...aaaand were back."We're" back? That implies that this blog is done by more than one person.
Perhaps, I am suggesting that we as a community are finally "back"? As in there was a moment of instability, and now we are have collectively have returned to the fold, as if though everything can resume to a sense of normality.
You might have noticed that this suggests, that it is only when I proclaim that such a sense of normalcy has returned, that such stability has the right to manifest itself.
"It's been back up for a week now! Vidiot, does that mean that the Giantbomb community only returns to itself unless you say so?"
"That's absolutely right."
"But what about..."
My first blog about S-Ranks was about Beyond Good And Evil, the second concerned Final Fantasy XIII. Today, I though I would change it up a bit, and go back to the 360 (at least for me) to discuss a third person shooter that involves a lot of coffee...No, literally.
Alan Wake, even with it's minor rough edges. It's such a bizarre game, and it's get's even stranger the more you read about the game's development. It was originally conceived as an open-world game, and while the final product is a strict linear-shooter, it's original design is still visible. There's driving sections, buildings and environments that look as if they were designed for something that played radically different. The actual by-the-numbers game is a strict linear affair, and in turn, gives the game environment a sense of depth and complexity that wouldn't normally be there. Everything about the idyllic vacation town of Bright Falls seems realized and fleshed out.
This plays a bit against the experience a little later on, where certain environments seem to stretch indefinitely. Pacing is not exactly Alan Wake's strongest suit. It doesn't detract that much, but it is a bit noticeable.
Although when everything works in Alan Wake, it's defiantly a worth-while experience. It's atmosphere is thick, and it's depiction of the Pacific Northwest especially, is incredibly solid.
Remedy also worked on Max Payne, and when it comes to the enemy-to-enemy shooting mechanics, it really shows. Everything is tight and incredibly precise in it's execution, which is impressive given the lack of any real visual feedback on where you're aiming. No cross-hairs? No problem. The aim-assist overcompensates, but it doesn't detract. Toss in the combat design focused on constantly finding light-sources...Yeah, I enjoyed it.
The story? Yeah, it works. The execution might be a little spotty, and certain main characters like Barry fall flat, but it works well for a vast majority of the experience. There are some pretty neat twists, I just wished that the dialog didn't feel so stale most of the time.
...But what about the achievements?! Enough talking about the actual game, let's talk about what were here for.
S-Rank Synopsis Problem: Your game is a strictly six-to-eight-hour linear action adventure game. For some reason, you thought that adding a multiplayer mode might have been, "inappropriate". This immediately limits your achievements.
Solution: Your achievements are not limited at all. The entire experience benefits from your game's precise focus, and so do your achievements.
Sadly, Alan Wake seems to overcompensate a bit from the first mentality. That being said, outside a few blemishes, Alan Wake does a valiant effort trying to think of "challenges" to do out-side of simply playing through it a bunch of times.
Please make sure you are siting down in a secure location, before you scroll down.
Alan Wake on it's own, has 284 collectibles. Look at all those icons up there. Those are all for different achievements, dedicated to finding and picking up stuff. It's that ludicrous.
Let's break it all down shall we?
- Coffee Thermoses= 100
- Manuscript Pages= 91
- Nightmare Mode Manuscripts= 15
- TV Shows= 14
- Signs= 11
- Can Pyramids= 12
- Radio Shows= 11
- Supply Chests= 30
Then there are the multiple combat specific achievements, but were getting ahead of ourselves. Were just talking about items that sole purpose is just to pick-up and collect.
Not enough? Don't worry. There's also the two DLC episodes:
- Alarm Clocks= 10
- Cardboard Signs= 25
- Video-games= 10
What in gods name Remedy?!
Did you get bored? Did you think we might be so ADD, that we wouldn't find being chased down by a flood of ghostly creatures boring?
What the hell happened?
Were not talking about easy to get collectibles here. Some of the collectibles are stretched all over-the-place. Run up a mountain for three minutes?
Get comfortable, and hit the play button on your podcast buddy!
Even though the collectibles are daunting, I actually had a very difficult time wondering how hard I would complain about Alan Wake's laughable reliance on them. To it's credit, Alan Wake is incredibly forward thinking. There's an in-game menu you can access at anytime that shows stats of every action, from how many enemies you've killed with what weapon, to how many of these annoyances you have picked up so far. It's really well-done, and Remedy should be applauded for at least giving it's players, the tools they require to accomplish such an asinine task.
