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Burial at Sea Episode One: Thoughts and Opinions

elizabeth from bioshock infinite

Warning: This article contains mild spoilers for the Burial at Sea DLC for Bioshock Infinite. Expect them throughout the article with any heavy plot spoilers clearly marked in advance.

With the first piece of story DLC finally released for one of my favourite games of the year, Bioshock Infinite, needless to say it didn’t take me long before I was back on track for another chapter in the story of Booker and Elizabeth – this time taking place back in the underwater city of Rapture instead of the floating city of Columbia.

All up I would say I was somewhat pleased with the DLC, with plenty of room for improvement, but I feel it was a solid purchase (as part of the season pass) nonetheless. What let it down and what kept it above water (so to speak)? Well let’s go through this feature by feature and take a look:

The Rapture Setting

This is something I’m pretty torn on. On the one hand, I like the idea of exploring Booker and Elizabeth’s relationship outside of the clear story implications of Columbia. On the other hand, we have already spent two whole games in Rapture and were only just getting to know Columbia. The end result is that Rapture is well drawn (especially the segments where it is unruined and splicer free) but I still felt a bit homesick for the open air and a long skyline or two.

The Ice Plasmid

A solid addition which was a staple back in the first Bioshock game, this tool has been revitalized purposefully for this DLC – and is actually a pretty prominent component. Expect it to be a major arc in the story, a useful mechanic for puzzle solving situations as well as a key component in a new type of splicer enemy – as well being redesigned so that it shoots forward in a cone (like a shotgun blast spreading out) instead of just freezing people in melee range. Basically it worked as the bottle indicated and there isn’t much to add; I wasn’t exactly amazed but having a new plasmid is always nice.

Booker and Elizabeth

The relationship change up between these two, going from prisoner and guardian to detective and client, is one of the more telling story aspects of this DLC. By placing Elizabeth in a position of power over Booker (through contractual obligation), it gives us a chance to see her properly take charge instead of waiting in the wings for whatever we are going to do next. Unfortunately, this largely through cinematics and the occasional snappy line of dialogue – the rest of the time she is back to floating around behind us and chucking us ammo or salts when we need it, pretty subservient if you ask me.

The Radar Range

With a new piece of DLC and a new Plasmid also comes a new weapon to welcome into the fold – the Radar Range. Now this bad boy is nothing but overpowered ridiculousness, but since you don’t get it until pretty far in I think that’s excusable for the little time you have to enjoy it. Basically it automatically targets and begins microwaving any splicers within sight with a high powered beam of radiation. If they are shot by the beam for too long they detonate and damage other splicers around them, in a very gratifying blood-explosion kind of way. Basically this is harmless fun that slightly undercuts the difficulty of the game, but it’s completely optional to use and very enjoyable so it gets the nod from me.

The Length

Now this is one that I was initially annoyed about, until I thought it through. The DLC averages out to be about 2.5-4 hours of solid playtime depending on difficulty and exploration time, you could probably finish it in 1.5 hours if you sprinted from start to finish. Now initially this didn’t feel like a lot, when spread over two or three playing sessions of an hour or so a piece. However in hindsight, for a piece of story DLC as scripted as this one and taking place in a whole new area (built mostly from scratch) I think this is decent value for money if you are the kind of player who will actually explore or play it more than once. Otherwise, if you really just want to shoot and loot your way through the level, the pricetag might be a bit steep – but that really doesn’t sound like the average Bioshock Infinite player to me.

The Ending

This is the controversial one. Needless to say, HEAVY SPOILERS from this sentence onwards. Basically after chasing a little girl all around Fontaines sunken department store at the urging of Elizabeth, you find her to discover she is a Little Sister. She calls a Big Daddy and it proceeds to act as the Boss for the story. After this when you are trying to get the Little Sister out of a heating duct, Booker has a flashback and remembers himself (as Comstock) trying to bring another baby through a tear – the same way he did with Elizabeth. This version of Anna DeWitt however is decapitated instead of losing the tip of her finger, leading him to flee to Rapture and erase his memories as part of an alternate timeline. The Elizabeth who hired you has come from the Infinite timeline (or one closer to it) and basically has been following you around so you could get your memories back before she murdered you. Now this whole thing just leaves me with way more questions than answers. What timeline exactly did the Elizabeth come from? Why doesn’t she just straight up kill you if that’s what she wants? How is there a timeline with no Columbia and yet it still has tears from the Letuce Twins? There are no answers to these questions, and this time it isn’t a sign of solid writing – it’s a sign of sloppy ambiguity. Which really doesn’t ring true for me.

As I said above, all up Burial at Sea: Episode One is a pretty decent buy with medium replay value for further difficulties and weapon combinations – but it’s below the quality of the original story, which I’m really hoping Episode Two will make up for.

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