Title: Celeste – Farewell DLC
Available On: Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC, Steam
Developer: Matt Makes Games
Publisher: Matt Makes Games
Version Tested: Switch
Official Site: Celeste
Release Date: September 9th, 2019
As Madeline stood again at the peak of Celeste Mountain, I almost couldn’t contain my excitement. Released at the beginning of 2018, Celeste became one of my favorite platformers and, dare I say it, one of my favorite games ever. It wasn’t just the pinpoint precision platforming and the wondrous feeling I got when dashing through the air. It was a simple yet stunning way in which it presented its story about a girl whose life had become too much to handle. The story seemed complete, so news of the DLC genuinely surprised me. With no sequel on the horizon, I counted down the days until I could get my hands on Madeline’s final chapter. It was like greeting an old friend. But it should come with a warning; this old friend won’t be taking it easy on you. Celeste – Farewell makes the B-Sides look like a cakewalk.
A New Problem Arises
Celeste ended with Madeline conquering her demons and making peace with her negative self (“Badeline”). Her struggle was expertly layered throughout all eight chapters. Since this free DLC is only a single chapter (albeit a lengthy one), its plot is much simpler than that of the main game. The opening scene makes it clear that Madeline has left Celeste Mountain and returned for different answers. Here, she is dealing with a painful loss. I won’t spoil who it is she loses. But her grief is peppered in-between level breaks. And while it is much more straightforward than Madeline’s initial journey, that shouldn’t be seen as a negative. In fact, dealing with loss is something that essentially everyone can relate to. And to see her sort through her grief while feeling angry, lost, and alone gives it a suitable emotional punch.
However, as this is a lonesome journey, don’t expect to see too much of the lovable side characters from the main story. I won’t say that none of them appear. But the few small cutscenes here are mainly shared between Madeline and Badeline. As for the setting, it actually doesn’t take place on the mountain. Instead, the mysterious bird who showed up to help in her original adventure leads Madeline into space. The art direction (which also blends elements of the sea) gives this chapter a much more otherworldly feel. Lena Raine’s synth-heavy and hauntingly beautiful score only enhances this notion. I’m humming the main theme as I type. The new art style also allows for some truly insane level design and some of the hardest platforming I’ve ever experienced.
No Pulled Punches
If you were under the impression that you’d be eased back into the tough gameplay Celeste is known for, then I’ve got some bad news for you. Farewell hits the ground running and never lets up. If one were to play through the game’s entirety, it would be a natural progression of story mode, B-sides, then Chapter 9. It should also be noted that, while free, you can only play this DLC if you’ve beaten the story. It also requires you to have beaten the B-sides once you reach a certain point, though not the post-game Core level. So the high difficulty does make sense.
But I hadn’t played in a while and Celeste can be rather brutal. If you aren’t absolutely precise in your button or directional input, you’ll surely dash straight into a wall of death in the form of spikes or electrical barriers. Or you’ll simply fall to your doom, as you start a screen on one of the very few safe spots to stand. If you’re playing on Switch, as I did, I highly recommend using a Pro Controller. The Joy-Cons just don’t cut it when it comes to the necessary precision. The ratio of things that can kill you versus safe places is easily 90/10. Some spots feel imbalanced and cluttered, which does take some of the fun away. But you can always use the game’s Assist Mode to make it past.
However, the feeling of succeeding after numerous defeats is something that can’t be matched by most games. Often I found myself talking out loud, brainstorming solutions for tough areas. What you’re supposed to do is never inherently clear. This leads to a lot of trial and error, and therefore a lot of deaths. But the feeling of triumph, of finally conquering something that has slain you innumerable times, is just as sweet as ever. And it’s the mixing in of new gameplay mechanics that makes them a bit more than just harder levels.
A Few Neat Tricks
In the original game, each chapter would introduce a new mechanic to help Madeline scale the mountain. A golden feather that turned her into a ball of light, allowing her to briefly fly; a crystal that refilled her trusty dash move midair. The new, appropriately sea-themed mechanics here are so brilliant, they make me wish I could play with them more.
The first you come across is a sort of blowfish that explodes if you come within range. Thankfully, a dotted line displays this. It’ll send you hurling in the opposite direction and refills your dash. But you can also bounce on its head, which pushes it to a lower spot. This leads to some interesting room solves, like bouncing the fish to a convenient place and propelling yourself forward with its explosion.
Then there’s the giant jellyfish. Holding on to this lets you float through the air. But dashing into one and grabbing hold gives you an extra boost to float to a new spot. This comes in handy when getting across large gaps. You can bounce the jellyfish off a wall, dash back into it, and get yourself some more air time.
Farewell also makes the wave dash a requirement. This isn’t something new to the game, as speedrunners often use it to trim down their time. Madeline can dash diagonally towards the ground and jump when she makes contact. This sends her careening across the screen quickly and replenishes her dash. The developers clearly took great pleasure in setting up increasingly tricky jumps based around this mechanic. It quickly became second nature to me, a smooth movement I should have been doing the whole time.
Verdict: Celeste – Farewell is an appropriately though staggeringly difficult, send-off for one of the most beloved modern indie games. Its high difficulty may turn some impatient players away, but the Assist Mode makes anything possible. It feels just as good to play as it always has, with the addition of some incredible new mechanics only bolstering the terrific gameplay. The simple story of grief is at times heartfelt, at others sorrowful, and reminds us to celebrate those we’ve lost.
- New Mechanics Enhance the Gameplay
- Lena Raine's Score
- Otherworldly Visuals
- Simple, but Touching Story
- High Difficulty = High Satisfaction
- Some Spots Feel Cluttered With the High Number of Traps