Alan Wake: The Writer DLC Review

The Writer is out October 12, 2010, exclusively on Xbox Live and costs 560 MP ($7)

Writers have a phrase, “murder your darlings,” a warning against overly-clever prose. There comes a time when the writer has to stop trying so hard, and just go with it. That’s where Alan’s head is at in The Writer, the third and final DLC pack for Alan Wake.

Alan Wake: The Writer DLC (XBox360 [Reviewed])
Developer: Remedy
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: October 12, 2010
MSRP: $7.00

He has momentum. He’s been locked in a mysterious nightmare since May, separated from his wife and stalked by shadowy beings called The Taken. All things considered, he’s handled it pretty well.

As he’s deduced snippets of terrifying truth about his situation, he’s somehow achieved a firmer grasp on reality. He even has something approximating a sense of humor in this final (demented) act.

Which is surprising, since Bright Falls is caving in on itself in The Writer. As Wake describes it, it’s like Bright Falls “isn’t even bothering to act like it’s a real place” anymore. There are floating islands of forest everywhere, hills and trees are distorted, curlicued. It’s like the bizarro version of the place has taken over. The scenery is coolest thing about The Writer, for sure.

Wake is still searching for the enigmatic ghost writer (literally) Thomas Zane, a voice of reason in the darkness. He still offers Wake assistance and guidance. Why, we still don’t know. Zane suggests that Wake head to the Bright Falls Lighthouse, which is symbolic enough in a place full of shadowy monsters and darkness.

Those monsters, The Taken, are definitely in The Writer. Hoardes of them. They attack in even larger numbers than they did in The Signal (the previous DLC pack). It’s worth mentioning that Alan Wake has certainly kept some of the irritating quirks about it’s combat system. It still feels like you can’t escape when you’re surrounded, even if you run. It’s still silly that you automatically equip weapons when you pick them. That’s just how the game plays. No biggie. I’ve long since forgiven these things.

These nitpicks aren’t that noticeable, since there are fun new ways to blow things up in The Writer, using the environment. Wake will often face The Taken on steep hillsides. They’ll come charging up at him from below. It’s the kind of situation where you wish you had like 5 exploding barrels to roll down at them–and that’s what you have. You can shoot triggers, which send these barrels a’rolling, and they deciminate any Taken in their warpath down below.

There’s also the more obvious “explosion” words, which if shot simply trigger a giant explosion. Good fun.

Like The Signal, there’s something kind of like a Boss Fight in The Writer. It’s Alan’s dude-bro, Barry of all people. Well, it’s fake-evil-Barry, the one who haunts him in the dark place.

Earlier I mentioned the “murder your darlings” saying, and that’s exactly the phrase that Barry taunts Alan with. He challenges Alan, suggesting that he has to murder his child, before he can move on and finish the story. One thing you have to give to Alan Wake, is how it folds the layers of gameplay, setting and narrative, and weaves them together so they reflect back on one another in a way that’s still fun.

This theme is expressed in a playful way in the collectibles in The Writer. Guess what they are? Bright Falls “Video Games.” In a video game that commonly presents literary themes, which become realities in the game, there are collectible video games

When you get the end of The Writer (probably about 2 hours after you start it), you’ll have a crystal clear understanding of where Alan Wake is, how he got there, and why. It is a realization you may have managed to work out after the ending of the main game, but it is clearly revealed in this chapter. It’s not a firm conclusion, but it’s not a cliffhanger either.

Wake has new purpose, and he himself understands what’s happening. It’s a shame we’ll have to wait until Alan Wake 2 to find out just how many of his darlings he’ll have to murder before he’s truly free.

The Writer is out October 12, 2010, exclusively on Xbox Live and costs 560 MP ($7)


  • Crazy new environments
  • Story is gripping, as always
  • Wake’s character development is nicely executed


  • Irritating combat quirks remain
  • Kind of short
  • No more Alan Wake until Alan Wake 2!

Overall Score: 90/100

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