This article will contain very minor spoilers and will cover both episodes.
Burial at Sea is Irrational Games’ last project. That’s quite a lot of pressure to live up to – Irrational Games has quite the legacy. Is it a worthy tribute to the acclaimed series, or does it fall flat on its face? Read on, dear reader, as I explain.
“There’s always a lighthouse. There’s always a man. There’s always a city.”
The astonishing – yet equally dismal – dissolution of Irrational Games last month spurred a surge of many emotions. Some were mournful that the renowned developer was closing its doors, whilst others were hopeful that Ken Levine’s reformed studio would bring innovative, bold ideas to the table. Wherever you stood, I think nearly everyone – with even a passing or vague interest in video games – could appreciate what the studio had accomplished, even if some did not care for BioShock itself. Burial at Sea is the last ever project of Irrational Games, but did it take the studio out with a bang?
Burial at Sea once again demonstrates that Irrational Games are the masters of environmental story-telling. Irrational Games – from art direction to world design – formed a narrative for the objects, consolidating often diverse elements and immersing players in the cohesive and vibrant game-world. Throughout both episodes, this bond and immersion shines; the environment – which reveals a narrative of by itself – is passionately and tactfully crafted, and is a worthy tribute to BioShock. In Episode Two, there is particularly superb – which I will, for fear of spoilers, be vague about – section in Andrew Ryan’s rendering of a school. In general, this re-imagined Rapture, with looks brilliant in Infinite’s engine, is a pinnacle of immersion.
Elizabeth has had a lovely redesign for Burial at Sea. She’s a much more mature character, although she’s not naturally a murderer – and you don’t have to make her one.
Episode Two’s electrifying Elizabeth oriented revelations, adding a completely new perspective on the original BioShock that redefines the way players see its plot, justify purchase by themselves – particularly for those interested in BioShock lore. Without going as far as to spoil them, which I can not in good consciousness do here, it is virtually impossible to describe just how significant the twists are, and how memorable the new perspective on major characters – like Atlas and Suchong – and events is. Episode One is decidedly lighter on plot, although it has a thrilling and shocking ending. In other words: you get exactly what you expect from a BioShock game with Burial at Sea.
It was, despite that high praise, somewhat disappointing to see that Elizabeth – who the player controls in Episode Two – did not have access to her wide array of powers, as seen in BioShock: Infinite and Episode One. This is aptly explained with a surprising plot device, but I personally felt that this was a missed opportunity for Irrational Games. However, Elizabeth does not have to play to the same pulse as Booker – stealth is a completely viable – and, to a degree, encouraged – option. Episode Two also features a quaint lock-picking mini-game, which is appropriate and welcome considering Elizabeth’s character.
As you can see, the game looks beautiful. Also: “PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARIS!”
In Episode Two, there is an inherently exotic trip to BioShock Infinite’s spectacular flying city of Columbia. Your time in Columbia adds another dimension to important events of BioShock: Infinite, and it weaves Rapture and Columbia furthermore, though the constant links can be overbearing. However, I felt that – although the 1912 themed environment was delightful – the temporary change in location broke the immersion in Rapture, and it never quite recovered to such impressive heights as a result.
I concede, and most frugal gamers will, that the price is excessive. Indeed, both episodes can be completed in only three hours. Burial at Sea’s narrative experience is of a very high-caliber – the plot has the vigor (pun) to leave the player in awe. Throughout Burial at Sea, Irrational Games’ creative flair keeps the player engaged; especially for keen BioShock players, exploration will undoubtedly extend play time. Thus, the enlarged price is not unreasonable and justifiable; the quality to play time ratio is excellent. Still, I would recommend the Season Pass (which is an even more attractive option because it includes Clash in the Clouds).
Damn, it felt good to be back in Rapture.
The plot and atmosphere are what you would expect from a BioShock game, it’s a tactfully and passionately constructed experience – Burial at Sea is a virtual obligation for any BioShock fan. The price is a little extravagant, but easily justifiable. Would you kindly buy this DLC?
– Rory Mullan. Follow me on Twitter and watch me make a fool of myself: https://twitter.com/CynicalMarxist