Alan Wake 2’s First DLC Pushes The Metatextual Shenanigans Even Further

Alan Wake 2’s First DLC Pushes The Metatextual Shenanigans Even Further

Today, as part of Geoff Keighley’s big Summer Game Fest kickoff festivities, we got our first glimpse of Alan Wake 2’s first DLC expansion, Night Springs. Part of what made Alan Wake 2 itself such an intriguing experience was the way in which it often seemed to be operating on multiple levels of reality and meaning all at once, and, if anything, Night Springs seems poised to take this playful metatextual approach even further. I recently got a hands-off glimpse of some of what we can expect in Night Springs, and had a chat with some of the folks behind it, in advance of its arrival tomorrow.

Perhaps the first thing to note about Night Springs,if we want to have any hope of keeping our different layers of reality straight, is that while many of the characters here may look like characters we know from Alan Wake 2 proper, canonically speaking, these aren’t actually those selfsame characters. Rather, these are stories written by Alan Wake, in the vein of the in-universe, Twilight Zone-like anthology show Night Springs, during his time in the Dark Place, as he struggles to write his way out. So, for instance, while one of the three “episodes” included in the DLC stars a character who looks and sounds very much like Rose Marigold, the Oh Deer Diner waitress who’s also Wake’s self-proclaimed biggest fan, in actuality this is a character that Alan has made up who is known simply as The Waitress—likely based on Rose, but not actually, canonically her.

Screenshot: Remedy Entertainment

The other two chapters here also focus on alternate-reality versions of characters we already know. That woman with the striking red hair you glimpsed in the trailer may look a lot like Jesse Faden from Control, and she is of course played by the same actor, Courtney Hope, but this is The Sibling. And lastly there’s The Actor, played by actual actor Shawn Ashmore, who has played multiple roles in the Remedy-verse of games (Tim Breaker in Alan Wake 2, Quantum Break protagonist Jack Joyce) and here, may be playing some variation of those, as well as…himself? My favorite moment in the reveal trailer is the one in which a director, played by none other than Remedy creative director Sam Lake, is directing Shawn in a scene and then, after calling “Cut!”, says, “Shawn, I’m really happy,” suggesting that Shawn Ashmore, in addition to playing a variation of Tim Breaker, is also playing himself here.

This, more than anything else, was what clued me in that Night Springs was aiming to push Alan Wake 2’s narrative playfulness even further. I was reminded of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, the 2012 spin-off of the original Alan Wake which gave Remedy a chance to play with the characters they’d created for the game in ways that fell outside the narrative and tonal boundaries of it. As Clay Murphy, lead writer on the expansion, put it, “Night Springs for us was a chance to experiment with characters, experiences, stories, and tones that players may not be expecting but hopefully are wanting.”

Screenshot: Remedy Entertainment

What we then saw was a very Twilight Zone-esque intro for the “episode” of the DLC that features The Waitress. It sees Mr. Door (the always compelling David Harewood) taking on the Rod Serling role of providing a vaguely ominous introduction for what’s to come. This episode seems to be, in part, an exploration of the ways in which fans can sometimes delude themselves into thinking they matter as much to the celebrity they adore as that celebrity matters to them, with The Waitress dashing off from her job at the diner on a quest—real or imagined—to rescue the writer whose work she so adores.

Like American Nightmare before it, it feels both a tonal shift in terms of the narrative, and a gameplay shift from the more tense, desperate survival horror action of Alan Wake 2 to more freewheeling gunplay. When I asked Kyle Rowley, game director on both Alan Wake 2 and Night Springs, about that creative connection, he acknowledged it, saying that with American Nightmare, as here, “we kind of shifted the tone and shifted the gameplay to be something a bit different, but still working within the frameworks of what we set up in the base game.” In both cases, he suggested, the shift in terms of gameplay was from something more deliberately tense (or, in Alan Wake 2’s case at least, “survival horror”) to leaning “into this kind of playful, over-the-top, very stylized work.”

Screenshot: Remedy Entertainment

He also said, however, that Night Springs was driven in part by a desire to offer us new playable characters. “When we were originally doing the base game,” Rowley said, “we wanted to have more playable characters. We’ve always experimented with multiple playable characters as much as we can. We have two main characters in the base game and we really wanted more, but then we were like, okay, we wanted to focus on those characters.” But once the long development of Alan Wake 2 was complete, the concept of Night Springs struck them “as a means to kind of get some of those [other] playable characters into Alan Wake 2 as a whole.” We won’t have to wait long to see what mysteries await us in the town of Night Springs, as the expansion lands tomorrow.

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