- "Why would he send his savior unto us, if we will not raise a finger for our own salvation? And though we deserved not his mercy, he has led us to this New Eden, a last chance for redemption. And the Prophet shall lead the people to the New Eden."
- ―Welcome Center
Columbia is a city floating in the sky, commissioned by the United States government and founded by Zachary Hale Comstock as a symbol of American political and religious ideals. The city, capable of flight due to the scientific discoveries of physicist Rosalind Lutece, was completed in 1893, and seceded from the United States in 1902. It is the primary setting of BioShock Infinite.
Columbia floats above the North American continent and is comprised of neoclassical buildings similar to those present within the "White City" of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The design relies heavily upon Romanesque appearances and colonial American influences. While reactors, propellers and balloons are present throughout the city, its ability to float is due to quantum levitation which allows objects to be suspended indefinitely. The city is also designed with "rain-catchers" that collect water from precipitation in the clouds to keep the vegetation and populace supplied with water.
Columbia was designed with docking stations and propulsion devices to allow sections of it to move about independently. Columbia was constructed for long distance travel, allowing for national and international tours, with a regular route across the United States. These routes featured periodic stops near major cities, connecting to relay stations which contain transport rockets which grant passage to Columbia via coded signal.
Columbia's internal means of transportation include zeppelins, cargo barges, hovercrafts, gondolas, and Sky-Lines. Bridges are also automated to connect with different moving portions of the city at various stations, scheduled like any other transportation system.
The U.S. government intended Columbia to be a showcase of American exceptionalism. Through tours across various countries and lands, America would be capable of spreading its vision of the future to others, as well as the American ideal.
Through Rosalind Lutece's discovery of the "Lutece Particle", which held atoms at a fixed position, as well as funding by Zachary Hale Comstock, a well-known American politician, the city of Columbia was created and presented at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
The city was launched to great fanfare, and was later dispatched to distant shores. What began as an endeavor of achievement and hope went badly wrong. In 1901, during the Boxer Rebellion in Beijing, China, Columbia fired on Chinese soldiers who had taken American hostages. The destruction of the city caused the death of many Chinese civilians, and raised international awareness to the dangers of Columbia.
The floating city was revealed to be a heavily armed aerial battleship, capable of unleashing devastation across the world. A rift emerged between leadership in Columbia and Washington as the USA demanded Columbia return to American shores to be decommissioned for its actions; in response, Columbia seceded from the Union the following year and disappeared into the clouds. Comstock now had complete control over the city and its people.
This emerging utopia had its flaws. Comstock's regime believed that Columbia represented the true society envisioned by the Founding Fathers and viewed America and the rest of the world with contempt, describing it as "the Sodom Below," a world that, to the Columbians, only deserved to be destroyed. With the city free from the United States' anti-slavery and workers' safety laws, institutionalized racism and elitism were widespread in Columbia, with Anglo-Saxon supremacy widely asserted by the upper classes, and poor treatment of the working class.
People of "minority races" were subjugated in Columbia, with some (such as eventual Vox Populi leader Daisy Fitzroy) brought in to serve as slaves or indentured servants. Racial segregation was heavily enforced within the city, to the point where interracial couples faced the risk of a public stoning, and speaking out for equality for other races could result in jail time (or worse, torture and execution).
As a result of this separation, minorities were largely relegated to menial labor with no opportunity for upward mobility, and any chance to ask for improvements would likely result in being attack by the City Police. The hard labor workforce at Fink Manufacturing (well-known for mistreating its workers) was chiefly composed of the city's minority population, and was closely surveyed and attacked by heavily-armed Police Officers.
Such policies are widely accepted by the majority of the upper and middle class, though some exceptions existed. Torture and murder of minorities is ignored by the main political party in Columbia, the Founders, along with the Columbian police authorities. Control was enforced covertly and brutally by a white supremacist group, the Fraternal Order of the Raven, which doubled as an assassination group and Special-Operations force.
Columbia is a militantly pseudo-Christian society, based upon the cult of Father Comstock as a divine prophetic figure, as well as the Founding Fathers of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. This religion appears to prefer the elements of protestant Christianity, as the Irish, known for their staunch Catholicism, are subjugated by the Columbia elite.
Deviation from the state-imposed dogma was considered unacceptable. The Founders, led by Comstock, were the prevailing political faction in Columbia, retaining exclusive control over the city's society, government and business infrastructure. They enforced Comstock's religious and social vision, and in turn benefited from it as part of the privileged social strata. The Founders were also extremely militaristic, enforcing their laws and operations with a huge army of police officers and security automatons. A massive navy of airships headed by Comstock's personal zeppelin, The Hand of the Prophet, kept constant watch over Columbia's skies.
