“Maybe I’ll never understand. Maybe I don’t need to.” – Jesse Faden
SPOILER ALERT. This article deals with the ending of Remedy’s ‘Control,’ and contains SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS. If you haven’t played the game yet, check out our review, and decide if the title is for you.
We know why you’re here. No, it’s not supernatural skill, because we feel exactly the same. You probably just finished Remedy’s newest title Control and were like, “Whoa, what was that? Did I just see what I thought I saw?”
Currently, Remedy’s Control is tearing up the review charts, and is being praised for its unique story, visceral gameplay, and worldbuilding skill, amounting to a memorable release that establishes Remedy as one of the premier action/adventure developers in the industry. That being said, the ending has been met with mixed reviews by some, and confused looks by all. Whether viewed positively or negatively, the ending is — without a doubt — an incredibly convoluted and important part of the narrative. So, let’s go slowly:
Break It Down and Save the World
In search of the paranormal slide projector and her brother, Dylan, Jesse ventures into the Dimensional Research sector of the Oldest House. Wading through a reddish desert sand, she climbs the stairs to find a large projection room where she sees an “echo” image of five pillars surrounded by amber sand — evidence that the object of power was once used in the room to contact what is believed to be Polaris, the dimensional being traveling in Jesse’s mind. Once inside the lab, Jesse finally stumbles upon Dr. Darling’s best kept secret: that Polaris is being kept prisoner in dimensional research, and is called Hedron by the staff.
With this reveal, the underlying backstory of Control comes into greater focus. The HRAs — or Hedron Resonance Amplifiers — that allowed some of the FBC staff to escape possession by the Hiss channels are really devices that channel the energy of Hedron to keep away the demons from other dimensions. Hinted at for a majority of the game, Jesse’s immunity to the Hiss comes from the fact the Polaris lives within her, protecting her psyche from their penetrating effects.
Described as a living being with a geometric shape, Hedron is supposedly kept prisoner in a large, egg-shaped orb in the next chamber, and is protected by a giant HRA. To get in, Jesse rips the shield down and bursts into the room, exposing Hedron’s cell to the evil of the Hiss. After fighting her way to the center of the chamber, the cell is ripped open to reveal…nothing.
At this point, Hiss chanting begins, and the screen is awash with red. Jesse is shown to be fighting against the Hiss, and is in pain. She succumbs to the force, and becomes a part of their hive mind, chanting the “you are a worm through time.”
At this point, the credits for Control roll, implying that the game has ended and Jesse’s battle has been lost. After about fifteen seconds, the text begins to fragment and distort, transforming into the Hiss chant that has dominated the game and tortured Jesse. The screen fades to white, then to black.
Control then continues, as Jesse awakens in business clothes on the executive level of the Oldest House, which is shown to be functioning as if the Hiss never invaded. She is tasked with menial office work, like making copies, delivering letters, and cleaning up coffee cups, all while being verbally abused by side characters from earlier in the game. She delivers mail to Director Trench’s office, and has a vision of herself in the director’s chair, with Dylan killing her using the Service Weapon. She says “this isn’t me, I’m not me. Why can’t I feel you?” as she calls out to Polaris.
She is then transported again to the same part of the executive level of the Oldest House, and is tasked with the same office work. Jesse goes back to Trench’s office and finds him lost in thought, rambling about the dangers of Hedron, and that the Hiss will save them. He says that he has a special slide for the Projector that first exposed him to the possession of the Hiss. In a flashback, he is shown turning the projector on and then being shot by Dylan, who is subsequently seen sitting in the director chair.
Jesse is now once again transported to the floor of the Oldest House, which has gotten redder and more ominous. She makes her way to Trench’s office, and finds the Director chanting the Hiss’ speech, bathed in red light. She shoots Trench, and takes his chair, saying “I am the Director.” She receives a call from Dr. Darling that tells her to go to his office to find the endgame.
Inside, Jesse finds a pullcord to the Oceanview Motel, and uses a key to open a new hallway door. Inside, she find Polaris, embodied by Jesse’s form. Polaris tells her to “Grow brighter. Around one constant, they revolve.” Jesse concludes that Hedron put Polaris in her head, or that Polaris was triggered by the dimensional being. She says, “Maybe I’ll never understand. Maybe I don’t need to.”
