Here it is. The end of Bioshock. The company. The game. As I type this, I am met with many conflicted emotions. This has been nearly seven years, and more if you include the hype from the very first. Bioshock has had an impression on me, and I am thankful for it. The best question I can offer is…did Irrational Games go out in the same way that they came in?
Graphics: Starting from the most obvious, we have the graphics. The atmosphere jumps around from the brightness of the skies to the darkness of the sea with little penetrating light. Characters as they look you in the eye seem detailed enough as they portray their emotions. I remember having criticisms for the very first Bioshock because the “splicer” skins almost seemed a bad excuse for poor artistry on 3d models. Seriously, even a person who didn’t look in such a manner on the original looked more plastic and waxy than the splicers did at the time. Since Bioshock Infinite, the characters have looked a lot better in all lighting, and especially with Elizabeth in the conveyance of her personality. That was just the characters.
Then, there’s the detail in the environment and its textures. One thing I can say right to the end is that Bioshock in all of its incarnations never lacked a beautifully detailed atmosphere. From the skies to the sea, the lighting was appropriate for what they were trying to convey. Visually, the details in the environment continued to also allow for player success. Much like the original Bioshock, Episode 2 of Burial at Sea didn’t disappoint in the concept of using the environment to your advantage.
Audio: There has been some good and some bad in this area. The voice acting was incredible. As always, the portrayal of emotion in any character involved was superb. From Atlas’ disgustingly cold hearted behavior to Elizabeth’s sorrow. I was on the verge of tears with the lady’s performance alone and seething with anger at the man’s threatening remarks.
Then there was the setback. In the design of 3d sound and its over importance in this particular game (stealth being the emphasis), characters on another floor or a couple of rooms down the hall sounded like they were right next to me at times, and that was confusing as hell. This wasn’t a good use of auditory senses, and left sight as being your only reliable cue. However, the sounds were at least appropriate for identifying where to safely step (broken glass vs carpet).
Gameplay: With that last statement in mind, I have to say that this is where there was a great turnaround for this series. This was approximately five hours of game time, and for the entirety, the stealth angle worked. I have read some statements that it contested the recent game Thief, but since I have not played that, I can leave that to your speculation. This style of gameplay showed the possibilities of the Infinite engine and greatly compensated against the badly done combat of Episode One.
Elizabeth is weak in this game, and rightfully so. While this is titled as “spoiler-free”, I will say one thing that you need to know before purchasing, and is technically a a false allusion by Irrational Games. So, if you don’t want to see this, SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH. Tears don’t play into your resources anymore. Judging by other articles and the gameplay itself, there was too much game breaking potential around it…and the storyline explains it away.
Stealth is your “go to”. Your melee doesn’t kill. Running away and hiding is really effective. Running frantically forward and sucker punching enemies, if you are precise enough, is also effective. You can’t hang on skyhooks too long or they will creak from lack of care, thus noise. It is simply rare for you to go into full combat, and even when that happens, you get a chance to plant traps, which was something that still felt lacking in Infinite and EP1. So, this was a nice hail back to Bioshock 1 (&2). Somehow, in the gameplay alone, I felt the real touch of Rapture all over again.
That being said, the gameplay had some hiccups…primarily the fetching quests. These weren’t ideal, but the story in between the goals made it workable. So, onto the story…
Story: Entering into this without spoilers is tricky. If you don’t feel comfortable with where I may be going, just skip to the end.
In my statements about Episode One, I really believed that this wasn’t the Rapture we had known. I believed that this was more about Elizabeth all-in-all. I was only half right, and I won’t go into more details about that. I will say that Irrational Games made a hell of an effort to explain everything to appear seamless in terms of the connections between characters of Rapture and Columbia. Were they entirely believable?
Some may argue against the believability of Elizabeth, but it is her above and beyond attitude that just makes her such an amazing character. I couldn’t help that I wanted to believe in her choices. I am sure you may feel the same way. Despite the harshness of her character in Episode One, the layers do indeed peel back to reveal elements of the original Elizabeth that we have seen in Infinite. She is mature. She has already seen too much, but there is a piece of her still fighting for an amazing ideal which is against all odds, but dually, she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t do what was needed. In terms of story, it is her character that I buy into the most, because I want to believe in her just as I would want to in other characters while reading a good book. She made this story important far more than Jack, Booker, Atlas, or Andrew Ryan. Because of her, the grayness of the other concepts didn’t matter nearly as much…but onto those…
I am still having trouble buying into some of the concepts, but I am very happy that the background of all the instances in the story weren’t forced down my throat in the last minutes of the game. This was well paced, and the overall content that filled it was satisfying. I don’t entirely agree with the content, and when playing it, you may feel that what is done conflicts with your visions of Rapture and Columbia…variables and constants…
That being said, there was a really cool scene that matches an old piece of audio that you may recall from Bioshock. I am not going to lie…I had that “Ooo!! Ooo!!” moment.
Final: This is it, folks. This is the final of Elizabeth, Rapture, Columbia, and the company that bore them. If you have been a fan of the Bioshock series, but were disappointed in EP1, I can at least say this. For me, it was damn well worth it. The company went down giving their best damn shot to wrap up the series, and while it was nothing mind blowing, I will still give them the standing ovation for making this solid (and sad) ending. I will miss you, Irrational Games. I will miss your innovation, your atmospheres, and most of all, your characters. It may be a long time before we see a character as complex and lovable as Elizabeth (especially an AI partner of all things).
Now, for those who don’t mind the spoilers, feel free to move onto the next article.
See you on the other side, folks.