After 13 years, Alan Wake 2 is nearly here. But since the long-awaited sequel has been tossed around for over a decade, it’s fair to assume not everyone has a clear memory of the events of the first game, and some people likely never got around to playing it at all. If that sounds like you, you’re in the right place; here’s everything you need to know about the first Alan Wake to prepare for the sequel.
Arriving at Bright Falls
The game takes place in the town of Bright Falls, Washington, where the titular protagonist Alan Wake is going on vacation with his wife, Alice. Wake is an author known for his Alex Casey novels, but he hasn’t written anything new in three years. After being recognized in town several times by fans (especially Rose, the waitress at a local diner), Wake receives keys to his rental cabin from a mysterious old woman in black, and he and his wife drive off to start their vacation.
Upon arriving at the cabin, which is seated on an island in the middle of a body of water called Cauldron Lake, Alan realizes this was no simple vacation – Alice has a typewriter set up for him upstairs, hoping the remote location will break him out of his writer’s block. She’s even found a doctor named Emil Hartman, who specializes in struggling artists, but Alan wants no part of this. He yells at Alice and storms out. Shortly after, he returns upon hearing Alice’s screams and sees her falling over the railing of the cabin into the lake below. Alan dives in after her.
After a series of hallucinations that involve the old woman in black, Alan regains consciousness at the wheel of a crashed car. As he makes his way back to civilization, he has to fend off mysterious shadowy figures called Taken by shining them with his flashlight and finishing them off with bullets. He also gathers pages of a manuscript from a book called “Departure,” which seems to be written by him about the events currently unfolding. Alan continues to find these pages throughout the whole game, and they all relate to events happening at the moment or that will happen in the near future.
When he finally emerges from the woods, he meets Sheriff Breaker and asks about his wife. It’s nothing but bad news: Alan has been gone a whole week, Alice is presumed dead, and there isn’t even a cabin in Cauldron Lake, so none of Alan’s story makes sense. Back at the sheriff’s office, Alan receives a phone call from someone claiming they have Alice captive and will give her up if Alan brings the completed manuscript. At this point, Alan’s agent Barry shows up and agrees to help his friend. When Alan finally tracks the kidnapper down, they reveal they never had Alice, and he and Alan are sucked away by a tornado of dark energy. This energy, which is also responsible for possessing Taken, is known as the Dark Presence.
Cauldron Lake Lodging
For the second time in the game, Alan wakes up with a foggy memory, but this time he finds himself in a psychiatric hospital called Cauldron Lake Lodge. The facility is run by Emil Hartman, the same doctor Alice recommended at the start of the game. He tells Alan every event up until now was just a figment of his imagination and claims Alan’s been suffering a psychotic break ever since Alice drowned in the lake. Luckily for Alan, he’s able to see that this is all a trick – Hartman has actually been running this facility as a way to force artists into making work and then crediting himself as a producer to get rich and famous. Alan frees Barry, who had been captured and detained by Hartman, and when the Dark Presence returns, Wake dooms Hartman, locking him in a room with a cloud of its swirling malice.
Among the residents of this psychiatric hospital are Tor and Odin Anderson, a pair of elderly brothers who make up a band called the Old Gods of Asgard. While they’ve supposedly got dementia, they seem to know more about the situation than anyone else and direct Wake toward their old farm. Once he arrives, he discovers a clue in a song about the Lady of the Light, a woman named Cynthia Weaver. Barry and Alan decide to spend the night at the farm and then find her when it’s light outside. While asleep, Alan has a vision of the week he missed: it turns out he was trapped in the depths of Cauldron Lake (which is referred to as The Dark Place) and forced to write a story about the Dark Presence growing in power.
This is around the time we get an idea of exactly what The Dark Place/Dark Presence really is. Some sort of supernatural entity that resides in Cauldron Lake has the ability to turn fiction into reality. The only catch? It’s incapable of generating that fiction itself, so it needs to capture some kind of artist to do the creating for it. The last artist it captured was a poet named Thomas Zane, but he failed to escape its clutches and is seen through a few visions as a man floating in an old-fashioned diving suit. His partner, Barbara Jagger, was held hostage as well, but Zane failed to free her, and the Dark Presence took her body, becoming the old woman in black.
Before Alan can act on this information, he wakes to see FBI Agent Nightingale standing over him and Barry, ready to arrest them. He’s been hunting Alan the whole game – now, he’s caught him. Soon after they return to Bright Falls, Sheriff Breaker lets Alan and Barry out of their holding cells, convinced Nightingale is mad. Nightingale protests and pulls out a manuscript page, saying it’s evidence for Wake’s arrest since it tells a story about how Nightingale is sucked away by a dark presence. Moments later, Nightingale is sucked away by The Dark Presence.
Barry and Breaker (now convinced Alan is telling the truth) help Alan get a helicopter, and the three fly to Cynthia Weaver. Obsessed with keeping darkness out, she lives in a power plant where every room is drenched with light and constantly replaces the bulbs. She knew Thomas Zane before he fell victim to the Dark Presence and directs Alan to the Well-Lit room, where she protects an item called the clicker, along with a manuscript page written by Zane himself. The clicker is a device from Alan’s childhood designed to make him feel braver, and its history is detailed on the page written by Zane.
A. Wake vs. A Lake
In the final chapter of the game, Alan heads back to Cauldron Lake alone to confront the darkness. Armed with the clicker, he dives into the depths. Once inside, he briefly encounters a doppelganger of himself named Mr. Scratch, a dark copy that later serves as the antagonist of the 2012 spin-off/follow-up Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. Finally, Alan reaches the cabin at the heart of the Dark Place and destroys Barbara Jagger, the old woman in black, by shoving the clicker in the hole where her heart used to be. Unfortunately, he still needs to finish the manuscript and knows that the Dark Presence won’t be satisfied with a happy ending to a horror novel. In the end, he frees Alice but traps himself in the Dark Place. At the start of Alan Wake 2, we learn he’s been there for thirteen years, the same length of time between the first game and its sequel.
That’s the entire plot of Alan Wake, meaning you’re now fully prepared to dive into the sequel. For more Alan Wake 2, check out our review, read about its upcoming updates, and check out our hands-on gameplay from earlier this year.