So while it's quite clear that the collectibles are defiantly a detriment, and a poor conception over what qualifies as "challenge", it needs to be stated here that it's only the sheer amount that will give you the most grief. It should also be noted that not all the collectibles are "pointless". Manuscript pages are actual pages of a story you can read, and anyone who remembers Max Payne is going to get a kick out of the fake TV-Shows.
That being said, enough is enough. There are collectibles, and then there is this. For every neatly written page, there is another coffee thermos that is vapid in it's contextual value. You will not be running around and hunting these yourself, you will be going back and forth with a guide. It's too bad, that too many of these achievements had to be focused on picking up junk.
I have to bring this up again, but even though this is another negative, Alan Wake's in-game menu makes this far less painful than it would have been.
See what I did there? Did I invoke a bit of personal bias? You should get upset about that. I look forward to not listening to you.
Purchasing DLC in order to get more achievements that break an S-Rank, are not usually things to applaud. The interesting about Alan Wake's case is though, that even without the achievements, the DLC is almost mandatory to the experience. Alan Wake suffers from "Ending is in the DLC" syndrome, and while you might walk away from Alan Wake's bizarre final climax that decides not to explain much of what happens, the DLC on the other hand pushes the plot in a far more satisfiable conclusion.
Not only that, but the final moments of the last DLC chapter virtually set-up the sequel: That has a premise that from a simple conceptual standpoint, you have to stand-up and applaud in terms of it's sheer creativity.
The achievements are also perhaps some of the most creative. Play-through a level without dying in one sitting? Bring it on! Each comes with it's own set of collectibles, but because of their bite-size nature, it will not be the general focus. The challenges here get a bit more creative and will genuinely put you through your paces.
After completing the game on Normal, Nightmare difficulty unlocks. I would probably recommend playing the game the first time around on Hard. Playing Alan Wake on a higher difficulty is one of those rare instances where a higher difficulty "works" for the experience. Nightmare makes taking on multiple enemies at once, not practical, with even the most weakest of baddies becoming into semi-glorified bullet sponges.
To counter this, you really need to be constantly looking for light sources. I've never seen a game's design and mechanics force you to become this paranoid, but Alan Wake succeeds. Turning on a generator, just in time before being over-run by an army of shadowy figures is defiantly a ton of fun.
Like all higher difficulty modes, there will be moments of reloading certain saves a few times to barrel through certain choke-points. I never got the impression from other action games though, that my progress was being halted because of lazy design.
Black Ops, I'm looking at you and your ridiculous enemy re-spawn count.
Did I mention that there are certain collectibles you can only get on Nightmare difficulty?
Yeah, that never seems to end.
There's nothing much to it. It would have been interesting if anything else happened outside of replaying certain levels over-and-over again. When your main tasks are just finding junk, you would kinda wish something new would pop-out. If you're down with that, and have a good podcast or movie to watch, then you will enjoy yourself.
- Glitches: None!
- Stacking: Yes.
- One Stupid Achievement: None!
Estimated Time: 25 Hours / Multiple Play-throughs.
It's a bit frustrating to see how Alan Wake flirts with having something that's "just a bit more", than your standard fare of achievements. It's commendable what Alan Wake does correctly though: Playing the game on a higher difficulty actual benefits the actual game, and doesn't punish you cheaply most of time. It's in-game menu allows you to track just about every action that works toward unlocking something. Some of the mission specific achievements are neat little challenges, that in some cases will dramatically shake-up the manner of which you play.
With a great foundation, Alan Wake then seems to attempt and overcompensate for...well...something. I'm not exactly sure what, but I've seen such shenanigans before in other games that are strict linear shooters. Alan Wake's bizarre huge lean on collectibles and weapon kill counters, give the impression of a struggle concerning trying to figure out what exactly should be emphasized as a "challenge".
The problem is that having over 200 misc things to pick up, does not equate to something challenging, it equates to tedium. In fact, I'm sure "picking up things over and over again", qualifies as a definition somewhere for tedium.
The great news is though, that Alan Wake strives to bring some stability to it's own madness. As if someone who was testing this had to pull the lead designer aside and state something to the effect of: "Hey, we need something to tell the players how close they are to killing 50 enemies with a flare-gun." Alan Wake provides this where other developers don't even bother with. Certain collectibles such as manuscript pages have a flair of quality, but you're going to tire out fast hunting every nook-and-cranny for some of the more obscure items.
Overall though: It's a good S-Rank to go after. It could have been better, but for the most part is appropriate to the context of the game.
Use guides. For collectibles RoosterTeeth's Achievement Hunter site has a great series of videos complete with commentary.
You might need a laptop+TV combo for this one.