An ambitious game by the name of “BioShock”
took gamers by storm back in 2007.
It introduced players to the fascinating undersea city of
Rapture, where entrepreneurs thrived without restriction in an aquatic haven,
weaving a tale of bridging power and privilege with a beautiful Art Deco style
“BioShock” was the game that
captured my attention to the point that I had to own an Xbox. In short, “BioShock” is why I play video games.
Fast forward to 2014. Irrational Games, the “BioShock” developers, announced massive layoffs affecting hundreds following the completion of their amazing, but flawed, follow up, “BioShock Infinite.”
As a last hurrah, Irrational Games takes players back to Rapture one last time in the form of “Burial at Sea,” a two-part, download-only prequel.
With the release of “Burial at Sea: Episode Two,” this marked the end of a franchise that has long held a special place in my heart. However, while it is amazing like the base game it is built upon, it is also very flawed.
Taking place before the events of the original “BioShock,” players switch up their normal roles and take on the femme fatale persona of Elizabeth, “BioShock Infinite’s” dimension-hopping lady wunderkind.
The changes from episode two over episode one, which came out earlier this year, are mostly an improvement. Though, much like “BioShock Infinite,” it fails to hold water under scrutiny.
One of the more welcome changes, however, is that casting of Elizabeth as the protagonist. She simply has a more interesting background than Booker DeWitt, the stereotypically gung-ho action hero/detective-type of both Infinite and “Burial at Sea, Episode One.”
Because she is not as battle-hardy as DeWitt and recently devoid of her powers, Elizabeth must rely on using craft and stealth to survive the leaking ruins of Rapture.
While the “powerless woman must avoid combat” thing feels like a step back for Elizabeth’s character and games as a whole, being sneaky does shake up the “BioShock Infinite” formula a bit. However, shake up does not mean improvement, and this is where “Burial at Sea” face plants.
But first, let’s look back at Infinite.
Before Irrational Games announced their semi-liquidation, its staff had reached a massive size and the amount of cooks spoiling the broth during the development of “BioShock Infinite” had taken its toll.
Infinite had its share of roadblocks, including the delay. While the product that hit shelves was by no means incomplete, it did contain fractured ideas of what Irrational Games wanted to fit in the game, but couldn’t because they had to make deadlines.
Enemies meant to have regular occurrences become one-time cameos, the plot skips over elements that needed more explanation, and the combat was half-baked.
I gave “BioShock Infinite” a glowing review when it launched, and I still stand behind certain aspects of it; the art, the characters and the ending are still superb. However, “Burial at Sea, Episode Two” shares the same critical flaw of Infinite: an original vision is muddled by “do it because it’s supposed to be like ‘BioShock’” instead of, “do it because it’s supposed to be fun.”
None of the gameplay made the original “BioShock” fun. No roleplaying, no decisions, no preparation, no survival. Elizabeth almost immediately finds a power to become invisible and, not long after, finds an upgrade to practically stay invisible forever.
By that point, the challenge drops so sharply that I forgot I was already playing on the highest difficulty. In short, this is the weakest the BioShock series has ever been in gameplay. But at least the story’s still good, right? Wrong.
The perspective episode two has on the fall of Rapture is effective as a prequel, I will grant it that. However, the answers both episodes try to give players doesn’t cover any pressing mysteries they had and sometimes even causes more plot holes in the process.
In short, the “Burial at Sea” shares just a little too much with “Infinite.” It copies what I loved about 2007’s “BioShock” on a surface level, but not the reasons why.
If you are a BioShock fan, you will enjoy being back in Rapture in time to catch Irrational’s send-off to the series. However, about an hour after the credits roll, you will discover that the enjoyment you got out of it stayed where you left it, buried at sea.
Parker Wilhelm is a senior in mass communications. Please send all comments to email@example.com.