The night before I started writing this article, I didn’t sleep well. Scenes from “Mindkiller 2” kept replaying in my mind, leaving me tired when I woke up.
I attribute all of this to the aftereffects of immersing myself in “Mindkiller 2” for two and a half days. It felt like the brain freeze you get after devouring a big mouthful of ice in the summer.
Rather than drinking a strong cup of coffee to clear my mind and savor the game’s impact, I decided to start typing on the keyboard and pour out the thoughts in my mind like cheap ink.
Returning to Bright Falls
As soon as the game begins, a naked man wakes up on the shore of a lake, and we then control this naked man through a forest path. Eventually, he is pinned to a table, his chest is cut open, and his still-beating heart is removed…
Investigating this bizarre murder is one of the game’s protagonists, FBI Agent Saja Anderson, and her partner Alex Casey.
“Mindkiller 2” adopts a dual protagonist narrative style. In Saja’s storyline, we follow her perspective to investigate the murder case that opens the game. As the investigation deepens, Saja discovers an evil organization called the “Cult of the Birch” conducting secret activities in Bright Falls and its surrounding towns.
During the investigation, Saja collects scattered manuscript pages that seem to predict events that will happen in the near future—dead people whose hearts have been taken suddenly reanimate as monsters, detectives who were just talking to themselves a second ago disappear right before her eyes…
What’s even more shocking is that Alan Wake, the novelist who disappeared thirteen years ago, suddenly reappears near Cauldron Lake and claims to have escaped from the “Dark Place”…
Players who have played the previous installment will likely find Bright Falls familiar; it’s where Alan’s nightmare began. Returning to Bright Falls after thirteen years, you’ll find that the town retains its original architectural appearance and layout. With the addition of new rendering technology and the support of “Panoramic Ray Tracing” and “DLSS 3.5,” the town now exudes a fresh vitality different from the past.
Some characters from the first game, such as Rose, the devoted fan of Alan Wake in the diner, the punkish Anderson brothers at the bar, and the radio announcer Pat, all make appearances in this installment and play important roles in the story.
During the course of advancing the story, players will make use of Saja’s unique “Mindrealm” ability multiple times. In the “Mindrealm,” Saja systematically organizes clues and intelligence from the investigation to gain more targeted objectives. Players can also use the “Mind’s Eye” feature to engage in deep conversations with NPCs for more information. This gameplay not only adds to the fun of the game but also helps players organize fragmented story elements more clearly, resulting in a higher-quality narrative experience.
In addition to Bright Falls, Saja also investigates and explores two other locations: Falls End and Cauldron Lake. The exploration content mainly revolves around puzzles. Players can find graffiti in the forest, arrange dolls based on nursery rhyme clues to solve mysterious puzzles, or locate hidden supplies based on cult markings. Whether it’s word games or scene interactions, the puzzle design in the game is well-crafted. I recommend players take the time to explore and appreciate it alongside the main storyline.
Escaping the Dark Place
After Saja brings Alan Wake back to the town’s motel, Alan recounts his escape from the Dark Place.
This is Alan Wake’s storyline in the game, titled “Origins.”
In the “Origins” storyline, Alan Wake experiences repeated cycles in a place resembling the urban area of New York City within the Dark Place. He continuously attempts to find a way to escape. The setting of the Dark Place as a rainy night in New York City emphasizes the theme of “light” from the Mindkiller series. Dim indoor lights create a heightened sense of tension, while outside, the colorful neon lights are striking, constantly reminding you that this is a surreal and strange dark world.
Moreover, frequent scene changes are a major feature of the Dark Place.
At the beginning of the storyline, Alan receives an item called the “Goddess Table Lamp.” Using this item, Alan can complete partial changes or transitions in scenes with bright light sources. Like Saja, Alan also possesses his own special ability called “Rewrite.” Similar to the process of writing a novel, Alan continuously goes to new “scenes” during exploration to obtain specific “plot elements.” By using these “plot elements” on a “scene” in the planning board, the “scene” undergoes a certain degree of change, unlocking new explorable areas or introducing new interactive objects and plot elements.
If Saja’s storyline resembles a crime investigation drama, Alan’s storyline is more like a suspenseful and thrilling stage play.
Since it’s a stage play, they could be bold and add some live-action scenes to break the dimensional barrier.
Not daring enough? Then let’s throw in a musical performance to ease the horror atmosphere.
Room for Improvement in Combat
Facing such a well-crafted game, amidst the repeated shocks from the storyline, I couldn’t help but try to find flaws and shortcomings.
Surprisingly, I did find some, and one of the areas with more issues is the revised combat system.
Compared to the previous installment, this game has made some adjustments to the combat system. It changes the perspective to a more over-the-shoulder view, similar to the style of “Resident Evil” and “The Evil Within” series. It inherits the flashlight-based combat gameplay from the previous game and makes some adjustments. Saja’s flashlight can expose the weak points of enemies, and shooting these weak points can cause significant damage. Alan’s flashlight can make the dark presence visible, allowing it to be damaged with firearms. On the surface, it seems like it could be more interesting than the previous game, but in reality, the character controls feel quite sluggish. Additionally, there are too many cumbersome actions during combat, such as manually detonating explosive bottles, which significantly diminish the combat experience, especially when facing numerous minor enemies.
Most of the boss battles in the game involve mechanics, but there’s hardly any guidance throughout the process. Most of the time, I relied on a trial-and-error approach to find the trick to defeating the bosses, and even now, I still don’t understand the purpose of some of these mechanics or why they were designed that way (I can only assume “because it makes sense to exist”).
The game also introduces a mild character development and weapon enhancement system. Saja’s storyline involves collecting manuscript pages from lunchboxes to strengthen weapons, while Alan’s storyline focuses on finding circular writings called “Words of Power” to enhance various abilities. The entire development system is mainly geared towards combat, but since the combat experience isn’t that great, it indirectly makes this part of the content feel less impactful (in reality, I diligently collected items for development, but the final benefits were underwhelming).
Another addition is the Signal Flare, a new combat item. Its performance can be described as “very flashy.” Whether held or thrown on the ground, it causes significant visual interference (making it impossible to see anything clearly).
The narrative experience of “Mindkiller 2” goes beyond mere excitement; the spiraling plot progression is like a screw, slowly turning and drilling into my skull. It creates wave after wave of surges in my mind, in a place that is not a lake, leaving me overwhelmed.
Compared to its predecessor, this game, whether in terms of visual presentation, narrative performance, or storytelling design, incorporates a significant amount of showmanship. However, the changes to the combat system are not entirely successful, with a sense of heaviness in character controls and numerous cumbersome actions during combat, particularly against hordes of minor enemies.
The game’s boss battles mostly rely on mechanics, but there’s little guidance, and players often resort to trial and error. Even now, I still don’t fully grasp the purpose of some of these mechanics or why they were designed that way (I can only assume “because it makes sense to exist”).
The game also introduces a character development and weapon enhancement system. While Saja’s storyline involves collecting manuscript pages from lunchboxes to strengthen weapons, and Alan’s storyline focuses on finding circular writings called “Words of Power” to enhance various abilities, the development system is primarily combat-oriented. However, since the combat experience is not particularly enjoyable, it diminishes the impact of this content.
There’s also the Signal Flare, a new combat item, which causes significant visual interference, making it difficult to see clearly.
Overall, “Mindkiller 2″ offers a narrative experience that goes beyond mere excitement, and despite its combat system flaws, Remedy’s ambition shines through. With continued polishing and improvement, Alan Wake’s story will eventually reach a nearly perfect conclusion.”