Thus, Alan Wake leaves his friends behind to go back to the lake in order to complete the manuscript; and let me tell you, this isn't a short trip. It takes about 30 minutes if you speed through it, or about 1 hour if you keep dying like I did. At one point I accidently glitched a car into a path I needed to walk through and had to restart from my last save point. My stupidity aside, the level felt really long and had very little story development.
Many questions were left unanswered -- such as why the hell was the F.B.I. agent Nightingale there in the first place? What service to the plot was he? All he did was keep Alan Wake running every time he thought he found someone who could help him. Nightingale pissed me off hands down. Even when you find his hotel room (if you want, it's a bit of a side mission), all you find out is that this guy was a chronic drinker and wasn't very clean.
But, back to the main story: Alan Wake is trying to save his wife from the darkness, which was apparently created by a writer named Thomas Zane. This idiot lost his wife and attempted to write her back into life. However, though a series of shotty writing mistakes, he pisses of the lake or something, creates the darkness, and pretty much dooms every one.
So, Thomas Zane, in some sort of last ditch effort, creates a new character: Alan Wake. He writes Al into life and gives him "The Clicker." Alan realizes what he must do: he has to finish the story, without cutting any corners.
Alan learns something very important through the development of the game: not every story can have a perfect ending. He must make a great sacrifice in order to bring Alice back.
The ending has a lot of different interpretations, but here's my detailed analysis:
The whole game is a dream. This game is as much about Alan Wake as it is about writing. Early on, we find out Alan was having writers block. What better way to work through this writer's block then construct a story through a dream. Hell, the first level is explicitly stated to be a dream.
What consequences are there if the whole game is a dream? Players might ask themselves: why even bother? Why should I care what happens in a dream? I think that's the whole point. We become attached to these characters, even though they don't really exist -- just like we do for movie, book, video game, and other characters. Just because the whole thing didn't really happen, doesn't mean the emotions weren't real. Take Inception for example, when Maurice Fischer says: "No, I'm disappointed you tried" and Robert Fischer starts balling his eyes out. Those emotions are real, even if the actual event never happened.
So, if the game is a dream, we can assume it's Alan's dream. Which means the whole game is about him trying to break through this writer's block by creating this nightmare. There's a line in the beginning of the game... something about how good stories write themselves (?) [I'll definitely be playing this game again and I'll be looking for lines like this]. Which means Alan is trying to break through this writers block by living through a nightmare.
Full game review will be available in the next post.