BioShock Infinite returns with its latest expansion, Burial at Sea Episode 1. This is the first half of a brand new story expansion for Infinite. In it, players are taken from the sky and back deep into the sea.
What Is it?
BioShock Infinite’s Booker and Elizabeth return for the new story presented in this first episode of Burial at Sea. The story returns to BioShock’s original city of Rapture setting. It’s 1959 and the glistening city is on the brink of turning it into the decrepid world of which we were first introduced.. If you’re familiar with how the universe’s dimensions work in Infinite, you’ll be able to understand how Booker and Elizabeth can exist in this world and time frame.
Booker, still a detective, is approached by a far different Elizabeth from the one we’ve come to know. She’s more mysterious to Booker and no longer needs rescuing. Instead she’s there to push Booker to find a girl who is presumed to be dead. Elizabeth clearly knows far more about the situation than she’s letting on, which drives our curiosity about what exactly is going on.
The story and setting definitely fits within the BioShock universe. It’s not hard to imagine and feel comfortable with Booker and Elizabeth in this new yet familiar setting. What’s concerning, though, is how episodes will progress and how much the story will take advantage of its dimensional device. The episode ties up decently well. There wasn’t an immediate “I must know what comes next” feeling when I was done. It will be important for the remaining episode to tie everything together and show the connections between the worlds. If it doesn’t, or can’t, this may prove to be a fan service return to Rapture and nothing more.
Why Should I Care?
Fan service or not, Burial at Sea still provides an interesting setting. When we were first introduced to Rapture, it was falling apart. Debris and water flooded hallways. Psychotic, plasmid-addicted splicers roamed the halls. It felt like a war zone. Burial at Sea shows a bustling rapture. The city is filled with mostly happy people living a privileged life under the sea. Much of the first half of BAS will have you exploring the “streets” of Rapture. It will offer some back story about how Rapture fell.
Don’t expect a full prequel. Only a handful of citizens you’ll encounter will be discussing the ongoing fight between Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontaine. Burial at Sea gives you just enough back story to tie it to the original game. That perhaps leaves more room to explain Rapture’s fall in future episodes, or it’s just a tease. Either way, it’s nice not to feel as though you’re specifically playing a prequel. The story stands well enough on its own.
The further I progressed, the more I felt like I was back in the original Rapture. The world became darker; creepier. Eerie voices fill the air and attackers would unexpectedly show their faces. At one point, a baby carriage slowly drifted towards me, having been pushed by no one. Sound familiar? If you played the first BioShock, it should. Perhaps too much.
There were times where it felt too much like the original game. And while the areas you roam in Burial at Sea aren’t the same, the scenes came dangerously close to full replication from BioShock. It never quite got to that point though. The scenes would play out differently and I would keep moving along. But it was hard to shake off the feeling that I was going to get recycled pieces. That was by far the scariest element of the game, far more than some of the mechanics.
The combat is a mix between original BioShock and Infinite. The shared elements, such as powers and weapons, are back to their Rapture names. Vigors are replaced by plasmids, but the Skyhook is the Air Grabber (a far less catchy name). There are two new introductions: Old Man Winter (a plasmid) and the Radar Range (a weapon). Old Man Winter is a better version of the Winter Blast plasmid, so it’s a welcome addition. The Radar Range is a powerful weapon but not obtained until very late in the episode, so it isn’t used too often. Elizabeth, clearly meant to be strong, returns to her “Booker, catch!” mode by throwing a helpful item at you periodically. Combat plays out well. But non-combat movement felt clunky. Be aware of getting stopped in your tracks by the slightest divot in the ground. Worse yet, watch out for Elizabeth. When not in combat, she gets far too much in your face and occasionally blocks your path in narrow areas. It happens often enough to be noticeably irritating.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
As it is the popular thing to do, BioShock Infinite originally released with the option to buy a Season Pass. That provided $20 access to future downloadable content, including the previously released Clash in the Clouds and these episodes of Burial at Sea. Under that price, Burial at Sea is worth the download and attention, if you’ve just had Infinite sitting around. However, the standalone price for episode one of Burial at Sea is $15.
For what you get, roughly 4 hours of gameplay is you explore a lot, is a steep price. The episode can be easily finished in a single run through within 3 hours without trying too hard. It’s hard to necessarily recommend the episode at that price. The expansion seems to stall just as it starts to get going, which becomes a bit jarring.
If you’re going to look into playing Burial at Sea on a standalone price, I would recommend waiting for a price drop or sale.