Alan Wake 2 is a game that people have been waiting for for a long, long time, but from all that we’ve seen of it so far, it has more than a good chance of justifying the long wait. Not only is it bringing about a complete switch in genres with developer Remedy Entertainment’s first proper survival horror game, it’s also making plenty of other changes that are promising to shake up the gameplay and story dynamic in interesting ways- like having two playable protagonists that players will be able to swap between.
But how exactly will the character switching work? How will the story adjust when you swap from one to the other? Speaking in a recent interview with VGC, Alan Wake 2’s developers touched on the game’s headlining gameplay feature, and how exactly it will function.
Principal narrative designer Molly Maloney explains that players will begin the game playing as newcomer Saga Anderson, before unlocking the ability to play as Alan Wake himself “at a certain point”, after which swapping back and forth will be freely available (at save points, as revealed in recent hands-on previews by various outlets).
“The structure of the game is you open up with Saga. She arrives in Bright Falls, she’s investigating these ritualistic killings,” Maloney said. “As you can imagine things spiral from there, she gets in over her head a little bit and at a certain point you unlock Alan. And then after that point, you can switch between the two paths, the two stories.
“They are unique stories to both characters, they highlight different mechanics, they have different tones. Alan represents approximately 50% of the experience. And then but a lot of the reasoning behind this is a couple of things. One, Alan has been involved in this for 13 years, he has his own perspective. Saga, as a newcomer, provides a very different perspective. Both sides of that story have their own tone, and that kind of provides a refresh.”
Co-director Kyle Rowley added that the development team wanted to ensure that the game doesn’t turn into a “one-note horror experience”, which is an issue circumvented by being able to swap freely between two characters who have very different tones and mechanics to their stories.
“We want to make sure that if you’re overwhelmed with the fear – you know, we don’t want to create one-note horror all the time, but I think part of the Alan Wake IP is definitely quirky characters, small town Americana, daytime scenes,” he said. “So one of the parts of that was to allow the player to decide ‘okay, Alan’s stuff is a bit overwhelming, maybe I’ll go play in a daytime sequence as Saga. So it’s giving the player a bit of choice about how they experience those two stories.”
Maloney added: “With Alan it’s understandably a darker side, he’s in the dark place. So the approach to switching is you can play it in whatever order you prefer. It allows you to kind of pace it in the way that you’d like. But when it comes to the narrative, the narrative was actually designed to do that.
“So it involved a lot of iteration, playing it over and over again, making sure that, if I play a lot of Saga and then jump to Alan, is that rewarding? If I [alternate] between them, how does that feel? So no matter how you play, you kind of get different context and different rewards for doing that.”
While players will have the freedom to experience the story through the perspective of whichever character they want for the majority of the experience, Rowley explains at a certain point, the game will take control and control the swapping and build towards the ending in a linear fashion.
“You start off linear, we introduce Saga, we introduce Alan, we introduce their concepts and at that point, it’s kind of like two parallel stories,” he said. “It’s an overarching story that connects them both, but they’re two parallel ones so I can decide which I order I play in, until the point where it’s like ‘okay, now you have to go play here’ and then we conclude basically.”
In the interview, the developers also spoke about how the two unique perspectives and their layered stories will encourage players to play through the game multiple times. Read more on that through here.
Alan Wake 2 is set to launch on October 17 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.