Religious Beliefs and PhilosophiesEdit
Major beliefs held by citizens in Columbia:
- The Founders - The majority of Columbia's citizens worship Father Comstock, following his word blindly and trusting wholly in his prophecies. As a result, they stood by his decision to intervene in the Boxer Rebellion, and Columbia's subsequent secession. The people of the city also worship Elizabeth as the Lamb of Columbia, believing she will fulfill Comstock's prophecies in years to come. The Founders also worship the Founding Fathers—particularly George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin—as religious icons. Each of the three was associated with a different symbol, according to what they gave to mankind: Franklin was associated with the key, a symbol of industry; Jefferson was associated with the scroll, a symbol of law and order; and Washington was associated with the sword, a symbol of power and justice.
- Fraternal Order of the Raven - The Order was an even more radical branch of the Founders, tasking itself with the brutal enforcement of white supremacist policies and the assassination of Vox Populi figures, chief among them Daisy Fitzroy. They revered John Wilkes Booth as their central figure and demonized Abraham Lincoln as a corrupt figure of evil. They also revered Lady Comstock, and worshiped the sword, the raven, and the coffin in her memory.
- Buddhism - The belief of awakened enlightenment, followed mostly by the Chinese immigrants in Columbia. This belief was regarded with hostility within Columbia, and was practiced in secret. Chen Lin and his wife were followers of Buddhism when Booker and Elizabeth first encountered them; however, in an alternate reality, Mrs. Lin was white and followed the Founders.
- Evolutionism - Evolution as a scientific theory did not feature prominently in Columbia, but was known and marked as taboo—on the shores of Battleship Bay, a citizen can be heard attempting to discussing Darwinism and is hastily hushed by his companion. In spite of this, Columbian society employed warped Darwinian concepts as justification for their bigotry.
Fink Manufacturing was the largest business in Columbia, as well as its largest employer and manufacturer. Due to a high demand for Vigors in Columbia, Fink Manufacturing bottled and distributed Vigors produced by independent, contracted businesses, such as Marlowe for Murder of Crows. The work floor at Fink Manufacturing showed its dominance in various markets—one floor, for example, was devoted to Gun Automatons, while the one above focused on children's toys.
Smaller businesses produced various items for the people of Columbia, the Founders, and the Vox. However, most of these companies were quickly bought out by Fink's cruel business empire, leaving him the sole distributor for goods in the city. There were some exceptions, such as the Duke & Dimwit Company, which produced propaganda pieces via books, toys and machines.
Despite these business opportunities, 50% of every Silver Eagle earned went directly to Comstock, which deeply affected the laborers of Columbia. Furthermore, Fink's price gouging and heavy-handed exploitation of his workers forced them into poverty, frequently leading to starvation and disease. This, in turn, further exacerbated the rise of the Vox Populi.
Science and TechnologyEdit
Comstock believed that scientific knowledge was the blueprint of "God's work," and that it could therefore be practiced and controlled in the name of God. Many advancement in Columbia were the product of the mind of Rosalind Lutece, a quantum physicist and a prominent scientists of her time. Her work led to the discovery of the Lutece Field, a field capable of manipulating the properties of subatomic particles. One such application was the suspension of particles in space, facilitating the creation of airborne machinery and, by extension, the city of Columbia.
Following her work on the Lutece Field, Rosalind Lutece made an even more ground-breaking discovery: the device she created allowed her to interact with parallel realities, leading her to contact her duplicate from another universe, Robert Lutece. Through their joint effort, they developed machinery capable of creating contingencies in the space-time continuum, or Tears, allowing Robert to travel to Rosalind's reality (albeit at a great physical cost).
Father Comstock interpreted these Tears as revelatory visions of the future, increasing his delusions of grandeur. Using these Tears, he orchestrated the transfer of Anna DeWitt, the daughter of an alternate version of himself to Columbia and rechristened her as Elizabeth to become his successor. He unknowingly gave birth to her reality-bending powers by splitting her from across multiple realities. In an attempt to control her powers, he had the Luteces engineer several Siphons, devices capable of feeding off her energy. Their experiments nonetheless led to the spontaneous formation of many Tears around Columbia.
