Entering Columbia

Reveling in Bio Shock Infinite

SOILERS AFTER THE PHOTOS.

Entertainments franchises often suffer as sequels are produced. Video games are notorious of this as they try to develop new and innovative game play. Designers feel a need to give players an even better experience than previous installments. The companies complicate the game mechanics and deviate character back history with detrimental effect to the game.  But some developers know when great is good enough. The makers of BioShock knew what they had and that fans wanted that.  BioShock Infinite melds familiar game mechanics with a new and intriguing story.

Infinite takes players out of the water and flies them into the sky. Gamers play as Booker DeWitt, a man with a mysterious past but with a concrete mission. In order to erase a debt, Booker must travel to Columbia to rescue a girl named Elizabeth. He knows nothing about her or this floating city in the sky but he quickly learns that he is not favored by the Prophet Comstock. Comstock rules over the idealistic floating utopia and holds Elizabeth hostage. Booker must battle the townsfolk as well as a resistance group to save the girl. Things become complicated when Booker learns Elizabeth has unique powers that make her a danger to this world but a help to Booker.
Infinite is the spiritual sister of the first two installments. The core elements are here: take an Average Joe throw him in a world free from government regulation, science has run amok giving people the power to throw fire or possess others and a girl is at the heart of the matter. A girl who is innocent and played upon by the villain to do his own dastardly agenda.

These facets continue to work weaving the past elements in new worlds allowing fans to relieve the excitement and intrigue while personalizing Booker’s tale for this new adventure. Elizabeth’s talents are different from any Little Sister’s and adds a new dimension to the game play (pun intended). Because Elizabeth can open “tears”, portals to other demensions, allowing Booker to by pas obstacles, call in reinforcements, and relive certain events.

The first person game play is still the same. Magically elemental damage in one hand, gun fire on the other. This helps veteran players not become confused with new game play mechanics which can be a problem with sequels. Instead, gamers fall into that familiar pattern of melee, shoot, and destroy.  The developers added several unique elements to allow Booker’s journey to be his own. The new Skyline is thrilling though somewhat confusing for battle.  It allows the player to move quickly around areas and even lets them shoot from the line. I personally found the aiming difficult, but loved the skyline attack when you dismounted. Booker can also pick up gear that gives him special abilities as he tours Columbia including the ability to add elemental attributes to his melee attacks.

A welcome addition is Elizabeth herself. As an AI, she is quite intelligent. She is neither a target nor a fighter and gamers don’t have to worry about Eluizabeth’s safety. She stays out of the way, peroidaclly providing health and ammo when the fight seems over. She finds cash for  Booker cash which you no longer have a cap on.

The game would rate as high as the first BioShock except for the ending. Like a conspiracy episode of The X-Files, the game leaves you with more questions than answers. The conclusion is unsatisfying and promises of DLC make me wonder if the ideas will be explored more in additional content. But why should players have to pay for more content for a concrete resolution. (For a detailed Discussion of the ending, read below the pictures).

BioShcok Infinite is beautiful and bug free. It is intriguing and beguiling whipping gamers into the world of Columbia. It remains true to the original game play (unlike a certain zombie franchise I shall not name) and philsphies leaving players with an Andrew Ryan taste in their mouths. Too bad the conclusion didn’t deliver the punch of the first one.

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Taking Apart Infinite’s Confusing Ending

SPOILERS

The first BioShock installment contained one of the best twists in video game history. The twist made the conclusion almost another game entirely as you realize you have been fighting the wrong villain. Infinite attempts to do the same concluding with an ending that made you rethink the game.

Infinite leaves the twist until the final scenes and leaves little time to truly explain the confusing and metaphysical ending that had been created. Saying that Booker was Comstock was a twist that made little sense to the plot. It seems that both version of Booker to kill the other. But why? The player’s character was trying to save Elizabeth from the evil version of himself. But was Comstock holding Elizabeth and why would he create a tear to capture here? The game does not explain at all why the alternative Comstock/Booker is bringing the girl across. What tool was she being used for? There was some talk of a syphon, but there was not a successful resolution.

Infinite goes for the shock of your character dying. But that is no longer a shock. It was when Fallout 3 was released and a fitting end for the Mass Effect Trilogy. But instead of Booker’s demise wrapping up the story, it just cause more questions. How was there a version of Elizabeth left? Why did he regenerate in his office after the credits? What the hell is going on?

The final issue is that Infinite pulls out a useless, superficial dalliance with the world of Rapture. Elizabeth pulls them from the sky to land momentarily in rapture. You catch a glimpse of a Big Daddy and Little Sister, and then they are gone. It was a cheap connection to help fans identify this game with the previous. I was so excited because I though, we were going to end up with a great twist that would connect the stories. But it seems it was just a coincidence that Elizabeth’s name started with an “E” and was referred to as the Lamb.

Fans have been promised DLC and my hope is that it expands these ideas. But is this fair? To pay for the game as well as extra content just to get the full story? I am not saying this is the case, but if it is, it’s a new low. The only other thing more dastardly is the buggy release of Fallout New Vegas.

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2 comments on “Entering Columbia

  1. Thanks for the mention! I suspect many of the questions you pose are rhetorical, but here are my thoughts, for whatever they’re worth.

    Comstock needs Elizabeth because he is obsessed with purity of the race (hence all the messages to that effect adorning the walls of Columbia’s law enforcement offices). As revealed in various audio diaries, exposure to the Luteces’ machine has accellerated his aging, rendered him infertile, and riddled him with cancer. Taking her into his reality was the only way to ensure he had a genetic heir to carry on his ideology. The siphon was, of course, a way to dampen Elizabeth’s abilities so she’d be more easily controlled.

    As to the singular Elizabeth left standing, we don’t really know if there is one left. The screen goes dark just as she might have disappeared. It reminded me of the ending of Inception—he spins the top, we see it start to wobble, but the screen cuts to black before we can be sure of whether it would stay up or fall. I, for one, liked the ending because it leads to interesting ideas, conversations, and questions like the ones you pose here. If those questions lead to self-reflection and contemplating the nature of our reality, then I think they’re worthwhile.

    Anyway, there’s my two bits. 🙂

  2. I can understand leaving things open for discussion. Its part of the reason I love Silent Hill, but BioShock has just started doing this. I don’t really like that change. I like that the previous stories have flowed seamlessly.
    I like your thoughts; chatting with other gamers is always fun. Over all, I enjoyed the game and will play it again and the DLC.
    Thanks for the comment! Good to hear from you!

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