Jesse makes her way to the Nostalgia department to confront Dylan, who is seen after she uses the slide projector. She fights her way to Dylan, and cleanses him of the Hiss. Dylan then lapses into a coma, and Jesse is shown taking up the mantle of Director of the Oldest House. She ends by announcing that she is working with Polaris to continue fighting the Hiss to clean up the Department of Control.
On to Speculation
Now, despite Control’s ending being spelled out, the ambiguity and depth of Sam Lake’s writing leaves an incredibly large amount of plot up to speculation and guess. Sure, a large number of clues are buried deep within the game’s enormous amount of lore pieces, but even with these details there is still a lot that is open for interpretation. What follows is my best guess about what Control’s ending means.
Hedron and the Hiss
It’s no surprise that Hedron and the Hiss are two most important plot elements in Remedy’s Control. Described as inter-dimensional beings that were accessed through the altered slide projector, these two forces battle for control over the Oldest House. Hedron, in the vaguest sense, embodies the light and hope in the world, while the Hiss exemplify darkness and slavery. Together, they form a yin/yang relationship that aligns with the good and evil dichotomy seen in a number of narratives throughout history.
This balance-of-opposites relationship is symbolized by both of the beings through their representations in Control’s ending. Hedron, named because of its shape, is shown only in Jesse’s psyche as a geometric, angular creature — almost like a strand of DNA. The Hiss, in contrast, are shown as flowing and shapeless, like a smearing of blood on a glass tile. Polaris, a representation of Hedron, is light, flowing, and angelic, while the Hiss are crimson-colored, quick, and oozing.
The Struggle for the Director’s Chair
In this dimensional struggle between literal good and evil, Jesse and Dylan are the symbolic representations of their respective force. Jesse, literally in tune with Hedron through her Polaris connection, is the representation of the forces of light in the narrative. On the other hand, Dylan is the physical embodiment of the Hiss throughout the narrative, and is used interchangeably in cutscenes to represent the force. For both of these characters, the Director’s chair and role symbolizes the control that each of these characters want; taking the chair means possessing the inter-dimensional realm of the Oldest House.
In the cutscene that shows Trench’s suicide and Dylan holding the Service Weapon, Dylan represents the Hiss’ power within Jesse and the Director’s mind. While Dylan is shown pulling the trigger to kill Trench, it is literally the power of the Hiss possession within the Director that make him end his life. Similarly, Jesse is shown with a gun to her head and Dylan holding the gun interchangeably, implying that the Hiss were going to have Jesse end herself as well. Dylan was not the killer — it was the power of the Hiss that forced them to commit action outside of their control.
Ahti The Janitor
One of the best mysteries of Control’s ending has to do with Ahti, the janitor for the Oldest House. An interesting and well-written character, many speculate that he is a physical embodiment of the Oldest House, or some sort of a ghost that haunts its halls, but he is really another inter-dimensional force — similarly to Hedron and the Hiss — that balances the scales of the universe to ensure that everything is harmonious. There is even the possibility that Ahti is connected to Polaris in some way, as he appears to have the ability to read Jesse’s mind. This detail comes from Trench’s dialogue during Control’s ending that appears to reference Ahti: “there was this man. Sometimes he was a plumber…unclogging the drain — because there was a big fish stuck there, a big fish — but sometimes he was an old god, you see, and he had put the fish there to keep the waste, there was rising waste, from leaking out. So, he was conflicted.”
It seems very likely that Ahti is the old god mentioned in the Director’s ramblings, balancing the order of the universe in order to keep everything working smoothly. Working like an all-knowing diety, Ahti orders and aligns the dimensional forces that are fighting for control of the world, both helping things flow while clogging things up in order to prevent the spread of unbalanced evil, all while allowing both sides to struggle against each other to create harmony. In this balancing act, he is shown to be conflicted and unsure of his role, growing tired with the struggle to maintain the delicate balancing act, and seeking a way out.
