Feature Article

Control's Foundation DLC Digs In The Board And The Bureau's Past

The next step in Control's story takes you into the Bureau's beginnings with the Oldest House, while adding to combat with abilities that let you manipulate the environment in new ways.

The Hiss threat might have been pushed back at the end of Control, but it still persists through the game’s DLC expansions. The first story based addition is The Foundation, an addition that gives Control's combat a more environmental focus, while providing a look at the origin of the Bureau of Control's use of a building that might even be alive.

Control picks up where the main story left off to tie up a loose thread: What happened to Marshall, the Bureau's head of operations. During the vanilla game, Marshall disappeared during the Hiss crisis to deal with some other, unknown problem. Turns out, she headed down to the Foundation--the lowest point in the shifting office building known as the Oldest House, and a place you only visited briefly during the course of stopping the Hiss from taking over the Bureau.

The Foundation is actually a huge set of caves running beneath the Oldest House, providing a new location to explore for the duration of the DLC, which runs five or six hours if you're willing to track down all its secrets. At the center of the cave system is a strange monolith called the Nail, which has been damaged and needs repair. The Nail actually seems to be a piece of the Astral Plane that exists on Earth, and which might give the Oldest House its power. With it damaged, though, you have a major problem: The Astral Plane and the Oldest House are beginning to merge, and if the process isn't stopped, both dimensions could be destroyed.

That means that you're not just wandering through a bunch of caves, you're also moving through passageways and into tunnels that connect to the Astral Plane as we saw it in Control's main story. The merged landscape creates areas where you'll suddenly find yourself crossing a bottomless chasm, or levitating between the black cubic platforms of the Astral Plane to reach higher locations back in the real world of the cave. It's an interesting combination of locations that helps make the Foundation a less predictable place to explore.

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Like the rest of the Oldest House, the Foundation isn't just a place--it might have a mind of its own. It makes that presence felt through crystals that sometimes grow out of the walls, blocking pathways or covering gaps. The crystals represent the major new mechanic that are part of the DLC.

As you explore the Foundation, the Board will offer you a new ability to help you better reach the places where you can perform "rituals" to repair the Nail. Venturing into the Astral Plane at the Board's beckoning, you'll make a choice between powering up your weapon with Fracture so it can destroy the crystals, and the ability to grow new ones out of walls and floors, called Shape. Both powers give you new opportunities for exploring the caves, and which choice you make affects which areas you can access in the Foundation and when--though eventually, you’ll unlock both capabilities. Shape allows you to create platforms to reach high areas or cross big gaps, while Fracture can break down barriers thrown up by the forces that would keep you away from your goals.

Shape and Fracture both add to your capabilities in combat, and it's in the fighting that The Foundation plays around the most with the Control formula. As in the main game, most battles take place in large rooms and areas with a lot of opportunities to duck behind cover, telekinetically grab and throw objects, and zip around to high ground using Jesse's levitation. But your new abilities in The Foundation also add a new degree of environmental interaction to Control that the main game lacked, to some degree. With Shape and Fracture, you have new ways of dispatching enemies that require you to pay more attention to your positioning and your opportunities, giving you chances to take out bad guys quickly and efficiently.

Scattered throughout most of the combat areas in The Foundation are patches of crystals on the ground or in walls. With the Shape ability, you can grow crystals out of these patches--when you're navigating, they'll usually function as handy platforms, but during combat, they produce walls to hide behind or spiky crystals that can shred enemies. Their stationary position means these crystal patches function as traps you can trigger after luring the Hiss toward them, instantly dispatching most of the DLC's baddies.

Fracture functions in a similar way, with crystals you can destroy often stretching over gaps. Drawing enemies toward them gives you a chance to blow the floor out beneath them, dropping them into the depths of the Astral Plane to disappear.

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The two new abilities don't drastically change your combat strategies for Control, but they do incentivize you to pay more attention to the environments around you and how they can be useful in a fight. Knowing your surroundings is important, especially because The Foundation adds a new monster to the Hiss's horde: the Hiss Sharpened, a fast-moving melee enemy that loves to find its way behind you for ambush attacks. Shape and Fracture are great for taking out Sharpened before they can close the gap on you, which is handy since the new enemies are great at dodging your attacks and will often teleport into your blind spots while you're busy dealing with another threat.

Control's combat gets a boost from its new enemies and level design that encourages you to pay attention to your surroundings to deal with them, but Remedy's weird, paranormal story is its centerpiece. The Foundation advances the narrative in some interesting ways, providing a look into the origins of the Bureau's residency in the Oldest House. It's through the Foundation that the Bureau first discovered the Oldest House and made contact with the Astral Plane entities in charge, known as the Board. As Jesse learns more about the Bureau's origins, The Foundation continues to develop on the growing uneasiness between Jesse and her unknowable eldritch benefactors.

In the main game, Jesse worked with the Board to stop the Hiss threat, but there was a constant undercurrent of potential hostility coming off the creatures. That was amplified by the presence of The Former, an Astral Plane boss creature that seems to be an enemy of the Board and which popped up at a few points as Jesse was exploring the Oldest House and recapturing loose Objects of Power. The Foundation adds to the situation with both characters in a way that suggests that the Hiss isn't necessarily the only threat still facing the Bureau, and that there's a lot more going on with the powers that be on the Astral Plane than we yet know.

The Foundation does a great job of demonstrating how much more of Control's strange story there is for Remedy to expand and explore, although the DLC feels more like a chapter in a continuing narrative than anything that's especially definitive. It's a welcome opportunity to venture through another fascinating and strange section of the Oldest House and through Control's complex supernatural world, though. As with the combat, The Foundation is not necessarily a massive shake-up of what works well in Control, but it is a meaningful next chapter that continues to push the game and its story forward.

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philhornshaw

Phil Hornshaw

GameSpot editor in Los Angeles, and the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory. Hoped the latter would help me get Han Solo hair, but so far, unsuccessful.

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