Spoiler Warning: This feature goes into detail about Control, including its ending. Proceed with caution!
The world of Control is a wide and unknown one. Its story follows Jesse, a young woman who has been thrown into an ever-shifting office building filled with a man-eating fridge, a mischievous rubber ducky, and a basement full of living mold. The Federal Bureau of Control is all about exploring the weird fringes of our reality, and over the course of the story, Jesse undergoes a combat promotion to become the new Director; once at the beginning and again once she fully steps into the role.
If you've finished the game's main story, then you know that it leaves things rather open. Jesse is firmly the Director, but she has to clean up the last remnants of the Hiss, build her executive team, and clean up some of the errant issues plaguing the Oldest House. Remedy Entertainment has already promised two expansions for Control: Foundation and AWE. Prior to that DLC release, Remedy is focusing on console performance issues and other tweaks.
"We just released a blog post saying there are some things that we'd like to fix. So we're tackling those. Then we have a few things lined up before the end of the year, and then next year we have two expansions coming," Control narrative designer Brooke Maggs tells me in an interview at PAX West.
When asked for more specifics on DLC, Maggs says that its still in flux. "We have a solid idea for both of them, but in terms of specifics, we'll see," she adds. "I can't give too much away, but I think we definitely find out a bit more about how Jesse handles her role as a director, and we find out more about the Oldest House. And that's about all I can say. At the moment, we have a lot of ideas for the expansions, but how many of them make it in? That's why I'm hesitant to say; we may want to address it and we probably do want to address all these things, but as to whether we get to do it in the expansions...? We intend to address a number of things that are left open at the end of the game." Dangling threads and concepts include Marshall's mysterious mission and more details about Former, an excommunicated member of the extradimensional Board.
That said, Maggs does want the expansions to take a look at how Jesse handles being the director of Control. The last director, Trench, was taken over by a corrupting force, ultimately committing suicide. The director prior to him went mad with power, ultimately being contained within the reactor that powers the Oldest House. Power corrupted her predecessors in different ways, so how will Jesse handle the Director's chair, sending people to their deaths, or perhaps even worse fates?
"When I was talking about expansions with the team, I was saying that what I really love about the whole game has really been, 'I'm accidentally the director,' to 'Yes, I'm the Director.' She's only just come to that role in a time of crisis," says Maggs. "From what we can gather in her conversations with Trench, being a director involves a lot of other things that perhaps we don't know about yet. I'm interested in how heavy that mantle is, to being a director, and what it means to make tough choices for the Bureau. For me, it's like, 'Okay, you're in the role, now what are you going to do with it?' I'm real keen to see that."
Some of what finds itself into either expansion will be concepts that simply didn't fit into the main game. Remedy's aimed pretty high, but slimmed some ideas down into environmental secrets rather than full missions, or saved them for later. "There were quite a few things that were too big to fit in. For example, we had much larger aspirations for some of the side missions. But at the end of the day, they felt like they weren't focused, so we cut them down," says Maggs. "Some of those ideas were distilled in some cool ideas that we could put in in small way, but then there were others things that we thought, 'Let's leave that to an expansion.' We've definitely saved some things for later."
Jesse herself also avoids many of the issues that come with protagonists being in horrific, twisted situations, like many encounters within the Oldest House. Instead, she approaches the entire invasion of the Hiss with something akin to relief, which was a purposeful choice, according to Maggs.
"Jesse is not a stranger to the unexplained. It's almost like, you've been told forever that what you saw was not real, and then you get to a place where everyone is like, 'Oh yeah, that's real,' and then you're like, 'Oh, I've found my people.' There's an element of that, even though she's not as expressive," she says. Maggs explains that Jesse's lack of expression is due to being closed down emotionally for so long, whereas within the Bureau Jesse can turn to helpful and inquisitive folks on the same page, like scientist Emily Pope.
"Jesse hasn't had someone who can find those answers for her. We didn't want to put narrative weight on her being surprised and shocked all the time," Maggs tells me.
Control references many of Remedy Entertainment's previous games, including Quantum Break and Max Payne, but the most direct references all involve Alan Wake. There are several research documents players can find that involve Bright Falls or the Night Springs television show from Alan Wake's American Nightmare. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the references will become bigger, as Remedy is focused on fleshing out Control's world.
"They're definitely fun references, but we've also drawn some connections to Alan Wake and even perhaps suggested that they're a part of the same universe. As for what that means, really it's just about building Control's world and making that feel more rich and expansive. We have some doors that we're not looking behind just yet. A bit of a Remedy tradition is harkening back to other games," she says.
Speaking of previous games, Maggs says that Quantum Break also helped influence the direction of Control's storytelling. Quantum Break came alongside a live-action television show, which played between each chapter of the game. It fleshed out the world, giving much needed background and context to the events. Fan response to that caused Remedy to pull back for Control, trying to integrate video and lore into the world itself.
"What we did was we did live-action, but we did it in-world. You could engage with Dr. Darling's videos if you wanted to, or hunt for those audio logs. It's definitely worth your while to do it, but we don't mind if players don't share the same love for scattered redacted documents," she explains. "Curious players will explore, but there are other players who are just interested in powering through the main missions. That's part of what we wanted to do in Control actually, is give players more control over their gameplay and the narrative. How much they wanted to engage in."
As it stands now though, players will have to contend with what's available in the box. Purchasing the Season Pass also gives players access to a new mission, but beyond that Remedy hasn't announced any smaller content releases prior to the DLC launch. Instead, players can spend their time poking at the dark corners of the Oldest House, or speculating about the connections between all those redacted documents.