As for his long-awaited vacation, Control’s ending is significantly more vague. It could be that Ahti is done ordering the universe and ready to give up his overseeing role, receding into the darkness and leaving Jesse and her connection with Polaris to handle the world. If he is somehow connected to Polaris, it would also explain why he chose her as assistant in taking care of the Oldest House, eventually giving her the role once she was trained enough.
The poster is one of the most frequently reoccurring motifs in Control, being constantly referenced from the beginning to the end. An overt reference to the film The Shawshank Redemption, the poster symbolizes the veil of normalcy that covers the opening of paranormal horrors that lie beneath. In the film, the poster covered a hole dug by one of the prisoners that was used to escape to freedom, and the game adopts a similar view. In Control, the poster represents the perceivable reality that takes place in everyday life, and it is this reality that covers the darker secrets of the universe. These mysteries are exposed and released once the poster is removed, affecting anyone and reshaping their view on the nature of reality and existence.
The Oceanview Motel is an incredibly interesting concept within Control, and although it doesn’t factor much into ending, it still plays a small part. It is described as a meeting place for dimensions that is connected to the Oldest House; there are other doors within the Motel that can’t be opened, presumably linked to other paranormal places within the world, but no one from the Department of Control has ever walked through them. It is implied that Ahti spends time there, namely due to his janitor closet, and Polaris is accessed through a door at the end.
While the Motel is definitely a concrete place on earth, it does not adhere to the common laws of reality, making it some sort of liminal space between realities and dimensions. In Control, it seems to exist as a paranormal hub between worlds, bringing people from all kinds of places and realities to one unified location.
While these are speculations about Control’s ending and lore, there are likely plenty that we have missed. What do you think about our ideas? What did we miss? What are your speculations about Control? Leave a comment below!
‘Atelier Ryza’ Warms the Heart No Matter the Season
Atelier Ryza excels at creating a sense of warmth and familiarity, and could be just what you need during the winter months.
The Atelier series is something of a unicorn in the JRPG genre. It isn’t known for its world-ending calamities or continent-spanning journeys; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The small-town feel and more intimate storytelling of Atelier games has made them some of the most consistently cozy experiences in gaming, and Ryza is no exception. No matter if it’s this winter or next, here’s why Atelier Ryza is the perfect type of RPG to warm your heart this winter.
Like a Warm Blanket
Unlike protagonists from other entries in the franchise, Reisalin Stout (or Ryza for short) has never stepped foot in an atelier or even heard of alchemy at the start of her game. Instead, she’s just a fun-loving and mischevious girl from the country who spends her days in search of adventure with her childhood pals Lent and Tao. It’s this thrill-seeking that eventually leads the trio to meet a mysterious wandering alchemist and learn the tricks of the trade.
The entirety of Atelier Ryza takes place during summer, and it’s clear that the visual design team at Gust had a field day with this theme. In-game mornings are brought to life through warm reds, yellows, and oranges, while the bright summer sun beams down incessantly in the afternoon and gives way to cool evenings flooded by shades of blue and the soft glow of lanterns. Ryza’s visual prowess is perhaps most noticeable in the lighting on its character models, which are often given a warm glow dependent on the time of day.
The cozy sensibilities of the countryside can be felt elsewhere as well. The farm Ryza’s family lives on aside, the majority of environments are lush with all manner of plant life, dirt roads, and rustic architecture. Menus feature lovely wooden and papercraft finishes that simulate notepads or photos on a desk. Townspeople will even stop Ryza to remark on how much she’s grown and ask about buying some of her father’s crops. Everything just excels at feeling down-to-earth homey.
An Intimate Take on Storytelling
Kurken Island and the surrounding mainland feel expansive as a whole but intimate in their design. This is partially due to the readily-accessible fast travel system that Atelier Ryza employs; instead of a seamless open world, most players will find themselves jumping from location to location to carry out quests and harvest ingredients for alchemy. However, there’s still strong incentive to explore the nearby town thanks to tons of random side quests and little cutscenes that trigger as players progress through the main story.
