The Story in 'Alan Wake' Is Still Confusing All These Years Later — Here's What Happened

'Alan Wake' has a mind-boggling narrative. Whether you forgot what happened or need a refresher ahead of 'Alan Wake 2,' here's the story explained.

Anthony Jones - Author

Sep. 6 2023, Published 4:23 p.m. ET

'Alan Wake' Close-up of Alan Wake with a flashlight in front of a dark tornado.
Source: Remedy Entertainment

Spoiler alert: This article will contain spoilers for the Alan Wake series.

Since its release in 2010, developer Remedy Entertainment has refrained from answering the lingering questions born from Alan Wake. Its story is a wild physiological thriller that certainly stuck out among the other games released around the same time.

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Whether you played Alan Wake years ago or want to jump into the upcoming Alan Wake 2, learning about what happened could help you enjoy the sequel more. Here’s a refresher on the story events and lore from Alan Wake.

'Alan Wake' Distant shot of Alan and Alice looking out at Bright Falls.
Source: Remedy Entertainment
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The ‘Alan Wake’ story explained:

The protagonist, Alan Wake, is a bestselling author suffering from two years of writer’s block at the start of the game. To rekindle his creative juices, Alan and his wife, Alice, travel to the idyllic small town of Bright Falls for vacation.

Later, Alan and Alice get settled inside the cabin they rented in the middle of Cauldron Lake. Alice mysteriously falls off the cabin’s balcony and into the lake, seemingly drowning.

But to Alan, it seems a dark figure dragged her under. He goes in after her, but instead, the writer finds himself in a wrecked car a week later with no recollection of what happened at Cauldron Lake.

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These phenomena are the work of the Dark Presence, a power within Cauldron Lake that can possess people and turn fiction into reality. It becomes stronger by latching onto an artist’s work.

During the week he can’t remember, the Dark Presence charmed Alan into writing a manuscript to save his wife. Alan noticed the Dark Presence was manipulating him during this week and cleverly wrote himself into the manuscript.

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Alan Wake follows that manuscript from front to back as Alan remembers what he needs to do to get his wife back, fighting off creatures sent by the Dark Presence and finding manuscript pages discussing future events. Ultimately, the writer trades places with Alice, stuck in the Dark Place with the shadowy power as his wife returns to the real world.

The two DLCs for Alan Wake further expand on Alan’s experience in the Dark Place, confronted by manifestations of his personality. These stories finish with Alan beginning to write a new manuscript called “Return,” but it’s unclear if this references the events to come in Alan Wake 2.

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A central theme of Alan Wake is that no one truly knows what’s true and what isn’t.

The Dark Presence and Cauldron Lake are still a mystery. The Dark Place is an unknown dimension. What are the limits of Alan's ability to write things into existence, and has it grown while trapped?

Alan Wake 2 will be a standalone title that anyone can play, but it might be hard to wrap your head around what Alan has been through without playing the first game and DLCs. Aside from the surface-level details, much of the Alan Wake lore is still unanswered and hopefully will be touched on in the sequel.

Alan Wake 2 will be released on PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC on October 17, 2023.

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