WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE BIOSHOCK SERIES FOLLOW
“I can see all the doors, and what’s behind all the doors.”-Elizabeth
Wonder, surprise, excitement and vulnerability; that was what I felt years ago when I first booted up the original Bioshock and explored the underwater city of Rapture. I felt this combination of emotions again as I began the final DLC for Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 2. But before I get into that, I need to back up and start from the beginning. I loved the original Bioshock. I did not pick it up when it first was available but bought it when it went on sale just before Bioshock 2 came out, but thankfully had managed to avoid spoilers up to that point. I was blown away by the rich atmosphere and compelling plot of the original game. I did not see the twist coming and thought it was a masterfully crafted experience.
I honestly do not remember all that much about the plot of Bioshock 2, but I do remember enjoying the gameplay quite a bit. Playing as a Big Daddy was so empowering and fun that I didn’t really care that much of the game was a retread of the first Bioshock. Because I enjoyed Bioshock 2 more than what I read from many reviewers, I had extremely high expectations for Bioshock Infinite. So, looking back on the entire experience of the game and all of the DLC, what did I think?
Let me start with what I enjoyed the most about Infinite, the gameplay. Before I started the game, I read a review that recommended that I play through it on the “hard” difficulty level because it forces you to use all of the combat refinements, I was very glad I did. Playing on the harder difficulty resulted in a little frustration but also a tremendous sense of accomplishment when taking on larger crowds. You absolutely have to use your vigors, weapons and skyhook to the best of your ability.
Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 1 plays very much like its predecessor. The only thing that really changed was a reduction in the number of skyhooks and a change of scenery and then you die. That’s right, the protagonist from Infinite and Episode 1, Booker, dies at the end of the first episode.
Because of this, Episode 2 feels like a brand new game. You play as Elizabeth without a companion to throw you ammo or open tears for you. Elizabeth is depowered and vulnerable. The emphasis shifts completely to stealth. It is by far the safest solution as Elizabeth is extremely weak and cannot survive much direct gunfire. In fact, I was able to complete the entire 5 hour DLC without killing anyone thanks to a new tranquilizing crossbow and stealth mechanics. Elizabeth no longer can control tears so she has to power up using plasmids which provides the Bioshock gameplay you are used to if you want to play it that way. I had a blast trying to sneak through the whole game.
See? I told you it was stealth. I have a crossbow and everything.
Ah yes, the plot. To me, this is where the entire Bioshock franchise has really shone. The world of both Rapture and Columbia are masterfully crafted and do what so few games do these days, tell a story with the setting alone. The world of Rapture from the original Bioshock is one of sickness and ambition that destroyed the world. It was built as a place for its inhabitants to escape the reality of the world above, but because of ambition and a lack of ethics, was turned into a festering hell hole of genetically mutated splicers. The world at many points really felt like Hell.
Welcome to Hell
If Rapture was Hell, then Columbia feels like Heaven. Aesthetically, the floating city of Columbia with its angelic statues and sense of Utopia is the opposite side of the coin of Rapture. As the game progresses, you find out that there is a more sinister force at work behind the scenes, driven by many of the same issues that plagued the citizens of Rapture.
Just a normal day in Columbia
Booker is a fairly standard game protagonist. He doesn’t do too much to stand out from the likes of Nathan Drake or even Jack from the original Bioshock. The star of Infinite is without a doubt Elizabeth. Elizabeth is your constant companion and the driving force behind the plot.
She is what makes this game special
You first rescue Elizabeth from the tower after witnessing her do some really amazing things, like tearing a whole through space and time to go see Return of the Jedi in Paris. Upon meeting up with her, you are immediately attacked by a huge bird creature, Elizabeth’s “protector”. Eventually, you escape and throughout the course of the game you bond with Elizabeth as you set out to stop her adopted Father, Comstock. The character of Elizabeth is written so incredibly well and interacts with both you and the world in such a way that you feel as if she is a real person on this journey with you. Because of what you encounter and experience, Elizabeth changes over the course of the game from what you saw in the picture above to this:
The change in Elizabeth is not only physical, but she becomes much more serious as the game drags on. Eventually Booker and Elizabeth are able to defeat Comstock through Elizabeth’s full realization of her powers. Elizabeth then opens a tear that leads you back to Rapture, the setting of Bioshock 1. After leaving Rapture, you arrive back at a single lighthouse, much like the one from the beginning of Bioshock and Infinite. After going through the door, you are treated to one of the game’s most shocking moments.
