Our lives are about memories. Our lives are about connections. The ones we forge, the ones we destroy, the bridges we burn, and the hearts we touch. We waltz through our lives, seeking experiences, seeking connections, and some things we gravitate to bring us new ones, at the cost of leaving some behind. Some connections are difficult to maintain, whereas some appear out of nowhere, and last forever. BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 2 touches on these themes.
BioShock Infinite was a masterpiece of storytelling, a narrative tour-de-force that took us through a spellbinding journey through a fantastic world that somehow managed to bring the plots of the previous games a full circle. The first DLC, Burial at Sea – Episode 1 was, unfortunately, underwhelming. Episode 2 also ties in Columbia from the previous games to Rapture from BioShock 1 and 2, but it takes a different path getting there. You aren’t playing as Booker anymore, nor do you have to shoot and kill your way through the story. Instead, you play as Elizabeth, Booker’s charming and mysterious companion. Episode 2 begins in Paris. Immediately though, you get a sense that something’s not quite right. The surroundings are too beautiful, the people look too happy, and everything is unrealistically pristine. Yes, BioShock Infinite does make you cynical of beauty. As you move through the city, you get the sense that this is the Paris of someone’s dreams, an idealistic vision that humanity isn’t capable of achieving.
And your suspicions are confirmed momentarily. As you snap back to reality, you realize you were indeed dreaming, and you find yourself in a sunken store in Rapture, owned by Frank Fontaine. You have a gun pointed at your head. It’s the most pleasant scene to wake up to. Booker is here too, but not really. He appears as some sort of ghost or apparition, helping Elizabeth say the right things she needs to say to stay alive. Frank Fontaine, aka Atlas, is a malicious presence and a worthy entry into the stellar gallery of villains in the BioShock series. He’s long gone past any sense of morality, humanity or justice, and he’s all the more terrifying because of it.
The Game Play:
While in some places, you will get the feeling that the game is trying too hard to create references to previous games in order to give returning players a wink and a nod, overall the plot manages to stay on track. The action and story elements blend nicely into each other, unlike the first episode where they felt clunky and forced. If you’ve played the previous games, you know that Elizabeth abhors violence, and if you choose to, you can play through Episode 2 without killing anyone.
But if you do feel the need to shoot something, given that this is a first person shooter, you are given the option to do so. Since you aren’t quite the manly gunfighter that Booker was, you approach combat differently while playing as Elizabeth. The game nudges you towards using stealth and distractions to move around rather than utilizing brute force. You have weapons that stun enemies or knock them out temporarily. You can also become invisible and see beyond walls. This makes the enemies that you could previously have killed that much more dangerous. Since you can’t kill Big Daddies, you will have to run for your dear life when you hear the ominous thudding that signals the appearance of one.
This mechanic makes the game feel notably different than other BioShock games. You have to navigate the map more carefully and choose your moves strategically. Getting the drop on enemies is essential, as is maintaining your positional advantage. You can use plasmids to set traps and lure enemies towards them or go up to the high ground and shoot an unsuspecting enemy with a tranquilizer.
What is also immediately visible is that the Elizabeth we find in Episode 2 has lost much of her powers. In the original BioShock Infinite, she was a peace-loving person, yet she had incredible abilities that could be terrifying in some situations. As you progress through the story, you will learn why she is in the state you find her in this game. Her vulnerability is beautifully conveyed through her dialogues, and as in the previous games, you really feel for her plight. In Elizabeth, Ken Levine and his team have created probably the most sympathetic character in the history of video games.
The original BioShock wowed you with the brilliance of its plot, and then blew your mind with its incredible ending that prompted hours and weeks of discussion among players. However, once you went back and looked at the clues, you could mostly figure out how things happened. The ending of Episode 2 is more cryptic in nature. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as you will find meaning in unexpected places once you sit back and ponder, or play through the game multiple times. While the connection between Columbia and Rapture is less organic this time around, you can still back the story. Elizabeth’s journey is haunting and fascinating, much like her character and revisiting the eerie world of Rapture through her eyes makes this a rewarding experience.