Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 1 Review
I loved Bioshock Infinite. The rich atmosphere, deep story, and solid game play all worked in unison to deliver a strong contender for Game of the Year. Naturally, when Irrational Games announced the “Burial at Sea” DLC would return the game to Rapture, the locale of the first two games, I was very excited. I loved the setting of Rapture in the first Bioshock game, and the thought of seeing the city in all of its glory before the fall was a major reason I bought up this DLC. How well did it live up to the Bioshock Infinite name?
The DLC opens up with Booker DeWitt awaking from a deep sleep while someone pounds at his door. Booker informs the person at the door that he is closed, when Elizabeth walks in. But this isn’t the same Elizabeth from Columbia. This Elizabeth is older, more mature than before. She offers Booker a job, to find a young girl named Sally. Booker believes Sally to be dead, but Elizabeth doesn’t believe that. Reluctantly, Booker takes on the job.
That’s a quick summary of the opening moments of this episode of DLC. Right from the beginning, we are led through some busy corridors in Rapture. Irrational rebuilt the city from the ground up using the modified Unreal 3 engine from Bioshock Infinite. Since the game takes place before the fall, we see the citizens of Rapture going about their daily lives. As you follow Elizabeth towards the main elevator, you will over hear the citizens discussing things from romance, to political theory, and of course, about Andrew Ryan himself. You will also see Little Sisters in a class of sorts, being instructed on how to move about the city. It’s a very neat look into what Levine and his team had in mind for Rapture as the back story. The place is bustling with energy we never saw in the first Bioshock game.
This is when Burial at Sea is at it’s best. The build up leading to the meeting with Sander Chohen, and the meeting with him act as a wonderful hook to the actual game play. Sadly, the game play is where this DLC pack begins to have some flaws. It follows the same style as Infinite, except plasmids are back (though they work just like the Vigors in Infinite) along with the ability to carry more than one weapon. Skyhooks, and Tears are fitted into Rapture, which felt off considering we never saw these things in the first Bioshock. But then again, with the way Infinite ended, this addition might just be more variables (trying my best to not spoil anything). The combat remains unchanged. Splicers are back, and with the new engine, more of them can attack you at once, and with better tactics. Some of them now carry plasmids as well, adding a bit of an extra challenge to the combat, which falls somewhat flat and monotonous.
Your objectives always end up being the same sort of thing. “Search these 3 places to find an object to advance.” It may work for a full length game to do a quest system like that because the quests can be spaced out, but for a short episodic DLC like Burial at Sea, it doesn’t work as well. Instead, the middle portion of the DLC winds up being very grindy and boring. The combat still is fun, but having to constantly backtrack over some of the same areas, just to find an object to let you advance gets old fast. Luckily for all fans of Bioshock, the endings adds yet another layer of mystery surrounding the Bioshock universe and should not be missed.
On a technical level, Burial at Sea is a mixed bag. I noticed several graphical glitches, and a couple of bugs, mainly involving the AI with Elizabeth. She would randomly pop into existence in front of me, slide around, and just spazz out occasionally. The aesthetics of the DLC are top notch though, breathing new life into Rapture and making me kind of wish for a full length game set in Rapture during it’s more lively days. The music is placed perfectly to add to the ambiance around Rapture, and then used to creepy effect during the combat portions of the game. The most impressive part of the technical work might be in the voice acting. Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper both return to reprise their roles. Baker is again great in his role, but Draper as Elizabeth shines. She did wonderful work in Infinite, and she manages to top that by pulling off a believable, mature Elizabeth. In Infinite, she voices Elizabeth as a a teenager or a very young adult. In Burial at Sea, she portrays Elizabeth as an older, more mature woman who is wiser and more experiences with the world around her. It’s a subtle, yet wonderful change for the better.
All in all, Burial at Sea was enjoyable. The opening and endings really stand out, but the combat in the middle comes across as dull and bland. The story and environment draw you in though, and the ending will, once again, make you rethink the Bioshock universe. Burial at Sea Episode 1 is a bit on the shorter side, clocking in at about 90 minutes to 2 hours. So depending on what you thought of Infinite, it may or may not be worth the $15 entry fee. For me, it was worth it.
Dysfunctional Systems Review should be up on Saturday. This kind of pushed it back.