So here we are, at the end of Ken Levine’s Bioshock saga. It’s the last piece of work the team at Irrational has put together before the company is fully dissolved, before Levine and his now much smaller crew embark on their new game-designing endeavours. Get ready to say goodbye to Columbia, Rapture, Booker, Elizabeth, and a ton of other beloved/psychotic characters you never thought you’d be so happy to see.
Visuals/Audio: Considering this DLC is running on a now relatively old engine, it’s to be expected that the graphics would look a little aged, but that doesn’t take away at all from the captivating art style the Bioshock series is known for. As far as graphics go, everything still looks good, just not that good. Some textures show up a little fuzzy, Elizabeth’s hands are a little rough around the edges, a lot of small things that you only really notice close up (like in most games). This episode of Burial at Sea definitely has the most cinematic direction out of the two installments, featuring a lot of short first person cutscenes that really work out for the best because they always look amazing and are full of great shots that are sure to win the “Most used desktop background” award from fans of the series. (That’s a good thing.)
Unsurprisingly, the music in this chapter of Bioshock is creepy and exhilarating at the same time, and is often the key factor to making moments as tense as they possibly can be, the cause for wiping sweat off your forehead as soon as you find a safe hiding spot for Elizabeth. All sound effects seem to be in order, guns going bang, melee attacks going “thwack!” and the stomp of the Big Daddy’s steel-clad boots sounding more terrifying than ever. But my personal favourite addition to the audio is the barks of the NPCs, being more diverse as well as better performed than ever before. Not since the original Bioshock have the all-too-nearby words of a splicer made me so wary to turn a corner.
Gameplay: In a turn of events that would have been surprising had we not known it was going to be this way months ago when details of this episode of Burial At Sea were released to the public, Episode 2 is very stealth based. Liz’s primary weapon is a crossbow which can wield tranquilizer darts for knocking out unsuspecting splicers, noise darts to use as distractions to sneak your way past or get the jump on a group of enemies, and gas darts which are most effective against groups of splicers that are in close proximity to one another as it’s an instant knockout. At first it seems strange and foreign having to be stealthy in a Bioshock game, not getting to run around shooting whomever you please because Elizabeth seems to be a lot more sensitive to bullets than Booker is, usually dying after a measly two shots to the face. The shotgun and my personal favourite, the hand cannon make a return, usually being Liz’s only way out of some particularly sticky situations, and a new weapon called the “Radar Range” tears splicers apart. Literally. Into like, tiny particles. It’s awesome. There’s also a couple new powers on the scene, the first you encounter being Peeping Tom, which allows Liz to see through walls as well as become temporarily invisible which comes in handy just as much as you would expect it to in a stealth based game. The other power you acquire is Ironsides, which works a lot like Titanfall’s Vortex Shield, except instead of holding any bullets fired at you in place before sending them back towards your foe, it simply sends the ammo into your gun.
It’s also worth noting that in Burial At Sea: Episode 2, there are no Vita-Chambers to revive you. If you die, you’ll have to start from an autosaved checkpoint, which on one hand seems a little (for lack of a better word), silly, but also brings a new level of difficulty to the game. It makes death more of an actual consequence, as opposed to an inconvenience like in previous Bioshock titles.
Story: The story of Burial At Sea: Episode 2 is a special one, because it is very heavy on insight into Elizabeth’s character. It seems that what Ken Levine and his team at Irrational tried to do with this chapter of the story was really tie up all the loose ends in the Bioshock universe, leaving no stone unturned, and as a huge fan of the series I can say, for the most part, they succeeded. That being said, I still have just as many questions as I did at the end of Bioshock Infinite’s main game, they’re just different questions now. Longtime fans of the series are bound to thoroughly enjoy the plotline in this game, but I am not sure how they will feel about the ending. It seems the internet is torn between loving it and hating it, understanding and not understanding, just as with the original ending to Infinite.
Verdict: I could never not recommend Bioshock, because I personally believe it’s one of the greatest stories ever told and one of the primary forces pushing games into the mainstream, with one of the only storylines powerful and detailed enough to convince the general public to take games more seriously as an art form. I loved Burial At Sea: Episode 2 for everything it is. An adventure, an insight into one of the strongest female characters in the history of gaming, and an ending to one of my favourite stories of all time. I’m personally still digesting the ending myself, unsure of how I feel about it, and I finished the game two days ago. It’s a definite must play for anyone who has followed the series this far.