While most citizens regarded these Tears as a mere curiosity, individuals such as Jeremiah and Albert Fink exploited their access to parallel universe technologies. While Albert Fink simply used Tears as a means of trans-dimensional artistic theft, Jeremiah copied the designs of other researchers (some of them hinted to be from Rapture) to create radically new technologies, such as Vigors, the Voxophones and Motorized Patriots. Based on the blueprints of an armored suit, he engineered the Songbird Defense System.
Beginning of the EndEdit
As Zachary Comstock observed the Tears engineered by the Lutece twins, he became convinced that the glimpses of potential futures were in fact prophetic visions. Styling himself as the Prophet, he envisioned a future in which Columbia would bring forth a cleansing apocalypse across the world below, reshaping it in the city's image. However, repeated exposure to the device left him sterile, prematurely aged and terminally ill. In search of an heir, he used the Luteces' device to travel to an alternate universe in 1893 and purchase the daughter of his counterpart, Booker DeWitt. He rechristened her Elizabeth, and established her birth as the result of a miraculous seven-day pregnancy. The transfer also granted Elizabeth the power to create Tears when one closed on her little finger, causing her to exist in multiple realities.
Lady Comstock, the Prophet's wife, did not take kindly to this fraud. Unwilling to listen to Rosalind Lutece's explanation, she accused her and Comstock of having an affair, and threatened to reveal Elizabeth's true nature to the public. Desperate to maintain the myth surrounding the Lamb of Columbia, Father Comstock orchestrated Lady Comstock's murder and framed her scullery maid, Daisy Fitzroy, for the crime. However, Daisy escaped custody and went on to lead the Vox Populi as revenge against the Founders. In order to preserve secrecy, he also engineered the sabotage of the Lutece Twins' device in an attempt to murder them and cover up their deaths. Unbeknownst to him, the accident actually scattered them across the space-time continuum, allowing them to travel freely across all realities. Determined to set things right, they contacted Booker DeWitt and arranged his journey to Columbia.
Events of BioShock InfiniteEdit
Upon transfer to Comstock's reality, Booker's memories are rewritten: rather than setting out to find his daughter, he believes he has taken the task of retrieving Elizabeth to be able to wipe away his debt.
Booker arrives in Columbia and is directed to find Monument Island. Travelling through to the 1912 Raffle and Fair, he is exposed as being the False Shepherd, an evil figure prophecized to lead the Lamb of Columbia astray. Immediately, he is hunted down by Comstock's forces, and must fight his way through to Monument Island. There, he meets Elizabeth and is beset by Songbird, her giant mechanized jailer. Songbird chases the two down, destroying large portions of the city and part of the Monument in the process, before they escape to Battleship Bay. Later on, the two gain access to The First Lady, an airship capable of taking them to the mainland. The two get separated, and Booker finds himself forced to work for Daisy Fitzroy: to regain the airship, he must find Chen Lin, an arms manufacturer sympathetic to the Vox Populi's cause, so that the Vox may lead an armed revolution against the Founders.
Booker and Elizabeth reunite in Finkton, and travel inside to find that Chen Lin has been murdered by Jeremiah Fink's men. Elizabeth then creates a Tear to a parallel reality in which Chen Lin is still alive, albeit with his tools confiscated. Setting out to Shantytown to find his tools, the two travel through to another Tear in which Columbia is in the middle of an uprising. In this reality, Booker DeWitt was a martyr of the Vox who died for their cause. Fighting their way back to Finkton, the two are discovered by Daisy Fitzroy who orders their execution. At the summit of Fink Manufacturing, Elizabeth kills Daisy, after the Vox leader murders Fink, to prevent her from killing a young boy in cold blood. Though the two manage to come back on board the First Lady, they are attacked by Songbird, who crashes the airship into Emporia.
Set upon by both the Founders and the Vox, who are rapidly putting the city to ruin, Booker and Elizabeth attempt to gain access to Comstock House. To do so, they must collect a hand print from Lady Comstock to bypass a lock. Father Comstock activates a Siphon at the grave and resurrects his dead wife as the Siren. Confused and angry, this new entity attacks Booker, using her powers to send armies of dead soldiers against him. Through three Tears, the two discover that Elizabeth is not in fact Comstock's daughter, and that the latter had Lady Comstock and the Lutece twins murdered to keep Elizabeth's origins a secret. In a final battle, Elizabeth finally manages to appease the Siren, who blasts open the door to Comstock House.
