Bioshock Infinite was a departure from previous games in the franchise. Taking to the clouds, the game was a five-year development odyssey that ditched the oceans and objectivism of an underwater kingdom for a more personal tale of love, loss and parallel dimensions.
With Irrational Games now closed, the Bioshock franchise has gone with it. But Burial At Sea gives the cult hit games the send-off that it deserves in a second act that plays to its strengths.
Another time, another world and things are still the same. Returning to the world of Rapture, Burial At Sea Episode 1 places you once again in the gumshoes of Booker DeWitt, as an older and wiser Elizabeth recruits him for a job to rescue a missing child, Sally.
With an opening ripped straight from a noir detective movie, the game starts out in a Rapture that is at its height of decadence and ambition. Just before all hell breaks loose. Exploring Rapture shows just how opulent the underwater society had become since it was first revealed in 2007, with painting, jewelry and record shops dotting the glowing kingdom where a man makes his own way.
Things quickly take a turn for the worse, as Elizabeth and Booker find themselves stranded in the Fontaine Department store on the eve of the Rapture Civil War that preceded the events of the first game. It’s not long before Burial At Sea ditches exploration for combat, as players take on spliced prisoners and dissidents.
The key difference however, is that enemy encounters are now significantly scaled back from the small armies that assaulted you in Bioshock Infinite. Ammo is rare, stealth is recommended and making every shot count will get you further in the game when you need to be ready for your next battle.
While Plasmids still feature, they’re hardly any different from what has been seen already in Bioshock Infinite. Old Man Winter is your Winter’s Blast which allows players to freeze and shatter enemies, something that has already been experienced in Bioshock 1 and 2.
Instead, the only real new addition to the gameplay is the Radar Range gun, a creative expression of violence that can reduce Splicers into explosive collections of red mist. The downside to this, however, is that by the time you get the weapon, the game is almost over.
Burial At Sea Episode is a conflicted return to Rapture. It’s far more interesting to explore Rapture before the fall, instead of rehashed battles on a smaller scale with fewer resources.
The second episode feels like the kind of DLC that Bioshock Infinite not only deserves, but needed after the news came that Irrational Games were shutting their doors, where the sweat of your brow has finally paid off.
Instead of feeling like a conflicting pairing of exploration and murder simulation, Episode 2 instead feels like a fully realised game that easily stands tall next to the original Bioshock game and offers closure for fans seeking a satisfying resolution to the saga. It’s a piece of DLC that not only sets a new benchmark, but is essential for anyone that is emotionally invested the game.
Episode 2 wraps up the entire franchise, tying up loose ends all the way back to the first and up to the latest games, in a manner that is remarkably well thought out. Elizabeth is on her own this time, stuck between the opposing forces of Andrew Ryan and would-be usurper Atlas, as she struggles to make her way back to the top and uncover a new mystery that shan’t be spoiled here.
Lacking Booker’s rechargeable shield with which to protect herself, Elizabeth needs to tread more carefully, with the game feeling like an homage to another Ken Levine creation, Thief. In fact, Episode 2 even throws in “1998 Mode”, which emphasises that connection far more clearly.
Elizabeth has several weapons on hand to help her escape Rapture, such as a crossbow that fires drugged-up bolts and a plasmid ability that gives her the ability to see through walls. Stealth is indeed the order of the day here, and when you’re confronted by the fact that the Big Daddy cannot be killed by Elizabeth, it creates a terrifying realisation of how close you are to being killed.
The downside however, is that enemies are remarkably inept at actually realising that you’re standing right next to them as you stealth-murder your way from one to the next. It strips the game of some challenge and tension in the long run.
Beyond that, Episode 2 manages to more successfully balance exploration with combat in comparison to the previous episode. A grand sense of detail and narrative lurks around ever corner, painting a complete picture of Rapture that ties into Bioshock Infinite, giving gamers something that is rare in gaming today: a story with a definitive beginning, middle and end.
Last Updated: April 7, 2014