'Alan Wake' DLC 2: 'The Writer' Review - Wake's Last Stand?

Alan Wake

I loved "Alan Wake," and I was left dying for more after its cryptic ending. The first DLC (which was included as a free download code in new copies) gave a taste of some new content but ultimately felt like a collection of familiar moments from the original game. The second, and perhaps final, DLC chapter, entitled the "The Writer," also returns to familiar locales, but manages to differentiate itself with some truly mind-bending segments.

NOTE: Spoilers to follow if you haven't played through "Alan Wake" or its first DLC pack, "The Signal."

The Basics

Alan Wake remains trapped in the "Dark Place," tormented by his own imagination. The only way to escape from this twisted world is to find the part of himself that's become lost in this world and take control. The quest, therefore, is to return to the cabin where it all started. But things are very different this time around.

The Highs

Insane Level Design

The engine behind "Alan Wake" is extremely powerful and able to do some really neat stuff with gravity. It's something we really only saw a bit of in the main game, but in "The Writer," levels are constantly moving and shifting, spinning on axis or twirling in a whirlwind. The game forces you to think non-linearly and examine your surroundings carefully to see the safest path ahead. It's surprisingly heavy on platforming, but that's OK, as it's an element that wasn't explored much in the first game.

One segment has you running through familiar locations which are located inside of what appears to be a giant hamster wheel. One minute you're in the Bright Falls police station and the next you're in the Well Lit Room. Ghosts of familiar faces haunt this place and remind you of moments past. It's extremely cool and is more twisted than anything we saw in "The Signal."

Combat Alternatives

Another nice twist is that most of "The Writer" can be finished without firing a single bullet. That's not because there aren't enemies to fight. In fact, you'll see bigger crowds of enemies here than anywhere else in the game. No, instead of bullets, you're much more able to use the environment to your advantage, summoning exploding barrels by shining your flashlight on hotspots.

The best example of this is in a climactic race to the all-important lighthouse. The light from the lighthouse is able to decimate a dozen enemies instantly, but nearby rocks and obstacles block its path. Crumbling the rocks open up brief paths of safety as you run in between the shafts of light. It's one of the more satisfying moments I've had with "Alan Wake."

The Lows

Still Light On Story

There's a moment, about half-way through "The Writer," when Alan asks his mysterious mentor, Zane, a crucial question. What was the deal with the page Alan found in The Well-Lit Room? The one where Zane basically created The Clicker? Zane's answer is vague and unhelpful, and that's really all you get in terms of revelations about the main story.

The Real End?

At present, Remedy hasn't announced plans to do another DLC pack for "Alan Wake," so unless a miracle happens and "Alan Wake 2" gets greenlit, this is the last new "Alan Wake" content we'll ever play. With that in mind, "The Writer" ends at a point that basically presupposes more content is on the way. It's not an ending, it's a chapter break...one that would easily lead into the theoretical sequel. If you're looking for closure on the "Alan Wake" story, though, you're going to want to look elsewhere.

The Verdict

If you've enjoyed your time with "Alan Wake" so far, there's really no reason you should miss "The Writer." It's more entertaining and creative than "The Signal" and offers up some really unique gameplay opportunities. Just don't expect much in terms of story revelations.