I apologize for being so late on this one, given that both Burial at Sea chapters were released awhile ago. For the first time ever, I actually bought the season pass for a game, but I never really got around to downloading the Burial at Sea DLC until a few days ago. What I found was two parts familiar and three parts ugly, convenient fan service stuffed into a game that was truly a cut above the rest. I make no secret that I love the Bioshock series, placing the original in my top games of the entire last generation, and holding Infinite up as an excellent sequel that manages to be both slightly familiar while pushing its own, totally unique agenda and plot. Both of these games have been made weaker after-the-fact from this DLC much to my horror. Do note, this post will involve major SPOILERS.
Both Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite games are known for their stories and heavy themes. Bioshock deals with an Randian world where total freedom and capitalism has caused an isolated underwater society to collapse into anarchy as the have-nots rise up against the haves. Bioshock Infinite revolves around the infinite universe theory that there are an infinite number of universes with infinite possibilities between them. As such, it is a dimension-hopping adventure that uses this mechanic in such a way to make the player think in the way that games like Duke Nukem rarely did. Both games thrived on the uniqueness of their locales – the oppressive underwater city of Rapture for Bioshock, and the floating, white washed city of Columbia in Infinite. Both games had generally substandard gameplay, but nothing broken or awful, just gameplay that simply didn’t match up to its premise, lore and story.
The Burial at Sea DLC is split into two parts, both parts focus on the same Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite, though you only control her in the second piece. The first part of the DLC has a Booker/Comstock, who bases himself in Rapture meeting Elizabeth. The two go off to find a random Little Sister called Sally that the player is supposed to care about (or at very least believe either of the protagonists care about), but is never given any reason to. It turns out Sander Cohen from the first game captured Sally and sent her down to Fontaine’s department store, which has been sunk and converted into a prison for Bioshock villain Atlus and his thugs. Thus, it is up to Booker and Elizabeth to save the girl. As a twist, it turns out that Elizabeth came to Rapture to kill this Booker (called Comstock) because the ending of Bioshock Infinite where she killed all Comstocks is ignored. So, Booker gets a chest full of Big Daddy drill and we’re left with a cliff-hanger for episode 2.
And it’s episode 2 that things go so bad. You control Elizabeth, who has lost her omniscient powers. Sally has been captured by Atlus and Elizabeth has to go through a series of fetch quests for him to save her. As she does this, players learn that Rapture and Columbia are tied together. Suchong and Fink worked together to create plasmids and vigours, Big Daddies/Song Bird, and harvest Adam. You learn the Luteces were manipulating certain events so that Elizabeth would grow strong. Finally, you learn that Elizabeth is responsible for giving Atlas the famous “would you kindly” code that allowed him to control Jack in Bioshock. In short, mysteries are solved and Bioshock Infinite is a meaningless setup for Bioshock.
That last part really bothers me. Bioshock Infinite had obvious connections to Bioshock, but they were always side notes. Instead, with Burial at Sea, we learn that everything Booker and Elizabeth went through in Bioshock Infinite was nothing more than an extremely convenient setup for Bishock. Elizabeth never gets peace, instead she is beaten to death by Atlus while protecting a little girl (Sally) that the player knows nothing about, and the only explanation we’re given is that “Rapture isn’t a place for children” and that Elizabeth doesn’t wants to be like her father and bring suffering. It is contrived to a silly extent, especially since it mostly flat out ignores the end events of Bioshock Infinite.
But this change doesn’t just undermine all of Infinite’s characters and the well-crafted ending for the game. No. It also undermine’s the original. There was a certain suspension of disbelief that events worked out so conveniently with Jack in the original. Now we’re supposed to swallow the absurd result that it’s all because of Elizabeth. Also, the cross-dimensional aspects of Infinite were discarded in favour of time travel when Elizabeth goes back to Columbia.
The worst part is that I can accept all of the fanservicy explanations, giving away all of the mystery and intrigue of the games. It really is the pointless and meaningless existence of Elizabeth that truly bothers me. I care about what happens to Elizabeth, and I don’t give a single damn about the Little Sisters, even if they choose fit to name one. Sally is not a character. She’s a pointless mcguffin that never makes me care. Fans are supposed to sit back and accept that the salvage of the Little Sisters by Jack in the future is worth everything. Irrational decided to trade one character’s brutal death for a mute protagonist and a bunch of identical Little Sisters. I understand saving kids is a noble goal, but I already did that. It was the point of the original Bioshock, and now, apparently, it was the entire point of Bioshock Infinite as well.
And the whole thing doesn’t make any sense in the context of the game world that was created. There are infinite universes, meaning at most Elizabeth only helped the Little Sisters in a single universe. It wasn’t like at the end of Infinite where she ended all Comstocks. Elizabeth only saved one set of Little Sisters, leaving the rest to suffer. Also, do all dimensions have Little Sisters? Are they a constant or were they only present in some? Everything seen in Burial at Sea is only in a single universe. Elizabeth questions herself through the game. She lost her omniscience and can’t remember why it was worth sacrificing herself to come to Rapture. The answer? Sally and Jack. The real answer? I have no idea why she would do this either. Especially since it doesn’t make any sense for Atlas to spare Sally after killing Elizabeth since she still has tons of useful Adam inside her.
And Elizabeth suffers. She is nearly lobotomized in the most gruesome way possible, then she is straight up beaten to death by Atlus who slams a wrench over her head until she dies. This is the end of a character we cared about. Why are the Bioshock creators so obsessed with bloody sacrifice. Everyone has to die as a sacrifice in some way or else their life apparently had no meaning. Repetition has led to this sacrifice being dulled, especially due to the subject matter of the sacrifice in question. We’re supposed to believe that Elizabeth sacrificed herself willingly for a greater cause. But that cause was itself a retread of Bioshock.
What we’re left with is the undermining of two great games. Bioshock is weaker because the entire thing has become even more contrived than it already was. But Bioshock Infinite has been irreparably damaged, for me at least. Nothing in the game matters. It wasn’t its now story at all. The entire point was to be a really convenient way of explaining unanswered questions in the original. The next time I play Bioshock Infinite, I’m letting Booker die at the beginning, and hope that he’s the Booker that saved Elizabeth because the evil future Elizabeth found in Infinite is in a better place than what we saw in Burial at Sea.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer