Remedy‘s Alan Wake is a bit of a tragedy- and I don’t just mean the story, it’s an exercise in reminding us just how much external circumstances can impact the reception of an otherwise obvious cult classic. After a lengthy development cycle and poor timing that placed it in the middle of an awkward period in Microsoft’s publishing strategies, Alan Wake performed adequately in sales but failed to garner the kind of critical reception it deserved. Once the Xbox exclusivity period elapsed, it was finally brought to the PC, shortly followed by its expansion, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare.
It’s popular these days to riff off the famous American writer, Stephen King, or pull on influences like David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, but Remedy was doing it long before it was on trend. Max Payne 1 & 2 came with a parallel narrative that played out via an in-world pulp noir show “Address Unknown” which served as an allegory for Max’s own internal struggles. Remedy is fairly open about the fact that they have a proclivity for inserting homages into the works that inspired them, and Alan Wake was no exception to this formula.
Spoilers ahead, because if you haven’t played Alan Wake yet… you really should.