It’s an interesting way to tackle world-building. Instead of relying on intricate dialogue like The Outer Worlds or massive cinematic cutscenes like Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Atelier Ryza lets players get a feel for its world rather naturally through everyday conversations. These scenes run the gamut from Ryza’s parents yelling at her to help more around the farm to running into and catching up with old friends who’d moved overseas. They’re unobtrusive and brief, but the sheer number of them gradually establishes a cast that feels alive and familiar.
Of course, post-holidays winter is also the season for more somber tales. The relationship between Lent and his alcoholic father is striking in its realistic depiction of how strained some father-son relationships can become.
The narrative escalates subtly: An early cutscene shows Mr. Marslink stumbling onto Ryza’s front lawn thinking it’s his. Then an event triggers where the neighborhood jerks tease Lent about being the son of the town drunk. Lent’s house is a small shack pulled back from the rest of the town, and visiting it triggers one of the few scenes where Ryza can actually talk to Mr. Marslink himself. The situation eventually reveals itself to be so bad that it completely explains why Lent is gung-ho about being out of the house whenever he can.
Though Lent’s general character motivation is wanting to get stronger and protect the town, it’s the heartfelt insights like these that make him much more relatable as a party member. Atelier Ryza features no grand theatrics or endless bits of exposition, but instead favors highlighting interpersonal conversations as Ryza continues to learn more about the people and world around her.
Cozy games rarely get enough credit. Just like the Animal Crossing series or Pokemon: Let’s Go provides players with a warmth that can stave off the harshest of winters, Atelier Ryza succeeds in being the lighthearted, touching JRPG fans wanted. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and heartwarming in the way it builds out its world and cast of characters, and seeing Ryza gradually grow more confident and capable is a joy unto itself. If you’re in need of a blanket until Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes out in March, you can’t go wrong here.
PAX South 2020 Hands On: ‘The Artful Escape,’ ‘Foregone,’ and ‘Tunic’
This past weekend, PAX South 2020 brought a huge variety of promising indie games to the show floor in San Antonio. Here are just a few of the most remarkable games I got to try, including a hardcore action game, a classic adventure, and an experience that can only be described as dreamlike.
Simply put, Tunic is a Zelda game, but foxier. Tunic takes significant inspiration from the classic Zelda formula, complete with an overworld to explore, puzzles to solve, enemies to fight, and a protagonist clad in green. My demo even began by leaving me weaponless and forcing me to venture into a nearby cave in order to discover my first weapon.
Yet there’s nothing wrong with following such a traditional formula. At a time when Nintendo has largely stopped creating new games in the style of its classic Zeldas, it’s left up to other developers to rediscover the magic of the original gameplay style. Based on my time with the game, Tunic achieves exactly that, reimagining the charm of A Link to the Past for the current generation with gorgeous visuals and modern design sensibilities. The biggest difference from its predecessors is its green-clad hero is a fox, and not a Kokiri.
All, that is to say, is that if you’ve ever played a 2D Zelda, then you’ll know exactly what to expect from Tunic. It starts by dropping the foxy little player character into a vibrant, sunny overworld, and true to form, your inventory is completely empty and the environment is full of roadblocks to progress. Simple enemies abound, and although its greatest Zelda inspirations lie with those from the 2D era, it also includes an element from the 3D games due to its inclusion of a targeting system in order to lock onto specific opponents. What followed next was a linear, straightforward dungeon that focused on teaching the basics of exploration and item usage. It was extremely simple but hinted at plenty of potential for the full game later.
Tunic’s gameplay may hearken back to the games of old, but its visual presentation is cutting edge. It features gorgeous polygonal 3D visuals, loaded with striking graphical and lighting effects, making its quaint isometric world truly pop to life. My demo didn’t last very long, but the little bit I played left me excited for Tunic’s eventual release on Xbox One and PC. It could be the brand-new classic Zelda experience that fans like myself have long waited for.
These days, nearly every other indie game is either a roguelike or a Metroivdvania. Just by looking at Foregone, I immediately assumed that it must be one of the two based on appearances alone. Yet when I shared those assumptions with the developers, Big Blue Bubble, the response in both cases was a resounding, “No.”