“Look at all the doors” – Elizabeth
This. You see, the world of Bioshock Infinite was only one of an infinite number of worlds that Elizabeth now has full access to. She uses her control of space and time to walk you through the rest of the revelations: Booker is Comstock, only from another reality. Elizabeth is Booker’s daughter who was stolen by Comstock to replace the daughter he lost. Finally, Elizabeth determines that the only way to stop Comstock for good is to kill Booker before he became Comstock. Booker allows her to drown him and that’s the end of Infinite. Now, this ending infuriated some and confused others. It took me a while to fully comprehend what happened and I found the ending…Ok. I had guessed that Booker was probably Comstock and that Elizabeth was his daughter from very early on in the game. Unfortunately, because of the post-Sixth Sense world we live in, I look for those twists very early on and can usually guess them.
Bioshock Episode 1 did little to further the overall narrative. Basically, you play as an alternate reality version of Booker and Elizabeth, only this Elizabeth has a vendetta against Booker for some reason and brings him to Rapture; the same Rapture from Bioshock. For the next two hours, Booker follows Elizabeth and helps her try and save a girl named Sally. At the end of the episode, Elizabeth betrays Booker in hopes that she can get Sally back and Booker is killed. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, she is also betrayed and has to set out on her own.
Episode One Elizabeth
In order to understand the significance of what I’m about to say about Episode 2, you need to understand the plot to the original Bioshock. In Bioshock, Atlas (the antagonist) pretended to be Jack’s (the protagonist’s) friend, asking him to do him favors in exchange for helping him get out of Rapture. Atlas’ ultimate goal was to get Jack to kill Andrew Ryan, a man who Atlas claimed was responsible for the Hell that Jack had gone through. He would always ask with the phrase “would you kindly?” and Jack would happily oblige. As it turns out, that very phrase was a trigger for Jack that forced him to do Atlas’ bidding. Eventually, Jack fought Atlas and won and escaped Rapture freeing all of the little sisters who had been trapped there.
Now that you’re caught up, we can move on to Episode 2.
As I said before, Episode 2 is where the real meat lies in terms of story. Playing as Elizabeth feels powerless and you are forced to rely on stealth and tranquilizers for the duration. Elizabeth’s quest is to regain Sally from the clutches of the first game’s antagonist, Atlas. Atlas wants Elizabeth to battle her way through Rapture to get him the “Ace in the Hole” to defeat Andrew Ryan. Throughout the experience, it seems as if this Ace is a weapon of some kind that will give Atlas the ultimate control of Rapture. Finally, Elizabeth obtains the Ace and goes to give it to Atlas in exchange for Sally.
Cute little girl, isn’t she?
Of course, Atlas turns on her and clubs her over the head with a wrench, as Elizabeth knew he would. It is then revealed that the “Ace in the Hole” that Atlas sought was a trigger phrase for a genetically engineered person capable of overthrowing Andrew Ryan. The paper is revealed to say “Would you kindly?” and Atlas has everything he needs to set up the first game. He sends Elizabeth to the very same airplane that Jack is on and forces her to trigger him. He hijacks and crashes the plane and then we are left at the start of the original Bioshock.
After completing the entirety of Bioshock Infinite, Bioshock cemented itself as one of my favorite game series of all time. I hope that they do not try to make another Bioshock. I think the story that was told by these 3 games was masterful and complete and a further game in the franchise would only taint that. You can pick up Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite on Xbox 360, PS3, or PC for pretty cheap these days and I recommend you go pick it up and give it a shot. The gameplay is a blast, but the story and execution of Elizabeth is what drew me in and kept me playing for the entire 15-20 hour experience. It is a rich world worth exploring.