Sam Lake has been pondering an Alan Wake game with two protagonists since making Quantum Break, but Remedy's creative director appreciates now how momentous an occasion introducing Saga Anderson is. For Alan Wake 2, we'll have two playable heroes, spending just as much time playing as the new co-protagonist as we do the titular writer.
"Looking back almost 30 years, if you think about the hero characters that we've created, there are not that many of them through the years. Now, even more than before, we're really conscious of that," Lake explains. Saga joins a short line of Remedy heroes, along with our old pal Alan, and more recently Jesse Faden from Control, but this is the first time Remedy has had two heroes vying for headline attention in a single game.
"In many ways, although this is Alan Wake 2, it's as much Saga's game as it is Alan Wake's game. She's a huge part of this, and she's exactly who she needs to be for this experience and this story," adds Lake.
Saga's a complete contrast to Alan Wake in so many ways, and after seeing just 30 minutes of her gameplay, it's immediately easy to see how this new character complements the tortured writer. Firstly, she's an FBI agent coming to the Pacific Northwest to investigate a series of ritualistic murders, with one of the victims a fellow agent – Agent Nightingale from the first game. Saga's not a local lady, instead positioned quite deliberately by the team at Remedy as an outsider and that's somewhat down to the fact Alan Wake 2 is coming 13 years after the launch of the original game.
"Part of the idea was that [Alan Wake 2] needs to be approachable by somebody who has not played Alan Wake 1, and thus we wanted a new hero character who is not familiar with the supernatural lore of Alan Wake's world," says Lake. "Alan obviously is a veteran of it and that creates challenges of its own [in making a sequel]."
With our titular character having been trapped in the Dark Place for over a decade, Saga's the one that will introduce new players to the setting and the story as she's discovering it. "We wanted the newcomer," he continues. "The idea that the FBI comes into a small town setting and there are these kinds of twisted, creepy, ritualistic killings that point to a serial killer, or a murder cult of some sort – that felt like the right way into this experience."
You'll learn about Alan Wake 2's narrative as Saga investigates the murders –interviewing Bright Falls residents, examining crime scenes, and gathering evidence alongside your partner, Agent Alex Casey. But, to further progress the story and unlock new mission quests, you'll have to dive into Saga's Mind Place. This physical space is within Saga's mind and contains things like a case board for plotting out clues and evidence, and a space for profiling subjects, among other investigative elements. It's very Sherlock Holmes, but it's also a fantastic way of getting to learn more about Saga.
"As an FBI agent she's a consummate professional, but then you literally get to go inside of her head and see what she really thinks," explains Molly Maloney, principal narrative designer on Alan Wake 2. "Even on the board itself, if you actually hover on the Polaroids and the clues, you actually see her commentary about those things. You get a lot of her kind of POV."
The Saga saga
Even in the short slice of the game I've seen so far, Saga's voice is an interesting one. Not only between the version of her you see in the Mind Place and the more professional alternative she presents to other people, but also against our old pal Alan Wake – who you'll be able to switch to playing via Break Rooms you'll discover while playing as Saga. "While she is peeling away layers of this mystery, we are peeling away layers of who she truly is, and how she is connected to what's going on," says Lake.
In classic Remedy style, Lake teases that her Scandinavian knitted sweater is a hint at Saga's Nordic connections on her mother's side – an intriguing note seeing as the new location of Watery was founded by Finnish immigrants. While she clearly has connections to this place, she is also connected to Alan too. That's going to become apparent very quickly, as Saga's adventures in Bright Falls start with finding one of Alan's manuscript pages inside the chest of Agent Nightingale on the autopsy table. "She's finding manuscript pages in a very similar way as Alan Wake himself was finding manuscript pages [in the first game]," says Lake, "and when we find a manuscript page, we do hear Alan Wake narrate the manuscript page" in Saga's world.
This narration has always been a key USP for the Alan Wake experience, with Alan's writerly tones providing such a backdrop for the events of the original game. That will return when you're playing as Alan Wake in the Dark Place – although Lake admits it'll have a "slightly darker vibe to it" this time around – but it's interesting to hear some of Alan's words echoing through your playtime with Saga. Plus, "Saga has her own narration in a way," adds Lake. "It's more imminent and it's more from the perspective of an FBI profiler on the case, thinking about the case and piecing things together, and pondering upon the clues so that she has her own voice."
Alan Wake has always been about balance, and I love the fact that the addition of Saga is only adding to that. There's the symmetry between her and Alan with their narration and seemingly the combat too – as you can read about in my Alan Wake 2 preview – but there's also the balance with Saga able to offer a different perspective for players into Alan Wake 2.
"One of the key pillars of this game is this idea of duality, and that's something that's been there since the very beginning," explains Kyle Rowley, game director. "So it made a lot of sense to us to bring this alternative perspective into the game, into Alan Wake, from this new character and also making sure that we can experience things that we consider a key part of the IP. So we can experience Bright Falls, the Pacific Northwest. We can experience that small-town Americana, those quirky characters. Where Alan is, it's not a nice place and some of that stuff would not have been possible to do without bringing a different perspective into it."
The idea of having the entirety of Alan Wake 2 in the Dark Place certainly feels very survival horror, but it also sounds really intense. The game still has space for moments of humor, light against the dark you might say.
"Even if this is a horror experience, it's our version of the horror experience," adds Rowley. "It's still an Alan Wake game in that there are very anxious, scary parts to it, but at the same time, there are very tonally different scenes. You will be in the small town setting during daytime, you will be meeting these NPCs [through Saga] and part of that is the very colorful, larger-than-life personalities of the small town. Sometimes it's really critically relevant to the case you are investigating and sometimes it's to add color and humor, because humor is a big part of this as well."
"I also think she provides a very critical perspective on this whole thing. Alan, I would say, is a somewhat biased POV given his involvement with the Dark Place for 13 years," laughs Maloney. "Saga provides a really refreshing perspective but also an important one, because she comes from a very different point of view. Those two perspectives are going to coalesce to create the total story that we're trying to tell here."
Thankfully we don't have long to wait until we can check out Saga and Alan's story for ourselves, as Alan Wake 2 is set to launch on October 17 on PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC.