It’s been a few months since we spent time in the Oldest House. Last year’s Control offered a unique experience that built a weird, yet spectacular world. Remedy Entertainment’s intricate setting and engaging gameplay was the perfect springboard for more content. Thankfully, they came to deliver with the first of two expansions, The Foundation. Diving deeper into the secrets of the Federal Bureau of Control, players can now explore the roots of the Oldest House themselves. Does it maintain the sense of wonder that the base game did? Well we certainly think so.
The Foundation starts with Jesse, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, learning of a new problem occurring in the Oldest House. As the Director, it’s up to her to take matters into her own hands, just as she did before. The Astral Plane, a mysterious dimension that players have grown well acquainted with previously, is now bleeding into the real world. Jesse goes to the literal Foundation of the building to get to the bottom of the crisis at hand. The story continues to build on what the main game already started, taking place immediately after the ending. It should take a few hours to finish, but like the base game, there’s plenty to explore.
With The Foundation, the game offers a whole new area that easily rivals other sectors of the Oldest House. It’s large, full of secret passageways, and makes great use of the brand new skills Jesse gains. The Board will offer the Shape skill, which depending on the player’s choice, they can use either Create or Fracture. Jesse will eventually gain access to both, but the choice here offers some flexibility to tackle her missions. These special skills utilize the crystals that grow down in the Foundation, allowing Jesse to either create or destroy them. With the Create skill, she can form platforms or even death traps for opposing Hiss enemies. Fracture gives Jesse’s service weapon the ability to destroy the crystals as well.
No matter your choice, Jesse will be on the path to perform rituals to restore a large monolith in the Foundation known as the Nail. Each ritual will utilize different challenges, some making use of the Astral Plane. Others might test players with deadly Hiss battles. Jesse will continue to gain ability points, which gives her access to a new skill tree option with the Shield Rush. The ability gives a more offensive approach with the Shield skill, but it doesn’t feel quite essential to use. Even so, it’s nice that there’s at least one skill that can be used in the rest of the game. It’s also part of a free update, meaning players won’t need the expansion pass to use it.
One of the things that makes The Foundation great is the challenge it offers. Despite finishing the base game, I was pleasantly surprised at how often the game was able to continue testing my skill. Enemies tend to be stronger, and there are even new ones, like the Hiss Sharpened. Some challenging fights await Jesse in the Foundation, so it’s best to learn to utilize the new skills wisely. It can get a little frustrating in some situations though. One particular instance, the “Swift Platform” sequence, was a really cool idea, feeling reminiscent of the Ashtray Maze in the base game. Due to the length and the lack of movement options, it’s actually pretty easy to die here. I ended up doing the sequence over and over until I finally came up with a strategy that kept me alive.
There’s another unique mission that has Jesse utilizing an altered item as a tool. This altered item has the ability to freeze the Hiss in place, but only if they’re caught in its light. It was another frustrating challenge due to the length, but it just shows how vital perseverance and strategy are. Of course, many of these are side missions, so they’re not required to finish the story. That being said, they still offer new ways to enjoy the game, and it really tests the player in new ways. If you’re going to experience The Foundation, may as well experience all it has to offer.
For those that truly want to explore, this DLC offers a set of fun little Easter eggs too. There are certain altered items, lucky cat statues, that are hidden all throughout the DLC. Finding them all is a puzzle in itself, but it grants access to a fun, albeit unusual reward. If you loved the original Control, then this expansion will definitely continue to deliver more of what made the original game great. It also comes with an update with multiple fixes. These fixes include map improvements, better accessibility, and the option to reassign ability points. Unfortunately, the game still has some issues with the frame rate after pausing. Other than that, the game’s performance is a noticeable improvement.
One thing that feels like a notable improvement for me is the performances. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had more time to think on it, but I’ve grown to appreciate the acting more. Courtney Hope’s performance as Jesse seems to be more relatable this time, feeling like someone I can root for. It may be because she feels more at home in the position of the Director. The character seems more confident and more willing to perform her duties. In the original game, she was still new to everything, and sort of just playing along to reach her own goal. Now she actually wants to be in this position, and she does what’s in the best interest of the Federal Bureau of Control. This is some great character development, and it makes for a more enjoyable game.
Playing The Foundation gives me a lot of hope for the next expansion. If the Alan Wake connection is really going grow deeper, then it’s something I really look forward to. Hopefully I can keep my expectations in check, but I’m confident that Remedy can handle this. The Foundation makes that clear to me, and if the next expansion is even remotely as good as this one, fans have a lot to look forward to. This is an awesome expansion for anyone that enjoyed the original game, and it’s well worth checking out.