“In so many ways, in Alan Wake 2, we wanted to take certain elements of ‘the Remedy game’, and push it as far as we could imagine,” Remedy creative director and lead writer, Sam Lake, tells me in an interview.
Specifically, I’ve asked about the reception to the ‘Ashtray Maze’ from Control, the studio’s last major release, and the instantly iconic reputation it picked up. If you’re unfamiliar, the ‘Ashtray Maze’ is a late game setpiece that acts as a fantastic gameplay and narrative device – a paranormal security device designed to prevent people without proper clearance accessing the deepest reaches of the Oldest House.
How it manifests, though, is as a non-euclidean and shifting space – impossible to map and truly know. When navigating it, you are required to wear a cassette player given to you by janitor and (in my opinion) one of the best characters in all of fiction, Ahti. Loaded with the track Take Control by Old Gods of Asgard – an in-game pseudonym for Poets of the Fall – this cassette player allows you to freely traverse the ‘Ashtray Maze’, a peculiar supernatural object that has take the life of many curious civilians.
How that translates for you, player, as you work through this interactive music video, is exceptional. It’s one of the best setpieces in modern gaming – and Remedy is keen to recapture that music-loving energy for its next game.
“Certainly, we learned that people loved [the “Ashtray Maze’] in Control, as an example of how we use music in our games,” says Lake. “And that idea came from the original Alan Wake with the on-stage fight in the middle of the field with Old Gods of Asgard starting to play and Alan Wake and Barry fighting Taken, with everything coming at them. It’s something we’ve always been interested in.”
Lake goes on to explain that one of the driving forces for Remedy when it develops new games is creatively thinking about how music can be used as part of the storytelling experience, and how the developer can organically and authentically fold Old Gods of Asgard tracks into the project in memorable and unique ways. Paired with more "impactful, strategic, and desperate" tone of the game, it all sounds tantalizing.
“So it's been this journey, and without going into anything specific – because we have an announced anything specific – we just wanted experiment with music, and creating custom music of different kinds. Even more than ever before.”
Lake smiles wryly, and tells me that – if I enjoyed the ‘Ashtray Maze’ in Control – I am certainly going to like what’s being cooked up in Alan Wake 2. That 10 year wait suddenly seems very worthwhile.
Alan Wake 2 is out October 17, and will be available on PS5, PC, and Xbox Series X/S.