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Burial at Sea has come and gone. With Irrational Games having closed its doors this DLC can conceivably be considered the last word we'll hear on the BioShock franchise for a while. With that in mind, let's take a moment and come together to share our praises and gripes on this DLC.
Seriously, spoilers. Don't read unless you've finished the series.
No matter what, we should all thank the many people who gave their time and talent to share with us this addition to a complex, breathtaking, and intellectually stimulating franchise. Here are some noteworthy things to come out of these DLCs:
You Paint a Pretty Picture
It's almost redundant at this point to mention how beautiful Burial at Sea is. All of the BioShock games have offered stunning visuals within an awe-inspiring atmosphere. That being said, it's great to see Rapture in a game with a more modern engine. Burial at Sea - Episode 1 had more of a steamline moderne look than the previous two BioShocks, but I feel like we really got a return to Art Deco form with Burial at Sea - Episode 2. Either way, both were fantastic looking.
We've really come to love Elizabeth over the course of only a few games, haven't we? Not only is she a lead female character (something woefully lacking in the videogame industry), but she's a smart, sympathetic, pretty, helpful, etc. lead female. Best of all, we've experienced her character grow.
In BioShock Infinite she was essentially a Disney-esque young girl who had to deal with some truly terrible situations by turning to her protector. Her portrayl as a textbook perfect Classical Hollywood Era femme fatale in Episode One as she takes her revenge mirrors the focused angst of a teenager. By Episode Two, she's matured into a full adult mindset as she takes repsonsibility for her actions and helps others.
Time to Change It Up
I can really appreciate how both Burial at Sea episodes change the typical game mechanics and style of the Bio1 & 2. Both were far more stealth oriented and you really had to make each bullet count with how little you found necessary resources. It would have been easy to repeat previous tropes Big Daddy hunting, harvesting sessions with Little Sisters, level boss killing, etc. but these games went in another direction.
Compared with supporting characters like Sander Cohen, Grace Holloway, and even J.S. Steinman, Infinite's Daisy Fitzroy and Jeremiah Fink come off as pretty "one note." She becomes another "angry black lady" stereotype and he's nothing more than a Charles Dickensonian robber baron. Thankfully, we learn more about them in Episode 2. Fitzroy becomes more rounded as a moralistic character willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. Fink's domicile indicates obsessive-compulsive tendencies and workaholic focused mania as a means of compensation. By learning more about what makes these characters tick, their actions are more understanable, more human.
Alright, I've said my peace, now we get down to the hard-truth: overall, this seems like a mistep. Even if I enjoyed playing BAS (which I did), when all is said and done, the DLC leaves a bad taste in my mouth. These are the main reasons why:
You'd Look Great in Kashmir
When it was announced that Burial at Sea would take us back to Rapture to the point when the Rapture Civil War was initiated, I think we all had one thing in mind: "Finally! We'll get to see the Kashmir Restaurant at the moment when the attack happened!"
Instead, we quite literally SLEEP through the attack. This feels painfully similar to Infinite where, instead of seeing the Vox Populi start their revolution, we pass through Tears into a world where it's already begun. This style of storytelling saves time, but feels like a cop out.
Paging Dr. Tenenbaum
There were two things I wanted to see most of all with the DLC. One was the Kashmir in it's prime. The other was Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum. Check out her page and you'll notice how, in Bio1, she was originally intended to have a unique character model (it looked like a healthy version of the Rosebud). In the end, it was scrappped and, to save time and money, she was given a repurposed Lady Smith that was kept out of sight in the shadows. She finally got her own model in Bio2, but she was very old by then.
I think we all really would have liked to see Brigid in her prime since she is SUCH a crucial part of the story. Instead, what we get is a look at her from behind in The Greatness of Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum. There, they use a random citizen as a placeholder, and not even one with a similar silhouette!
Oh Fontaine's Department Store, where do I begin?
