Alan Wake is an enchanting game. When I first played through it on normal difficulty I poked fun at it a lot. The campy setting, repetitive gameplay, awkward animations, and silly concepts were all easy targets for ridicule; yet I still played through all the way to the end. The environments really captured me in their detail, and I was immersed in the bizarre world surrounding the small town of Bright Falls. I was fascinated with the game, but not in love with it. The journey looked and sounded wonderful, but it wasn’t engaging. I reluctantly plodded through the flat gameplay to experience the wonderfully crafted story.
I still had an empty feeling about the game, despite exploring every inch. Long after I completed it I still thought about it, and it became a much bigger force in my mind. At the time, I knew I didn’t really enjoy it a whole lot, but that didn’t stop me from having pleasant thoughts and memories of the game every time my eyes caught the box in my collection. The whole concept of the game was romanticised in my head and it took on something bigger than it was. It was eating at me. Finally I decided; why not? Despite a large backlog of games I haven’t even started yet, I started Alan Wake up again; this time on Nightmare difficulty. Maybe the gameplay was better than I remember? I had to clear this empty space in my mind.
It was though I finally had the last piece of the puzzle; Nightmare mode brought the game to LIFE! The repetitive gameplay suddenly became creative and tactical. Every shot mattered, and the light took on a much bigger personality when it was saving my life. The magnification of danger in Nightmare difficulty clicked with the insanity of the story; it finally felt like I was enjoying Alan Wake the way it was meant to be experienced. The new way of approaching the game helped me think about the story with more clarity. The slow parts of the game are a lot more enjoyable when you’ve been fighting for your life and sanity for the past hour. A deep thought that struck me was how generic objects covered in darkness completely disappeared when you cover them in light; suggesting darkness is the final stage before death. I was immersed in the world to the point where I finished the game in a couple of days, and it’s quite a lengthy game.
I encourage everyone who wants to experience Alan Wake to play on Nightmare straight away. Forget about Normal mode, it’s a lifeless plod thorugh a world that really needs to be FELT to truly express itself. The name Nightmare is understandably intimidating; but it’s a great way to describe the game; a relentless battlefield inside Alan Wake’s head. Nightmare is surely how the developers intended the game be played – unfortunately in this age of inept journalists we’ve got far too many easy options in games that can rob players of a genuine experience. Nightmare is quite difficult but I never found it frustrating; the gameplay scenarios are very well designed. I even made a helpful video!
While playing through on “Normal” difficulty may now seem like a waste of time, it did give me this enlightening contrast. Even in a game with such a heavy emphasis on beautiful graphics and detailed narrative, it’s still the gameplay that has the biggest impact. It’s amazing the difference it made, Alan Wake is now one of my all-time favourite games. I’m looking forward to tackling American Nightmare next.
4 thoughts on “Alan Wake – Nightmare Revisited”
Hmm, color me interested now. I had zero interest in Alan Wake and your last chat log/review for the game turned me off from trying it in the near future. So is this game like Steel Diver, a hidden gem buried under flaws or something?
No, there’s no gem, but the “gaming press” difficulty mode was ON by default. The real game is supposed to be more like Luigi’s Mansion meets RE Mercs (as shown on video).
The press are buried in flaws; Steel Toilet is not.
Hah, Luigi’s Mansion meets Mercs is a great way to describe it. I wouldn’t say it’s “hidden”, I just failed to appreciate it the first time. I think in general the reception was very good, and a lot of people know it exists unlike poor Steel Diver. The gameplay is a lot simpler than Steel Diver and doesn’t have nearly as much depth, it’s the environment design that makes each fight different.
If you think the setting is interesting then definitely pick it up, it’s probably cheap now too. The story is so unique that i’d recommend everyone give it a look. Some people (Bill) think the story is juvenile and retarded, but even then the characters themselves are interesting and there’s some great dialogue and music.