Foregone may look like it could be procedurally generated or feature a sprawling interconnected world, but that simply isn’t the case. The developers insisted that every aspect of the game world was intentionally crafted by hand, and it will remain that way in each playthrough. Likewise, although there is some optional backtracking at certain points in the game, Foregone is a largely linear experience, all about going from one point to another and adapting your strategy along the way. In a generation where nonlinearity reigns supreme, such straightforward design is refreshing to see.
If there’s any game that seems like an accurate comparison to Foregone, it would have to be Dark Souls. From the very start of the demo, the world of Foregone is inhabited with fearsome enemies that don’t hold back. If you don’t watch what you’re doing, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and fall under the pressure. Thankfully, there’s a broad assortment of abilities at your disposal, such as a wide area of effect move that can stun enemies within a wide radius, and a powerful shield that can block many attacks. I fell many times during my time with the game, but it never felt unfair. Rather, it merely felt like I wasn’t being smart enough with my own ability usage, and I was encouraged to keep jumping back into the world for just one more run, this time armed with better knowledge of my own abilities and potential strategies.
And it’s a beautiful game too. Rather than featuring the typical pixelated aesthetics often associated with platformers, the world is actually built-in 3D with a pixelated filter applied on top of it. This allows for a uniquely detailed environment and distinctly fluid animations. Foregone looks to be a worthwhile action game that should be worth checking out when it hits early access via the Epic Games Store in February, with a full release on console and PC to follow later this year.
The Artful Escape
Bursting with visual and auditory splendor, The Artful Escape is easily the most surreal game I played at PAX South. The demo may have only lasted about ten minutes, yet those ten minutes were dreamlike, transportation from the crowded convention to a world of color, music, and spirit.
As its name would suggest, The Artful Escape is an otherworldly escape from reality. Its luscious 3D environments are populated with 2D paper cutout characters, its dialogue leans heavily into the mystical (the player character describes his surroundings with phrases like “a Tchaikovsky cannonade” and “a rapid glittering of the eyes”), and its music often neglects strong melodies in favor of broad, ambient background themes. This all combines to create a mystical, almost meditative atmosphere.
It only helps that the platforming gameplay itself is understated, not requiring very much of you but to run forward, leap over a few chasms, or occasionally play your guitar to complete basic rhythm games. This gameplay style may not be the most involved or exciting, but it allows you to focus primarily on the overwhelming aesthetic majesty, marching forward through the world while shredding on your guitar all the while.
This Zenlike feel to the game is punctuated with occasional spectacular moments. At one point, a gargantuan, crystalline krill called the Wonderkrill burst onto the screen and regaled me with mystic dialogue, while at another point, I silently wandered into a herd of strange oxen-like creatures grazing in a barren field as the music began to swell. The demo was filled with such memorable moments, constantly leaving my jaw dropped.
For those who think that games should be entertaining above all else, The Artful Escape might not be so enthralling. Its platforming is extremely basic and its rhythm minigames are shallow at best. For players who think that games can be more than fun, however, The Artful Escape is set to provide an emotional, unforgettable experience, an escape that I can’t wait to endeavor.
PAX South Hands On: ‘Boyfriend Dungeon’ Wields Weapons of Love
A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend, and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.
In most games, weapons are straightforward objects. Sometimes they can be upgraded or personalized, but at the end of the day, they function as little more than tools for a single purpose: to cut down enemies and make progress in the game. Boyfriend Dungeon, however, proposes a different relationship with your weapons. They’re more than just objects. Instead, they’re eligible bachelors and bachelorettes that are ready to mingle.
Boyfriend Dungeon is a dungeon crawler and dating sim hybrid all about forging an intimate bond with your weapons and, after demoing it at PAX South, this unique mix seems to be paying off.
There are two main activities in Boyfriend Dungeon: exploring the loot-filled dungeons (referred to as “The Dunj”) and romancing the human forms of your weapons. There’s been plenty of great dungeon crawlers in recent years, but Boyfriend Dungeon sets itself apart by humanizing its weaponry. This concept may sound strange on paper, but Kitfox games director and lead designer Tanya X. Short is confident that players have long been ready for a game just like this.
