Control Had A Secret That Vexed Players For Months — Here's What It Meant
Thanks to the AWE DLC expansion, we finally know what the secret message from Control's Ashtray Maze means.
Note: This post contains spoilers for Easter eggs in Control and a bunch of story points of its latest DLC expansion, AWE. If you want to uncover all that story on your own, you might want to come back after you've completed both Control and the AWE DLC.
When Control was released, it was fascinatingly weird and full of mystery. As we tried to fight the extra-dimensional Hiss, we learned about the strange entities in charge of the Federal Bureau of Control, discovered supernaturally Altered Items, and uncovered story tidbits linking Control to a Remedy cult classic, 2010's Alan Wake.
But the game's biggest and most confusing secret was hidden away in its best sequence, the Ashtray Maze. Listen carefully to the song that plays there, and you could hear a secret message that seemed to hint at hidden content buried somewhere inside Control. Even though the message was uncovered right away after the game's release, players couldn't figure out what it meant or what it was trying to convey.
One year later to the day, Control fans have discovered what that secret message was all about. It did hint at hidden content--but it was content that didn't appear in Control until the release of its final DLC expansion, AWE. Discover the right nook of the Oldest House in AWE and you'll find the puzzle's solution, unlocking a tiny tidbit of a story Easter egg--and what seems to be the game's greatest piece of gear.
Here's what the secret message is all about, how to find it, how to solve it, what it reveals about Alan Wake, and what you get as a reward.
The Secret Message
To understand what was uncovered with the Control secret message, you have to understand what it's telling you to begin with. The message appears in the song "Take Control," which appears in the Ashtray Maze toward the end of Control's story. The song is credited to the Old Gods of Asgard, a band that appears in Alan Wake, made up of brothers Tor and Odin Anderson (the Old Gods are portrayed by real-life musical group Poets of the Fall). In Alan Wake, the Old Gods of Asgard's songs had the same reality-bending powers as Wake's writing, but they had fought, and defeated, the supernatural Dark Presence that eventually captures Wake at the end of that game.
So the Andersons are characters in the world of Control, but there's more to the song than an Easter egg. Between verses, there are portion where you can hear someone talking--but the words are reversed. Run those portion backward and you discover Control's hidden message (our interpretation of it, anyway, but there on Reddit there have been others):
- "In their drunken fevered state, seeing double, profoundly, the pyramid in the stolen file becomes a spruce tree."
- "The diamond will tell you where 1-19-7-1-18-4-9-19 (an A1Z26 cipher that translates to 'Asgard is')."
- "Landing on the polar star and rushing on to the red room, find the cord to take you to a secret rendezvous."
Players tried to figure out what these instructions were referring to, but came up empty in the aftermath of Control's release. Now we know that they (or at least some of them) were referring to AWE, although not all the clues make perfect sense just yet.
The Diamond Will Tell You Where
The first part of the secret message, the "drunken fevered state," always sounded like it referred to the Anderson brothers and the background story in Alan Wake about how they drank moonshine made with water from Cauldron Lake, which might have given them the power from the Dark Presence to alter reality through their music. The "pyramid in the stolen file becomes a spruce tree" bit isn't really relevant to the rest of the puzzle, but it seems like it might have been referring to The Foundation DLC, and the description of the Oldest House as an ancient, living tree.
The AWE DLC focuses heavily on tying Control to Alan Wake. Control protagonist Jesse Faden receives a message from Wake through the Hotline that directs her to the Investigations Sector, a previously sealed area of the Oldest House. There, she discovers why the section was sealed: There's a murderous, hideous monster running around in the area. That monster is what remains of Alan Wake character Dr. Emil Hartman. In the 2010 game, Hartman, a psychiatrist, briefly held Wake at his lodge in an attempt to understand and use Wake's supernatural abilities for his own gain. Wake escaped when the Dark Presence attacked, but Hartman survived.
Throughout AWE, we find out what happened to Hartman. He briefly tried to work with the FBC, but was prosecuted for his attempts to take advantage of artists, including Wake and the Andersons, as a "paracriminal." After doing his time, Hartman went directly back to his work attempting to gain control of the power of Cauldron Lake and the Dark Presence, however. He dove into the lake to try to learn more, and apparently was possessed by the Dark Presence. The FBC found him, captured him, and interred him in Investigations for study, until he broke out and killed a bunch of people.
