With the stunning announcement of Irrational Games closing down, many questions were left unanswered about the future of Bioshock and where the series will head in the future. Kevin Levine and his team have always delivered quality fan service and with the first episode of Burial at Sea, fans got to return to Rapture and follow Booker as he fought off enemy splicers (and Big Daddies) in search of a missing girl. But while Episode 1 faltered a bit for being too repetitive and predictable, Episode 2 delivers one of the best add-ons for Bioshock in years. The story flawlessly blends together with the first two games while giving fans a chance to control Elizabeth and explore Rapture in a different light. The perfect swan song for Irrational Games and proof that fan service can still be present even with the inevitability of a company closure.
What Is It?
Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode 2 is the continuation of the alternate story of Booker and Elizabeth as they venture into a pre-ravaged form of Rapture as they search for a Little Sister named Sally. But while the first episode put players solely in the shoes of Booker as he tried to uncover the secrets of Rapture and who Sally really is, Episode 2 allows players to control Elizabeth as they sneak their way through Rapture with new plasmids and a much more approachable and enjoyable story. Since Elizabeth no longer has her tear ability (you will find out why) or the ability to scrounge up loose ammo or coins, her journey through Rapture is much more fragile than Booker’s, with her often resorting to the shadows and avoiding combat to successfully uncover what lies at the end of Rapture.
It is this style of gameplay that has never been seen before in Bioshock, and it fits perfectly with the mood and setting of Rapture. The dilapidated hallways filled with running water and darkened corners are perfect to mask the sounds of your footsteps. Of course, the real beauty of Burial At Sea Episode 2 comes with the ultimate conclusion of the Bioshock storylines, and how everything from the original to Infinite are connected to one another. The revelation at the end left me speechless for quite some time, and it is a true testament to Irrational Games that stellar storytelling and thoughtful characters can still make a huge impact in today’s gaming market.
Why Should I Care?
While stealth is a big factor in Episode 2, that isn’t to say Elizabeth will be without her fair share of powers or guns to handle. She can still fire a shotgun, magnum, or machine gun with ease, and the newly introduced Radar Range returns as well, allowing you to explode enemies with a powerful blast of microwave energy. But the real fun is with the crossbow that Elizabeth can use to dispatch her enemies silently.
Theoretically, Elizabeth’s approach is one of non-violence (when you aren’t using guns), so all of the ammunition for the crossbow is non-lethal, but I still found myself using it more than any other weapon. Tranquilizer darts knock out enemies, Noisemakers can lure enemies to a specific location, and Gas darts can be fired at a group to incapacitate them all at once. Mixing these methods up helps make exploring the bowels of Rapture quietly as exciting as ever.
This wouldn’t be Bioshock without plasmids, and Burial at Sea: Episode 2 has plenty of new ones for you to use. Old Man Winter and Possession return, but newcomers Ironsides (lets you use a shield to collect bullets fired at you as ammo) and Peeping Tom (allows you to see enemies through walls) add new layers of combat. Walking into a new room and scoping out the area with Peeping Tom gave me the ability to set plasmid and crossbow traps around the area, allowing me to take down dozens of enemies relatively easily and quickly. Add in the new ability to crouch while jumping from a hook to land silently behind an enemy for a quick attack and Elizabeth is a bonafide badass, whether you go in silent or guns blazing.
If there is one thing to gripe about it is perhaps Burial At Sea’s notion of playing it safe in terms of mission objectives, and many of the directives for this episode result in nothing more than fetch quests. In fact, while on the search for a particular item in the game, it soon turned into a search for three more before I could advance the story. While this narrative direction is somewhat lackluster, the locations you visit are fun to see, which slightly eases the repetitiveness.
Rapture isn’t the only place you find yourself exploring, and seeing a few familiar faces in all of the different locations in the game is surely a welcome sight. Frank Fontaine, Andrew Ryan, Suchong and more notable Bioshock characters will return to help explain many of the questions fans have been asking for years. Learning about the history of bathyspheres, Vita-Chambers, the Big Daddies and more was satisfying, and seeing events unfold before your eyes that were only talked about in audio recordings from the very first game was a nice, subtle touch as well.
The payoff at the end, when you finally understand Elizabeth’s involvement in Rapture and the history of the Bioshock world, is definitely worth playing through to the end to see. Fans will no doubt be thrilled with what Irrational Games provided for them. A truly fitting end to a series ten years in the making.
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
It is hard to say goodbye to Irrational Games, and perhaps even more so the Bioshock name, but in their last chapter before their departure they delivered one of the best episodes in any Bioshock game. A gripping story that answers all questions while letting players venture into Rapture in a way they have never done so before. Elizabeth’s chapter through Rapture turned into an exhilarating journey, and the welcome faces of familiar characters and locations only adds to the impactful closure of Episode 2. Fans will surely be talking long after they watch the ending credits, a true testament to Irrational Games’ devotion to their fans.