This is really, really contrived. If you thought BioShock made Andrew Ryan look like a villain, Burial at Sea turns him into a mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash. We have Persephone, why turn a profitable complex that you've nationalized into a jail, and sink it in a needlessly cruel and truly polarizing show of force?
The idea that Atlas and his supporters were in the facility THE WHOLE TIME and only caused the riots a few moments after they broke out is just STUPID! That kind of terrorism requires planning and communication. Atlas had to make a name for himself as a supporter of the weak and downtrodden. How could he do that from the department store? Or are you going to tell me he took on the whole of Rapture with just the remaining survivors in Fontaine's?
Way to waste a building. In Episode 2, we still don't know what the third department store building sells, b/c we're still in Housewares. It would've made sense if we took the tram over to the other location to find out it was the "Recreation Department Store" wouldn't it? Instead, we just take an elevator from Toys down deeper into the Housewares store.
As others have stated, this makes a pretty poor jail. No Gaurds, No Reinforcements, NO LOCKS! Just let them run around like animals and keep sending them supplies. Also, keep sending them armaments, apparently. As a game level, it works, but I expect something smarter from the BioShock series.
Revisionist History/"Quantum Physics=Magic"
First, there's the drinkable Plasmids. This is a problem that was created because, rather than create new Rapture versions of items, the designers reused textures from Infinite. That's the reason why we have Devil's Kiss instead of Incinerate!, Salts instead of EVE Hypos, Wine instead of Arcadia Merlot, and vinyl sleeves with the name "Fink" stamped on them in Rapture Records. All these little inconsistancies add up to annoy the people who really care about the games and their continuity. Also, about those drinkables, they had to create a solution to the problem they themselves created (Product Recall).
Then they go and create solutions to non-problems. In Episode Two, you see a chalkboard attributing the creation of the Vita-Chamber to some mix of genetics and quantum physics, clearly the result of Yi Suchong and Fink sharing technology. This contradicts the first game in which The Vita Chamber states the device was created by Gilbert Alexander and Augustus Sinclair.
The worst part of this "I pulled the technology from the Tear" logic is that it takes away the genius of Rapture's citizens. I'll suspend my disbelief and accept that stem-cell research, artificial intelligence, and light-weight, car-sized submarines are all going on in the 1950s beacuse the populace are supposed to be the most innovative and intelligence the world has to offer. But so much of the technology coming from the Tears weakens this idea.
The Ultimate Contradiction
- In Improving on Suchong's Work, we learn that Alexander took over the Protector Program after Yi Suchong was killed.
- Later, in The Pair Bond Mechanism, we learn that Subject Delta was the first Big Daddy to be Pair Bonded (as distinct from Protection Bonded).
- On December 31st (we know it's New Years Eve b/c we see Andrew Ryan give his "toast to Rapture" on a monitor) of 1958, Eleanor Lamb was taken back and Delta was killed.
All of this only works if Suchong died before New Year's Eve, and yet what do we see at Burial at Sea's conclusion? Not only is Suchong not dead, he doesn't die until TWO WEEKS after the New Year's attack. This approximately puts his death at January 14, 1959.
AND FOR WHAT? Why do this? So we could see Suchong die in person? So what/who cares? You don't even need Suchong for this game to work. You could just as easily have another one of his lab assistants fill in for the role he serves in this BAS 2 and nothing would be lost.
Bio2 wasn't perfect. It created some contradictions, but none as monumentally noticeable as this. If this was the final chapter, then why not do your best to have some unity amongst the different games? This just seems petty!
Anyone Feel Like Playing BioShock?
I really don't want to demean the people who worked on this game (anymore than I already have), but with all the callbacks to BioShock throughout Burial at Sea - Episode 2, one kind of feels like the creators couldn't look past that game.
It's like they were saying, "Hey, remember the first game, the one that won all the awards and praise? Let's all focus on how much we loved that game." Yes, BioShock is wonderful, but please focus on making this current game better instead of reflecting for such a huge period on the initial one.