Recently I’ve been stuck in a sort of purgatory regarding video games. When you play them, break them down to their core, plus review them on a weekly basis, for years, it can sometimes be difficult for a game to resonate. I wouldn’t lose myself in these created worlds. I’d play but I wouldn’t turn the lights off, shut the blinds and focus on the screen and nothing else. Often times I’m the kind of person that plays games over multiple sessions taking it in a bit at a time but not with the Burial at Sea episodes. I had other things to do, technically more important things to do, but I didn’t care. I needed to get to the end. My experience playing Burial at Sea: Episode Two was very much the same as Bioshock: Infinite. I felt sad. Not just because of the emotional ending – though, that was a big part – but because I knew that I wouldn’t get to play another game like it for a very long time.
So, what’s so good about it? Well, pretty much everything that was fantastic about Infinite. Once again, the atmosphere, sound design and voice acting are the things this game does best. It may not be the only one to do these things well but put together, Bioshock is still top of its class. What caught me off guard is how well Burial at Sea Episode Two ties into not just the events of Infinite, but the original Bioshock as well. As someone who wasn’t as big a fan of the original game as most people, this came as a surprise and one that I more than welcomed.
The most significant change to a lot of people is that in this DLC, you don’t play as Booker Dewitt but instead his companion, Elizabeth. Her character is one of the best things about the main game and while Infinite was very much her story, we now get to experience a new one from her view point. Something the DLC does brilliantly is how it feels different, despite retaining the game’s overall qualities. Playing as Elizabeth feels as it should the instant you start, thanks to the introduction. From there, you learn about the new alterations made to the gameplay.
Bioshock: Infinite was intrinsically a first person shooter. Yes, it had powers and skylines but those were there to enhance the gun play. Burial at Sea Episode Two features guns, powers and hooks but they’re used in new ways. Elizabeth is more vulnerable than Booker, so rather than running and gunning, you’re encouraged to take things slow and knock out enemies in a stealthy fashion, by using your hook or new crossbow. Since both of these are one hit takedowns and guns seem to be less effective than in Episode One or the main game, I spent most of my time using Stealth. It’s by no means a masterpiece of game design but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to reinforce the narrative and character, which it does extremely well. There’s some neat little details too, like how Elizabeth reloads guns differently than Booker or the click of her footsteps. Plus, the new gameplay is still fun. It does kind of feel like Dishonored lite, a game that is already light on stealth but it works. Plus, the new crossbow and plasmid that allow you to see through walls and become invisible are amusing.
In terms of length and challenge, the game does have you more covered than the last Episode. I personally didn’t mind the length of Episode One, as I felt that it fit the story best, but it is nice that Episode Two takes a good 4-6 hours to complete. I will say that there’s one section that feels artificially drawn out due to people complaining about the first episode being short. Taken as a whole though, Burial at Sea Episode Two is fantastic, as the follow up to Episode One, an expansion for Infinite and as a send-off for Irrational Games.
It closes the book for Rapture, Columbia, Booker and Elizabeth. After completing both episodes and learning more about the story, I’m inspired to go back through all of the main games now that I’ve seen their stories from a new perspective. I don’t know what the next Bioshock game will be, but it better not be Infinite 2 because it seems insulting to mess with something that already ended so perfectly.