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Burial at Sea Episode 2 is a trip down memory lane. It plays out as a sort of greatest hits collection of the BioShock games, paying homage to previous events while also tying up loose ends. It is impossible to play without feeling slightly nostalgic, especially with the news of Irrational Games winding down and the series as we know it is now a thing of the past. In a lot of ways this is the perfect final chapter. Sending off the series on a high and saying farewell to Big Daddies and Songbirds forever. We will see BioShock again in some form but not in these hands, the hands that created it. It is sad but if ever there was a time to move on its now after celebrating the franchise in such a rewarding way that improves upon Episode 1 in every aspect.
The story is probably the main draw here as it has always been the jewel in the crown for the franchise and it doesn’t disappoint in this final installment. To try and describe what exactly happens here would not only be a trivial exercise but completely misguided and unfair to those who made it. What I will say is that you may have to play a few times to truly understand everything that happens. If you thought Infinite‘s story was confusing, you ain’t seen nothing yet. In the end however it does feel very gratifying and ties up a lot of plot points that fans would have been asking about for years had they not covered them.
The BioShock games have been famed for their incredible openings and this DLC is no different. Within the first five minutes I was blown away once again, something I have lost count on the amount of times this has happened during the history of the franchise. BioShock is at it’s best when portraying both beauty and devastation at the same time and Episode 2 uses all the best moments from the past to evoke these emotions in the player.
One thing that should be fully applauded by Irrational Games is their ability to always throw away the rule book and never be afraid to try something new and different. When Infinite was first announced many people thought you couldn’t have a BioShock game without Rapture, and they were proved wrong. For the DLC it would have been easy to just reuse assets from the main game, but instead we see entire new areas that have now fleshed out the universe beyond just the two main games. This DLC perfectly compliments the story of all previous titles, something that I hope other developers take notice of going forward.
Playing as Elizabeth doesn’t change the combat as much as I had hoped but does still add some interesting elements. Your main course of action will be stealth, something that we haven’t seen since the original game. Sneaking up on enemies will make things a lot easier than the all guns blazing approach that was best utilized in Infinite‘s Skyhook infused vertical combat. Like Episode 1 the combat here is a cross between the original game and Infinite, something that not only makes sense narrative wise but always creates a unique experience not seen in previous games. This is almost as much DLC for the original game than it is for Infinite, though Infinite is needed to play this content.
Some sections do feel slightly forced, thrown in to challenge the player because this is still a first person shooter at the end of the day. A common complaint of the franchise is that people just want to consume the story and aren’t big fans of the combat, something I don’t agree with. However a couple of times while I was fighting a room filled with enemies I did start to see where this complaint came from. Occasionally I wanted to just run through the room, avoiding combat just so I could get to the next plot point quicker. Perhaps this shows how strong the story is more than the combat lacking but realistically the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Weapon choice is extremely limited, again something that goes along with the narrative. Your newest and probably favorite weapon of choice this time round is a crossbow, capable of putting single or multiple enemies to sleep at the same time through its varied range of attacks. Outside of that is the traditional shotgun and hand cannon, but both aren’t gonna be the wisest choice if you are trying to stay hidden.
At times there are almost too many options on how to tackle combat sections. It is clear that stealth is the direction we are led down so it feels strange that skyhooks are still available. There are new Plasmids (or Vigors) to explore with the best being Peeping Tom that lets you go invisible and see enemies through walls, again something that benefits a stealth playthrough. I’m glad this wasn’t in the main game as it does make things rather easier, but seeing as we aren’t playing as a war veteran anymore I’m OK with using it in this context.
The voice-over work once again is exceptional and on par with everything we’ve seen in the franchise previously. Pretty much every character you’ve loved or loathed previously makes an appearance here in this final swan song and while it can feel crowded occasionally it doesn’t feel forced. And fear not, playing as Elizabeth I was curious how not seeing her by your side would change the feel of the game. But with her voice a constant throughout, you feel closer to the character than ever before.
What Ken Levine and everyone at Irrational Games have achieved with the previous games and now this DLC is nothing short of remarkable. Storytelling in games is something which has been debated very heavily in recent years as the medium strives to be taken seriously alongside similar storytelling devices. While it may not be to everyone’s fancy, I believe this franchise has done more to bring the medium forward than any other. On top of that it has pushed the boundaries of what a FPS should be in a world ruled by online military shooters. Even though I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Rapture or Columbia, it will never be the same again. Thank you Irrational, for all the memories.