Sam Lake On Alan Wake 2: “There Was Never A Time When I Felt Like It Would Not Happen”

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To the public, a sequel to Alan Wake didn’t always seem possible. In fact, it seemed quite improbable at times. The 2010 original was never a sales juggernaut when it launched as an Xbox 360 exclusive, and with each passing year, the game felt less likely despite a core of passionate fans. Ending on a cliffhanger with more mysteries left unresolved than a season of Lost, players wanted more. Alan Wake had become a cult classic, but it can be hard to get back to a passion project like that, especially in an industry dominated by hits.

Despite all this, fans never stopped hoping for the game to get its follow-up, and Remedy always seemed just as keen–it just felt like the timing was never right. After many different iterations and interpretations of what the sequel would look like, Remedy has settled on a sequel that delves deep into a new genre and explores its world through a new character, alongside Alan. Continuing our Alan Wake 2 coverage from last week, in which we broke down the new trailer for clues and introduced co-protagonist Saga Anderson, GameSpot was able to catch up with Remedy’s creative director and writer on Alan Wake 2, Sam Lake. I wanted to hear it from Lake himself–often seen as the face of the studio–exactly how we got here, and why he says it’s even a good thing it’s only happening now.

“There was never a time when I felt that it would not happen. It just hadn’t happened yet,” Lake told me of the sequel, which is due out this October, nearly 14 years after the original hit shelves. “When you work on something with the intent of making it and then you realize it’s not happening, there is disappointment for sure. But what happened with Quantum Break, what happened with Control, is that in that creative process of creating a concept [for Alan Wake 2], there were other ideas that sprang from that workshopping.”

While Remedy toyed with different ideas for Alan Wake 2, its profile grew and other projects kept the team busy. I thought 2016’s Quantum Break was a great follow-up in its own right. It was also a game which, I’d argue, was betrayed by Don Mattrick’s infamously disheartening reveal of the Xbox One, giving the platform a low install base out of the gate, and now, Quantum Break is seen as something of a cult classic, much like Alan Wake.

But with 2019’s Control, the studio found greater success, selling more than three million copies and earning a tall stack of Game of the Year trophies in the process. That game’s final DLC episode, “AWE,” teased Alan Wake 2 in such a way that it seemed as though Remedy was already working on it. Lake soon confirmed this to be the case, and explained how the stars finally aligned for the studio–after it took a number of proactive steps, of course.

“We got the publishing rights back into our control [from Microsoft] and that led to us publishing Alan Wake Remastered multi-platform. But also, what had been kind of simmering in the background was the concept of the Remedy Connected Universe. With Control, we didn’t want to talk about that beforehand, we wanted Control to be its own thing. But then when you play it and dig into it, you realize that it’s the same universe. We were deep into working on Alan Wake 2 by the time ‘AWE’ came out, and we had many clear things already set up.”

What we have now as Alan Wake 2, I’m so happy it’s this version. I’m so happy we did not get the opportunity to go with the earlier ones

Lake said that the version of Alan Wake 2 that we are getting is “by far” the darkest version Remedy conceptualized, and it shows. The latest trailer features some hauntingly quiet scenes as well as quick, jarring camera cuts of ritualistic murder, all related to cult activity in Bright Falls. It’s considerably grimmer than the original, which Remedy will always tell you was telling a horror story, but doing so in the framework of an action-adventure game. Alan Wake 2, the studio has said, will be its first survival-horror experience. Scenes from the trailer suggest a considerable departure from the original game’s bobbing and weaving combat, leaning more into slower, considered monster encounters, perhaps where every shot counts because resources are sparse and enemies are powerful.

“We worked on multiple versions of the [Alan Wake 2] concept along the way. And what we have now as Alan Wake 2, I’m so happy it’s this version. I’m so happy we did not get the opportunity to go with the earlier ones,” Lake told me, “because I’m still very excited about this creation and what we are doing with it.”

Over the years, Lake’s personal affection for Alan Wake seemed so interesting to me. I recall one time in 2013, well before Quantum Break released, he put out a video explaining that the team’s next game was not Alan Wake 2. He wanted to set expectations, which is interesting to me because it wasn’t really a marketing beat. In recent years, video game promotion has been built on creating limitless hype. But here was Lake, telling fans the thing he knew they wanted wasn’t what they were getting–at least not yet. It felt sincere, as though he was commiserating. He was speaking to the fans to tell them, ‘I know what you’re hoping for, I’m hopeful too. Today isn’t that day, but I hope one day can be.’

Alan’s return once seemed unlikely. Now it’s just months away.

Now, we are living in that day, where Alan Wake 2 does exist, and it’ll be in players’ hands quite soon. After all this waiting, things had a way of working out not because Remedy waited for serendipity to resolve the matter, but because, like Alan, the studio brought its ideas to reality.

Lake has always worn his love for this game–this series now–on his sleeve. I asked what it meant to him personally, to finally be living in the world where Alan Wake 2 is real. “I have felt this drive to put every ounce of my creative energy and ideas into [Alan Wake 2], more than ever before in any project,” he said. “And I think that the team feels the same way. And I feel really, really lucky to be working with this team. There is so much creative talent here that I admire and respect a lot. I truly feel that Alan Wake 2 is, in many ways, a very, very special project. And I have not felt this excited ever in my career.”

Alan Wake 2 debuts on October 17, 2023 for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation.