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Saga Anderson standing in front of the case board in her mind place in Alan Wake 2. Image: Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing

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The Remedy Connected Universe is my MCU

The joys of intertextuality and close reading

Toussaint Egan is a curation editor, out to highlight the best movies, TV, anime, comics, and games. He has been writing professionally for over 8 years.

It’s been two weeks since Alan Wake 2, the sequel to Remedy Entertainment’s 2010 cult action-horror game, was released, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Between the introduction of protagonist and FBI profiler Saga Anderson and the mystery-board storytelling mechanics of the game’s Mind Place system (not to mention a forthcoming new game plus feature and DLC slated for next year), I’m obsessed with Remedy Entertainment’s latest game — much in the same way I was with its last new release, 2019’s Control.

That obsession has only grown after puzzling over how the events of Alan Wake 2 might relate to the upcoming Control 2. I’ve even started a new playthrough of the original Control in my search for clues I might have overlooked. The Remedy Connected Universe has me excited for the possibility of intertextual storytelling in video games at a time where I otherwise feel fatigue over multi-franchise crossovers. Whether it’s the MCU, DCU, or Star Wars, I’m just over how labyrinthine most of these fictional interconnected universes have become. I don’t feel that way about the Remedy Connected Universe, though.

Saga Anderson holding a flashlight to examine a strange pair of wooden ornaments hanging from a dark forest branch in Alan Wake 2. Image: Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing

I think I know why: An interconnected universe on this scale has never really been attempted before in video games. What’s more, Remedy’s games have so far been self-contained enough to be enjoyable as their own experiences. Finally, by virtue of being video games, which are extremely time-intensive and tricky to make, there’s not a new one to play every few months.

Shared-world storytelling, while compelling when done right, is approaching something of a nadir in popular culture. A recent report by Variety about the internal turmoil of Marvel Studios in 2023 paints a picture of a studio that, through a combination of several box-office disappointments and an oversaturation of streaming TV releases, has come to a crossroads in its otherwise unimpeded path of commercial success. There are, as of this writing, 33 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and nine streaming series recognized as canon.

Jesse Faden floats down a purple hallway that’s shaped like a pentagon in Control Image: Remedy Entertainment/505 Games via Polygon

That’s a lot of “homework” for anyone who wants to stay up to date with the latest Marvel developments. Remedy Entertainment’s shared universe doesn’t suffer from this same level of fatigue-inducing scale — as of this moment, there are only three games (Alan Wake, Control, and Alan Wake 2) to play in order to be caught up with what’s going on (leaving aside the many subtle connections to and Easter eggs from Max Payne, Max Payne 2, and Quantum Break). And for those that really couldn’t give a toss about the interconnected plot threads between Control’s corner of the Remedy Connected Universe and Alan Wake’s, the two series are still distinct enough that you could easily enjoy one or the other on its own merit.

For instance: Did you know that Freya Anderson, the mother of Alan Wake 2 protagonist Saga Anderson and daughter of Old Gods of Asgard member Tor Anderson, was first name-dropped in a collectible FBC document in the AWE DLC for Control, three years before the release of Alan Wake 2? Or that Sheriff Tim Breaker and Jesse Faden, who are played by Shawn Ashmore and Courtney Hope, are implied to be alternate-reality versions of Jack Joyce and Beth Wilder, the protagonists of 2016’s Quantum Break, who are also played by Ashmore and Hope? Probably not. Could this be important to the future of the story of either Control or Alan Wake? Sure, maybe — but only for those who care. The point is to reward those players who like to dive a little deeper in order to draw out those lesser-known connections. Best of all, these kinds of Easter eggs don’t come at the expense of what’s unique or enjoyable about either Control or Alan Wake.

Alan Wake points a flashlight and pistol at a group of shadowy figures on a rooftop in Alan Wake 2. Image: Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing

Earlier this year, Remedy Entertainment announced its transition to a multi-project studio, with over five games currently in production, including a sequel to Control, a four-player player-versus-environment co-op game set in the world of Control, and a combined remake of Max Payne and Max Payne 2, each roughly scheduled to come out with a year between one another. Even if each of these releases were to be a touchstone in the Remedy Connected Universe going forward, audiences would only need to play one game a year, at most, in order to keep up with the evolving narrative of either Control or Alan Wake.

I totally get the trepidation at the prospect of following yet another shared-universe narrative, especially when there’s no real stated end goal at this early point in the Remedy Connected Universe. Will Saga Anderson cross paths with Jesse Faden at some point in the future? Maybe! Will Quantum Break at some point be retroactively acknowledged as a canon part of this shared fictional universe? Who knows? For now, I’m just along for the ride — and as long as Remedy continues to iterate on its past success, and continues to develop idiosyncratic games with interesting characters and compelling storylines, I’m more than happy to follow the developer down whichever narrative rabbit hole it goes down next.