Connecting the dots of Alan Wake and Control’s connected universe
Di Matt Cabral, Contributor
Its 2019 supernatural action-adventure Control, for example, uses notes, memos, and other documents to expand the lore of its world while further immersing players in its narrative. One such collectible that can be discovered by protagonist Jess Faden is an official release from the Federal Bureau of Control, the game's paranormal-studying government organization.
The document, titled “Television Proposal,” discusses the potential of leveraging the television medium to gradually get viewers comfortable with the possibility of otherworldly events and activities existing in the real world. The memo goes on to suggest rebooting a previously canceled show that aligns with the FBC's supernatural-leaning goals. The series mentioned is Night Springs.
For many players, the item and its contents are completely innocuous—just another optional, story-expanding collectible to clutter their inventories. But for Remedy's faithful following, particularly those who played 2010's Alan Wake, the curious discovery means much more. Night Springs is, of course, the fictional Twilight Zone-like series you can see broadcasted on TV sets across the game's remote town of Bright Falls. The existence of this Alan Wake-tied item in Control—a seemingly unconnected game—makes for an incredibly cool Easter egg.
This reference to a previous Remedy game is just one of many in Control, as its creepy FBC headquarters—dubbed “The Oldest House"—is brimming with callbacks to the horror novelist's nightmarish misadventures in the fictional Pacific Northwest vacation spot. Some of the more significant finds include items confirming the strange activities in Bright Falls were Altered World Events, the very X-Files-flavored phenomena the FBC investigates. The secret organization also possesses pages typed by the author, as well as the actual machine he tapped them out on. The typewriter is even identified as an Object of Power, Control’s term for seemingly ordinary items that possess the sort of powers that can't be explained by science.
With a bit of off-the-beaten path digging, players can discover numerous other details about the FBC's investigation into Bright Falls. It's revealed the Bureau actually interviewed and evaluated Wake's wife Alice, whose fate was never quite explained at the end of Alan Wake. We also learn all those thermoses completionists hunted down in Alan Wake were touched by forces that don't play by the rules of reality. Another partially redacted doc discusses Wake as a possible candidate to lead the FBC as its director—the role Faden earns in Control—while another is accompanied by an actual vision of the author. The latter sees the tortured scribe furiously typing away and lamenting the “trap” he's in, an inescapable realm where fiction and reality bleed together.
Individually, these references to Remedy's cult classic serve as clever Easter eggs. But combined, they offer something more—an undeniable continuation of Wake's story that fills some of the blanks left behind when the credits rolled on the game. Toss in the fact these discoveries also hint at the two titles unfolding in the same fictional universe, and speculation and rumors about what it all meant flew faster than a flock of Dark Presence-possessed ravens.
More than just fan-service
Fast-forward to the reveal trailer for Control: AWE—the game’s second expansion—and all that speculative buzz reached a fever pitch. The August 2020 announcement began with the sound of tapping typewriter keys, before giving way to a familiar voice offering this warning: “Whatever you do, stay in the light.” The brief trailer then concluded with a brief black-and-white shot of Wake himself.
When you consider that Alan Wake's passionate, patient fan-base had been waiting a decade for a true sequel, this DLC reveal was a pretty big deal, but one that posed more questions than answers. Thankfully, there was little time for pot-stirring, as Remedy released a statement on its website the very next day confirming the existence of a larger, shared universe connecting its games.
Written by the company's figurative face—and Max Payne's literal face model—Sam Lake, the short statement began with a tease: “You know we love to put Easter eggs into our games. But what if some of them were more than Easter eggs? What if...it's all connected?” Lake's message went on to not only confirm the existence of the “Remedy Connected Universe,” but called the AWE expansion the first formal crossover event in this shared world.
Lake and his team indeed delivered on this ambitious, decade-in-the-making dream with the DLC. While AWE’s story doesn't quite serve as a sequel to Alan Wake, its biggest plot points iron out many of the wrinkles introduced in Control's base game. The expansion returns players to The Oldest House, but has them exploring its previously shuttered Investigations Sector. The secretive area is home to some of the most sinister Altered World Events’ investigations, including the one that literally consumed and imprisoned the Stephen King-like author.
A vision of Wake leads Jesse to find the restricted area, where she ultimately learns all about the Bright Falls AWE, including the Dark Presence hiding out in the town's Cauldron Lake. The sinister body of water's ability to turn Wake's novels into terrifying realities is also detailed. While much of this intel is new to Jesse, it offers more of a refresher to longtime fans of the horror title.
But the expansion also overturns some new narrative stones, diving deeper into what happened after the events of Alan Wake and shedding more light on one of its more unsavory characters, psychologist Dr. Emil Hartman. In the game, the menacing medical professional attempted to exploit the writer’s creative side to gain control of the otherworldly powers brewing in Cauldron Lake. But in AWE, we learn the bad doctor was just getting warmed up.
He continued his dogged research into the Dark Presence, ultimately taking a dip in the wicked water and becoming possessed by it. This led the FBC to confiscate his research and confine his corrupted form within the Investigations Sector. But as these things often go, his evil could not be contained, forcing the Bureau to shut down and abandon that entire area of The Oldest House. Enter “The Hiss,” Control's own evil-doing entity, which morphs with The Dark Presence/Emil Hartman to become–you guessed it–even more powerful.
There's also some cryptic suggestion that Wake himself had a hand in conjuring these baddies in an effort to balance good and evil in the process of freeing himself from his between-worlds prison. Regardless of how it came to be, Faden thwarts the otherworldly threat. But her heroic actions don’t close the book on Bright Falls or its most famous tourist. Before the credits roll on the DLC, Jesse receives word of a new AWE simmering in Bright Falls. Strangely though, it's happening several years in the future.
The connected universe beyond Control
Seeing as Remedy hasn't released another AAA game (or crossover event of any kind) since Control, you might think this all leads us to the upcoming Alan Wake 2. But not so fast. 2021’s Alan Wake Remastered is, as advertised, a prettied-up re-release of the original game and its two expansions. But it also serves as the perfect vehicle for a retroactively-placed Control Easter egg.
The remaster's second chapter partially takes place in the Bright Falls' sheriff's office, just as it did in the original release—nine years before Jesse Faden set foot in The Oldest House. Look closely, however, and you'll now find a letter sitting indiscriminately in the office. It’s from the Federal Bureau of Control, and addressed to Sheriff Frank Breaker, father of the game's Sheriff Sarah Breaker.
Whether or not this sneaky inclusion will somehow factor into Alan Wake 2, Control 2, or another corner of Remedy's connected universe remains to be seen. But regardless of where this reference leads, we needn't worry too much about getting lost in the weeds. Remedy has gone on record to say Alan Wake 2 will be a welcoming, accessible experience even for those who wouldn't know a manuscript page from a coffee thermos. The follow-up will no doubt connect to its predecessors and expand the shared universe, but it seems those ties will cater to longtime fans without alienating new ones planning their first getaway to Bright Falls.
You can pick up Control and Alan Wake Remastered in the Epic Games Store now. Alan Wake 2 is also available to pre-purchase.