DJ Arruda ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode II stands as the end of the BioShock series as we know it.
On a story level it completely ties together the entire BioShock series into one cohesive, beautiful, and haunting ending. On an industry level, it’s the last piece of content to be made by Irrational Games, which was revealed to be closing just a few weeks ago (as reported on by Emertainment Monthly here), and thus serves as the end of BioShock as the we know it. And for gamers it brings an end to one of the most amazing stories told in any medium, a bittersweet farewell that can resonate for some as just the end of a favorite series, and for others as the last piece of content they will play on this console generation before moving onto the next one. This multi-layered significance plays into the overall themes of the series itself, and is experienced by the player throughout the DLC.
This final piece of content picks up immediately after the end of the first part of the DLC, putting players into the shoes of Elizabeth for the first (and probably last) time. It is fitting that players finally get the chance to see the world through their beloved companion’s eyes instead of just catching ammo or a coin from her, and Irrational truly manages to make her unique and distinct from Booker. The story in this campaign takes players through more familiar sights from Rapture, again beautifully recreated in the Infinite engine, and puts an emphasis on stealth absent from the main game and first part of the DLC.
This distinction plays into the narrative and gameplay and allows a new way to play the series, a Thief-esque focus on sneaking around or knocking out enemies as opposed to decapitating them with a Skyhook. This new emphasis is fresh and rewarding, and there’s even a new 1998 mode that only allows for stealth and non-lethal means to go along with the main game’s already super hard 1999 mode. A new crossbow allows Elizabeth to tranquilize, gas, and distract splicers with a variety of different bolts, and new plasmids such as the Peeping Tom allow her to turn invisible and see enemies through walls, all of which add to this new style of play.
The gameplay is solid as ever, and definitely still BioShock, yet this new way to approach sticky situations makes the DLC new enough to prevent a stale end to the series. It’s good that DLC should extend the core gameplay of the original game in new and exciting ways, while also adding to the story in a meaningful and impactful way, which this one does on both counts. The story itself involves Elizabeth attempting to rescue Sally, a Little Sister kidnapped by Atlas, and there are plenty of familiar faces from both games to make the connections solid.
The opening of the episode provides a surprising change of setting, as does another twist along the way. The levels are beautifully created and serve as visual juxtapositions to one another. The quantum based craziness reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series of both the main game and first DLC allows for many crossovers and questions to be answered about just how Columbia and Rapture are related, and even if some of them are superfluous they add to the world and further solidify the genius of the writers in making these plot threads connect. Similar to the epilogue of the great TV series Lost, there are still some questions left unanswered by the time the DLC ends, but those questions are not as important as getting a concrete resolution to the ambitious story that started all the way back in 2007.
The ending scenes will haunt players long after they have played the DLC, and definitely inspire a replay of the games all over again. The familiarity of splicers, the audio logs and dark dreary gloom of a fallen underwater utopia all come roaring back for the finale. Clocking in at around three to five hours (give or take play style and exploration), this DLC takes the time to walk the player though the story’s end and show off all the new features. A decent achievement list will ensure you get all the collectibles and fully experience the new items, and the variety of difficulties and options allow the player to enjoy the end of the ride as they see fit. Irrational pulled no punches in crafting this final DLC, and it is clearly a labor of love and a somber farewell to their child series.
Whether or not BioShock continues as a series, it will not be able to compare nor expand on the original games. We may never know if the circle will be unbroken, but it comes around in this episode and the story of Booker and Elizabeth lives on in our hearts. Would you kindly pick up this episode and bid farewell to one of gaming’s best?
Overall Grade: A