Games Alan Wake 2 Can Borrow Survival Horror Tropes From

With the announcement of Alan Wake 2 at The Game Awards 2021, fans have speculated what horror themes and tropes the decade-old sequel will include. Developed by Remedy Entertainment, makers of Control, and the Max Payne series, Alan Wake is an action-adventure shooter set in the mountain town of Bright Falls. The story follows novelist Alan Wake as he searches for his wife while experiencing the events of a novel he wrote.

Alan Wake is structured in an episodic format, rather than levels they are referred to as episodes, further leaning into the psychological nature of the game. Moreover, it is inspired by various concepts from books, movies, and even tabletop role-playing games. Most notably, the setting of the 90s tv show Twin Peaks was a direct inspiration. The game reflects this inspiration through the surreal narrative and immersive atmosphere.

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Alan Wake 2 can borrow and subvert other games tropes that will benefit the gameplay and the narrative. Alien: Isolation could lend both its hiding mechanics and remaining quiet or risk getting the alien's attention. Condemned: Criminal Origins is another game with its detective style of puzzles to the underabundance of guns. The body horror of the Dead Space series is another, not to the Cronenberg degree of mutilation, but through the utter shock of seeing the 'new and improved' enemies. A series perfect for Halloween gaming, Outlast can add its note collecting and use of darkness. Borrowing these tropes from other games creates a unique narrative and brings Alan Wake 2 into a more contemporary environment.

Alien: Isolation relies upon hide-and-seek mechanics when facing the highly intelligent Xenomorph. While progressing through the game, there is an atmosphere of dread whether any of the player's actions would alert the alien. Dialing the action to quick bursts allows the horror to remain fresh without being overbearing to the narrative.

To create a unique playthrough, Alan Wake 2 could borrow these quick bursts of action. The Darkness was an ever-present obstacle and antagonist in both the narrative and gameplay in the first game. Its possible reintroduction would make Alan Wake 2 perfect as a survival horror game as the Darkness can hunt Alan Wake. Moreover, rather than brute-forcing every encounter with a gun, the option could be to run or hide. It effectively takes power away from the player and adds to the horror aspects of the game.

The classic from the Xbox 360 era, Condemned: Criminal Origins, focused on melee combat above the gunplay. While there were guns in the game, they were sporadically placed and sometimes lacked ammo. This forced the player to face the horrific or mutilated faces of the enemies head-on. Besides the combat, the game was spaced with detective puzzles that would break each combat encounter. These moments not only allowed for the narrative to be unveiled at the player's pace but added exposition up that point of the story.

Related: How Alan Wake's Clunky Mechanics Made the Game Better

Among the ways Alan Wake 2 can improve the original, the combat is the most glaring concern; while scary at first, it became oversaturated and routine. Adding the horror trope of hard-to-find weapons that are ultimately useless could benefit Alan Wake 2, creating a sense of uneasiness and uncertainty despite finding a gun. Likewise, the puzzles from the first game leaned on the supernatural aspect of Alan Wake. While it benefited the direction of the first game, it was more of an obstacle rather than a narrative device. Integrating a puzzle unique to the Alan Wake world would naturally slow down the action and add exposition through the player's actions.

One of the most beloved horror series, Dead Space, is a game built on body horror, putting players aboard a spaceship infested with creatures made of the crew's corpses called Necromorphs. The creatures had a presence that was both imposing and eerily unsettling as they stumbled or sprinted toward the player. Moreover, the context of the creature's transformation is not fully explained and adds to the mysterious, almost Lovecraftian horror already in the psychological-warping game.

In contrast, in the first Alan Wake, the player fights the Darkness and its minions known as the Taken. However, their appearance is relatively tame, and the origin of their transformation is relatively self-explanatory; the Darkness took them over. Alan Wake 2 could benefit from making the enemies feel and look more imposing, making each encounter an event rather than an obstacle. Shifting away from the faceless minion would be similar to other frightening horror experiences from sci-fi games in the same genre. Also, alluding, rather than telling, to how the Taken were transformed would allow the player to not only discover their origins naturally but leave an ounce of mystery.

While the premise of Outlast is relatively straightforward, the game leans and benefits from expository info while focusing on immersion. It does this in two ways: revolving gameplay around the use of darkness and having the narrative driven by diaries and reports. The levels with dark segments demand more focus by the player. At the same time, the journals and reports explain the hospital's situation giving the player to "follow the bread crumbs" approach.

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Translated into the Alan Wake 2, the use of darkness in the game would create an immersive atmosphere, making the player hypervigilant to any changes in the surroundings. It is similar to how Subnautica: Below Zero uses Thalassophobia as horror, creating an environment of insecurity. While it would slow the gameplay down, the player would have to focus on it entirely, creating an opportunity to introduce horror aspects of the game, further immersing the player. However, having diaries and reports directed more toward the story would allow for more narrative beats to be told.

While tropes can be seen as overused and cliché features in-game, it depends on how they are used and what genre they are used in. By combining narrative and gameplay features, the trope enhances the game and benefits of being a familiar feature to players. When it comes to survival horror games, tropes have defined the genre, but the context of the game subverts it making each stand apart. It's like how the Alan Wake remaster is different from the original, but the core of its experience remains intact despite being a decade old.

In Alien: Isolation, the narrative revolves around the player evading a brilliant and violent alien, reflected in the gameplay. For Condemned: Criminal Origins, less was more in the ammo in guns and the nuances of the puzzles, leaving the narrative's pacing to the player. Moreover, Dead Space used body horror that benefited the gameplay and its atmosphere. Outlast uses the environment to immerse the player and the diaries and reports to share the narrative load. For Alan Wake 2 to shift from an action-adventure game to survival horror, it must borrow and subvert horror tropes to create a unique experience through narrative and gameplay.

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