As soon as they enter, Songbird appears, captures Elizabeth and brings her to Comstock House. Booker sets out to rescue her. He finds that he was too late, and Elizabeth has been indoctrinated to become Comstock's successor. Fighting his way through Comstock House, he is greeted by an elderly Elizabeth, who explains to him that she felt remorse for her actions and brought him through a Tear to prevent her from turning into a monster. He then witnesses the destruction of New York in 1984, an event he had seen before in a recurring dream. Elizabeth then gives him a note for him to pass down to her younger self, and sends him back to the previous timeline.
Inside another part of Comstock House, Booker manages to rescue Elizabeth from torture intended to break her to Comstocks will. Together they board the Hand of the Prophet, Comstock's flagship. Elizabeth meets face-to-face with Comstock and demands he explain her true nature. He can only utter a cryptic response before Booker, in a fit of rage, beats him and drowns him in his own baptismal font. Determined to find answers, Elizabeth uses her older self's note to take control of Songbird and sets course for Monument Island, which houses the primary Siphon that had been limiting her powers all this time.
After fighting off waves of Vox Populi, Booker orders the destruction of the Siphon, unlocking Elizabeth's near-godlike powers. She effortlessly transports herself, Booker and Songbird to Rapture, crushing her ex-guardian under the ocean's pressure. Through a series of Tears, Elizabeth reveals to Booker that Columbia and Rapture are connected via key elements, and are linked across different realities.
Before Booker and Elizabeth departed Columbia for the Sea of Doors, the city is in ruins, devastated by the Vox Populi. Elizabeth and Booker are determined to find the truth about her, and to stop Comstock from ever harming her. When Booker discovers he is an alternate version of Comstock, he allows Elizabeth to drown him in the past so that he is never able to make the choice that leads to Comstock's creation. With the elimination of all Comstocks, all versions of Columbia created by Comstock are seemingly erased. However, since Columbia did exist in the past, it is still able to be visited in the past as Elizabeth does in Burial at Sea - Episode 2.
However Columbia is a dead end. At some point, likely when Elizabeth and Booker leave for the Sea of Doors near the end of BioShock Infinite, Columbia will vanish. This does not mean that Columbia will not leave some traces behind that it once existed. Information, objects and people that leave Columbia’s reality before it vanishes are not effected by Columbia being erased. This is why the Comstock in Rapture continued to exist and the few people who knew of Columbia continued to remember it.
Burial at Sea - Episode 2Edit
- Main article: Burial at Sea - Episode 2
Elizabeth, trapped in Fontaine's, (the formerly successful department store turned sunken prison separated from the rest of Rapture) is on a mission to jailbreak Atlas and his followers in exchange for Little Sister Sally. She learns that the Scientists of both Rapture and Columbia have been sharing secrets and scientific breakthrough across universes through the Tears that started to appear after Elizabeth entered Rapture to get revenge on Comstock. In a failed attempt to find Dr. Yi Suchong, she instead finds a broken Lutece Device with an active Tear leading back to Columbia in the Silver Fin Restaurant. She realizes that with the help of a Lutece Particle, she might be able to help Atlas escape.
After some code breaking, an interaction with Suchong, and a life threatening scavenger hunt, she manages to fix the device and enter the flying city of Columbia once again.
Elizabeth finds herself on the airship, The First Lady. Remembering the city’s functions, she goes to an upper level of the blimp to get the Lutece Particle she needs. Everything seems to go smoothly until Suchong prevents her return to Rapture. In a desperate attempt to figure out a successful pair bonding between the Big Daddies and Little Sisters, he sends Elizabeth to get him a hair sample from one of Jeremiah Fink’s subjects which succeeded in the pair bonding. Believing the solution is in the genes, he tells Elizabeth where he thinks the specimen can be found: Jeremiah Fink’s Secret Lab.
She opens the door to the rest of the aircraft just as an explosion rocks the ship. Booker, now just a figment of Elizabeth’s imagination, comments that they must have arrived during the Vox Populi's siege. This means that a different Elizabeth and Booker from BioShock Infinite are just about to enter the Factory. Elizabeth continues her quest and instead of entering the small room where Daisy Fitzroy is killed, she climbs into a vent which passes by where Jeremiah Fink and his son are held, moments before the inventor's execution. Also present in the room are Daisy Fitzroy and the Lutece's in a deep discussion that reveals Daisy’s true nature and why she took such drastic measures in the main game.
Elizabeth goes to Jeremiah Fink’s office and finds her way to his Private Quarters. In the Quarters, she gains access to different rooms by utilizing a clockwork mechanism. One room leads to an elevator that goes deeper into the factory. While on this elevator, Elizabeth passes another elevator which has a different Elizabeth and Booker talking to Fitzroy over the elevator phone.