As Jesse chases Hartman through Investigations, intent on finally putting him down before he can escape into the rest of the FBC and wreak more mayhem. After an encounter in the Eagle Limited AWE section of the sector, Hartman escape through a passage in the wall. The section is called "Shifting Passage," and as Jesse gives chase through it, and if you're paying attention, you might spot a picture hanging on a wall that shows that same wall with a hole in it.
Blast a hole in the wall and you'll enter a secret area, which contains a hidden bit of lore to pick up. If you look up, though, you'll see that there's an office above you, turned on its side. Fly up through its door to get a look around. There's a radio nearby that's playing, what else, "Take Control."
This is the spot you want to be in. Smash through the wall beside the desk that holds the radio and you'll find another secret location. This is a diamond-shaped passageway that leads to a small, strange clock sitting on a pedestal.
The next chunk of the song is just a series of numbers, and at the time the message was being deciphered, players discovered the numbers were a simple cipher about the location of "Asgard." That's in keeping with all the Norse mythology theming with the Old Gods of Asgard, but what does the sequence mean?
When you find the clock, you'll quickly discover that you can start and stop the movement of its hands on the clock's face. Stop them on certain numbers and the clock will ring like an alarm. The trick here is to plug in the numbers from the cypher sequence. Any that are over 12 are taken to be in 24-hour format, or "military time."
So the sequence appears like this in the song: "1-19-7-1-18-4-9-19."
But inputting into the clock, you need this sequence: "1-7-7-1-6-4-9-7."
You do that by stopping the clock hand on each number in sequence as it rotates around the face--if you stop on the wrong number, you have to start over, like a combination lock. Enter the full sequence into the clock and a hole opens in the floor behind it. If you look down in the hole, you'll see your next step: the Polar Star, a star-shaped stone set into the bottom of the shaft.
The Red Room
When you drop down the shaft to the Polar Star, your next destination is just ahead: the Red Room. This is a usual Oldest House office area, but bathed completely in red light. There are no lore drops or anything else to find inside, but when you enter the Red Room, you're attacked by waves of Hiss. Fighting them off is tough, but if you manage to beat them, the next step of the puzzle unlocks.
The song tells you to "find the cord to take you to a secret rendezvous." In Control, the "cord" refers to a strange light cord that appears periodically in the Oldest House. Pulling the cord three times instantly transports you to the Oceanview Motel, a strange supernatural location that can link parts of the Oldest House together. In the AWE DLC, you visit the Oceanview a couple of times, where you're treated to cutscenes in which you see Wake talking with Thomas Zane, another Alan Wake character. After all the enemies in the Red Room are dead, you'll find a cord pretty much in the center of it. Pulling it three times, predictably, takes you back to the Red Room.
Where Asgard Is
This is a bit of a lackluster visit to the Oceanview, given some of the others in Control and even in AWE. When you arrive, there's nothing much going on. As usual, your goal is to find the key to the door with the inverted pyramid on it, which provides your exit. To get it, you'll need to go to the one open guest room in the motel and collect the key off the desk.
When that happens, you receive a quick, brief Hotline message from Wake, who talks briefly about Valhalla, a retirement home founded to be a place where the (already ludicrously old) Anderson brothers could live out their twilight years. There's not a lot of information, but that's basically the gist of what this secret is all about. AWE tells the story of what happened to Emil Hartman after Alan Wake, and this year-long secret tells what happened to the Andersons. THe pair live (or lived) out their days in a retirement home that was founded some five years before Control in 2014, called Valhalla. Despite being there, the existence of "Take Control" suggests they continued to entertain with supernatural rock god prowess.
Though the secret provides only a tidbit of Alan Wake lore, it does dish out something pretty significant: a "Personal Mod," one of the pieces of gear you can equip in Control. This one is called Aerobics, a top-tier mod that gives you health whenever you use your Evade move in the game. Since most players are likely to use Evade almost constantly to avoid incoming enemy fire and other danger, this is an exceedingly good mod. And with the addition of the Shum horde mode in AWE, the Aerobics mod is likely to be exceptionally useful to anyone who finds it.
So that's it. There's a lot more Alan Wake and Control lore to uncover in the AWE DLC, and it definitely seems that Control's DLC is teasing a big return to the Alan Wake story in Remedy Entertainment's next game. What that is remains to be seen, but in the meantime, check out our AWE review.
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