Control: The Foundation DLC Review — Further Down the Rabbit Hole
Control was one of the most critically lauded games of 2019. We gave it an outstanding 9 out of 10 and much of the internet agreed, as it took home many Game of the Year awards from all over.
That makes its first expansion, The Foundation, a highly anticipated event, especially among those who appreciate the game for its ultra weird world-building.
The Foundation promised to go deeper into the history of The Oldest House, and among new paranatural abilities for Jesse Faden and a massive new space to explore, it's precisely the story, as it so often is with Remedy, that will have fans happy to serve another stint as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Control.
At the end of Control, as is tradition for a Remedy game, we were left with more questions than answers. The studio revels in its mystery and Control piled on the confusion more gleefully than anything before it to come out of the Finnish development house. It's for that reason that Control is so crucial and satisfying at once. Though a lingering mystery can be fun, The Foundation's best attribute is how it manages to provide lots of answers.
Specifically, the category of questions being answered in the first of two announced expansions relates to The Oldest House itself. Jesse is still in the seemingly ageless office working to clear out the Hiss when she tries to trace Agent Marshall's footsteps. Doing so leads her down to the titular, and previously unseen, region of The Oldest House: its very roots.
There she must repair The Nail, which if you've seen LOST, is a lot like the Heart of the Island. The Hiss threaten to destroy The Oldest House and it's up to Jesse and her awesome powers, now expanded in the DLC, to thwart them.
The new region is mostly a system of caves, so secret that many who work for the Bureau didn't even know it existed. Exploring this area feels new and exciting from the first moment, as it contrasts the brutalist and analog offices of old with stalagmites, rocky tunnels, and red sand galore.
It's in these tunnels where you'll unravel the earliest origins of The Oldest House in a story that teasingly drips out over roughly five hours. If before you found yourself pouring over every word in the game's audio or written diaries, The Foundation will have you inspecting every inch of the world once again.
The revelations, while not without their own new set of questions, are substantial and well worth the time of anyone who enjoyed the game before. Episodic story DLC feels like it's a dying breed in an age of season passes and cosmetics, but Remedy's commitment to the process pays off. The Foundation feels essential in a way I don't remember feeling about DLC since the Mass Effect series.
It's not just lore that you can look forward to. There are some gameplay improvements, too.
With four Rituals to perform, the game's major quadrants mix in massive puzzle areas with plenty of combat. New tools are at Jesse's disposal, too, chiefly the Shape ability that enhances both combat and the already-perfect platforming the game had before. It allows Jesse to alter the terrain to give herself solid ground or drive some rocky spikes from below or behind enemies. It's super satisfying and makes the environmental combat more nuanced.
To counter that, new enemy types come in the form of Hiss Sharpened, which are, curiously enough, quite like Alan Wake enemies in that they melee you with sharp objects such as axes. Though the flow of combat is mostly the same even with these new enemies, one area in which the design has greatly improved is in the boss battles.
Control was the first time Remedy ever got them right, but there were lots of frustrations to be had, too, including some bad checkpointing and unclear strategies players were meant to use. In The Foundation, boss battles are laid out more clearly, and even when they're tough, they seem much more manageable even on the first try.
Add to that some extra secrets that can be missed — my favorite sequence being something that feels pulled right out of Sayonara Wild Hearts — and it's evident The Foundation is a complete package of what players should want and expect with paid DLC.
Minor annoyances are present as well, like one recurring puzzle type in particular that gets frustrating on its fourth and final iteration. The game also adds a new ability to call in backup at a few specific moments, but in my experience, these Deployed Rangers don't help all that much and just make one of the trophies/achievements hard to unlock.
But in the grand scheme of what The Foundation adds to the world of Control, these are pretty forgivable offenses. Lore hounds will have a field day with this one.
- Fantastic continuation of the lore and world-building
- New abilities are fun and add layers to combat and platforming
- Lots of optional secrets to discover
- One particular puzzle gets frustrating in the late-game
- The new Deployed Ranger assists don't work as intended
It feels a bit nostalgic to revisit a great single-player game with high-quality DLC like this. It's a dying trend, but Remedy has always taken pride in telling weird and wonderful tales, and The Foundation is the latest, but thankfully not the last, chapter of their newest brain-bender.
Anyone who enjoyed Control for its story should consider The Foundation essential playing.
[Note: A copy of The Foundation DLC was provided by Remedy for the purpose of this review.]