enjoyment or understanding of where the MCU is headed. Haven’t seen WandaVision on Disney+? Then you won’t know about Monica Rambeau harnessing godly abilities. Did you miss out on Ms.Marvel too? That’s 8 or so hours of backstory, and implications of mutants existing in the MCU, that you’ll have missed alongside a cliffhanger that sets up where The Marvels will begin. It makes Alan Wake 2’s approach to intertwined storytelling all the more impressive.
Marvel’s appeal with these movies largely relied on the audience’s ableness to dip in and out of different movies without narrative consequences, still retaining a picture of things to come while still gaining an understanding of the present state of the heroes they just watched thwart evil for 2 hours. Alan Wake 2, while still a multi-million dollar production, is arguably a far more niche world to be invested in, a world that revels in the surrealistic beauty of Twin Peaks The Return, the metatextual boldness of The Matrix Resurrections, and all the oddball Remedy-isms seen in the studios’ works as far back as Max Payne. Yet, it is all so approachable, inviting, and rewarding when you dive deeper and deeper into it.
The Remedy Connected Universe is undoubtedly about to get more ambitious, but if Alan Wake 2 is a signal of things to come, then everyone is invited.