Following this, Elizabeth finds Fink’s Secret Lab. Here she finds out how much Fink and Suchong were in contact from models of the Big Daddy and the Songbird to an early model of the “Protector of the Lamb”. Elizabeth finds footage of the Songbird crashing in to the monument tower and herself as a young girl, desperately trying to help him. She retrieves the hair sample, which happens to be her own and returns to the First Lady. By now, the events of BioShock Infinite have occurred, leaving Fitzroy and Fink dead and the other Elizabeth and Booker leaving in the aircraft. The Tear remains at the docking station and Elizabeth returns to Rapture.
Columbia is composed of several distinct districts:
- Monument Island
- Monument Island Gateway
- Monument Tower
- Soldier's Field
- Town Center
- Comstock Center Rooftops
Columbian Propaganda PostersEdit
Behind the ScenesEdit
- The name Columbia refers to the female personification of the United States used in various forms of patriotic symbolism in the 19th century.
- Columbia is supposedly the angel that visited Comstock, inspiring him to build Columbia (his own ark). This can be heard at the celebrations at the start of the game when the floats pass by.
- Early in development, Columbia was meant to be much darker than it currently is. Ken Levine mentioned at a press conference that the concept looked like "Rapture in the sky."
- The process of entering Columbia is a mirror to that of entering Rapture: both journeys start at a lighthouse, but whereas the journey to Rapture is a descent into the ocean, travel to Columbia involves ascension in an airborne capsule. When a whale comes into view when the player descends into Rapture, a zeppelin comes into view when the player is launched to Columbia. Furthering these opposing parallels, Jack rides an airplane to the lighthouse in BioShock and Booker takes a boat in Infinite. A final parallel in decor is also present, as BioShock opens with a sign declaring Rapture's atheism, whereas the lighthouse at the start of Infinite has signs alluding to Columbia's heavily religious society.
- The events of BioShock Infinite begin on July 6, 1912, the anniversary of Columbia's secession from the United States.
- The Columbian flag is similar to the American one, except with a blue shield with a single star in the center signifying the fact that Columbia stands on its own.
- Columbia appears in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. It makes two appearances: once, in the background of the Uncharted stage, Stowaways, and again as its very own stage, which is invaded by the Twisted Metal character, Dollface (as Iron Maiden).
- According to the automated recording heard in the transport capsule Booker DeWitt rides to Columbia, the city resides at an altitude of approximately 15,000 ft (4572 meters). This altitude would have a serious effect on the health of Columbia's residents. The lower air pressure and oxygen can affect judgment and instill a sense of euphoria, tunnel vision, and hypoxia (insufficient oxygen supply to the body or parts of the body) within moments. Prolonged exposure can also result in altitude sickness and high altitude pulmonary edema or a fatal cerebral edema.
- The lighthouse at the start of the game has a schedule for Columbia's visits to U.S cities. Cities on Columbia's route include Washington, New York, Chicago, Raleigh, St. Louis, Colorado Springs, Flagstaff, Savannah, Portland and Rochester. How exactly Columbia visits these cities in light of its secession from the United States is unclear. It is possible that Columbia still accepts new visitors on a regular basis—this would contrast with Rapture, which not only stopped accepting new people, but officially forbade contact with the outside world. Also, during the game the city does not take this route, and instead flies over the Atlantic.
- The map in the lighthouse (next to the schedule mentioned above) shows that Columbia normally did not fly over the Atlantic, and instead traveled in a loop on a regular tour across the U.S.
- This could be explained that this route was Columbia's former route around the United States prior to its secession, now flying over the Atlantic, only ever being close to stopping near Maine.
- The map of Columbia's path around the United States mentioned above is not correct. At the time of BioShock Infinite's start (July 6, 1912) both New Mexico and Arizona had not become major population centers and it is unlikely that Columbia would stop in these states that had been admitted less than 5 months before the start of this game. (January and February respectively) Especially because it is mentioned that Columbia has been touring for more than a decade previous to Booker's ascent. It is likely that if Columbia were to visit population centers west of Texas, it would stop in San Francisco, California or more highly religious regions of the United States.
- The map in the lighthouse (next to the schedule mentioned above) shows that Columbia normally did not fly over the Atlantic, and instead traveled in a loop on a regular tour across the U.S.
- Unlike the high standards and goal of "the best and the brightest" desired for the population of Rapture, Comstock's Columbia appears to have no such mandate; anyone is allowed to enter, so long as they subscribe to the city's extreme variation of American exceptionalism and religious belief.