“A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend,” and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.
“I think the fans of Boyfriend Dungeon have been out there for years, waiting. I remember when I was in university ages ago, I was sure someone would have made a game like this already… but I guess I needed to make it myself!” She adds that “A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend,” and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.
My demo with Boyfriend Dungeon began simply enough. After a brief character creation phase where I chose my appearance and my pronouns (he/him, she/her, or they/them), I was dropped into the stylish, top-down hub world of Verona Beach. Here I could explore the town and choose where to date my chosen weapon. I decided to head to the public park to meet Valeria, a swift and slender dagger.
“Today I’m writing dates with a scythe, and that’s beautiful.”
Upon reaching the park, I discovered Valeria in her dagger form. When I picked up the weapon, a beautiful anime-style animation commenced in which she transformed into her human form. What followed was a visual novel-style date sequence complete with detailed character art and plenty of dialogue options to help romance your date.
The dialogue is full of witty, self-aware humor and charm – there were more than a few jokes about axe murderers along with other weapon-related puns, for example. Short herself put plenty of love into the writing. “Writing dates with weapons is a joy I never knew could be part of my job, but here we are. Today I’m writing dates with a scythe, and that’s beautiful.”
I loved my date with Valeria, but she’s not the only potential mate in Boyfriend Dungeon. Rather, there’s a cast of five potential partners in the game, each of them hailing from distinct backgrounds and identities. “When I was coming up with the cast for Boyfriend Dungeon, I tried to imagine as many kinds of people and personalities that I could be attracted to as possible.”
Short drew from her own personal experiences in creating the cast. “I was very lucky to meet my partner many years ago, so I haven’t actually dated many people in my life, but I become fascinated with people I meet very easily, and they can provide inspiration. Whether they’re upbeat and reckless, or brooding and poetic, or gentle and refined…there’re so many kinds of intriguing people out there. And in Boyfriend Dungeon, I hope.”
After building up this bond during dialogue, it was time to put it to the test by exploring the Dunj. Of course, this isn’t the typically dreary dungeon found in most other dungeon crawlers. Instead, it’s an abandoned shopping mall overrun with monsters to slay and loot to discover with your partner weapon.
Combat is easy to grasp, focusing on alternating between light and heavy attacks and creating simple combos out of them. Just like how the dating content aims to be inclusive for people of different backgrounds, Short hopes for the combat to be accessible for players of different levels of experience as well. “Hopefully the dungeon combat can be approachable enough for less experienced action RPG players, but still have enough challenge for the people that want to find it.”
Based off the demo, Boyfriend Dungeon seems to achieve this goal. I loved learning simpler moves and discovering new combos with them. Movement is fast, fluid, and intuitive, making it a pleasure to explore the Dunj. Succeeding in dungeons will also result in a stronger relationship with your weapons, so it’s in your best interest to perform well during combat. Of course, your weapons don’t simply level up – instead, their love power increases.
“Our approach has been that the point isn’t the destination — it’s the journey you take, and who you choose to take it with.”
Fighting and dating may seem like two disparate concepts, but in practice, they manage to mesh surprisingly well. “The game is mostly about switching from one [gameplay style] to the other,” Short says, “and it’s nice for pacing, since you often want a breather from the action or get restless if there’s too much reading.”
The overarching story and general experience remain relatively firm throughout the whole game regardless of your decisions, but Short encourages players to enjoy the ride they take with the weapon they choose. “Our approach has been that the point isn’t the destination — it’s the journey you take, and who you choose to take it with.”
In Boyfriend Dungeon, your weapons can wage more than just war. Rather, they can spread love and lead to deeply fulfilling relationships. Boyfriend Dungeon is one of the most refreshing games I played at PAX thanks to its engaging dungeon exploration and combat and its surprisingly positive view of weaponry. That’s the mission of peace that Short had in mind with the game: “It feels like a difficult time in the world right now, but that’s when we most need to find love and compassion. Let’s try our hardest to be kind.”
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