Bioshock Burial at Sea Episode 2 Review
The first round of Bioshock Infinite DLC, Burial at Sea Episode 1, was good but I wanted a bit more. I was hoping that Episode 2 would be more game than walking simulator. As Ken Levine’s last Bioshock project, I was hoping Burial at Sea Episode 2 would be him going out with a bang.
As with my last review, be warned for spoilers the story of Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite. I will try my best not to spoil the story of Burial at Sea Episode 2 as much as I can. Starting immediately where Burial at Sea Episode One left off, the second part of this duology sees players taking control of Elizabeth for the first time. Stepping into Elizabeth’s shoes, you’re immediately made aware you’re playing with a different set of rules to Booker DeWitt. Gone is Booker’s man-of-action attitude and brute strength. Elizabeth is a weak, frightened woman who is in no way prepared to take on the horrors of Rapture. That is what makes Burial at Sea Episode 2 so much fun to play.
Burial at Sea Episode 2 story
The opening chapter of the game sees Elizabeth walking the cobbled streets of a romantic, Disney-esque Paris. Every citizen she passes calls out, happy to see Elizabeth. Children laugh and play with her. The gentlefolk tip their fedoras and birds sing perfectly in time with the accordion soundtrack. I can’t think of an opening to a video game which has more charm or upbeat optimism. It is every part the romanticised Paris which Elizabeth has always dreamed of. Both Raff and I were staggered by how nice this opening act looks. If you’re playing the PC build with maximum settings, this could be an animated film. The Bioshock style shines through with such incredible attention to colour and tone. I wanted it to last forever.
The opening act soon unceremoniously plonks Elizabeth into the slimy depths of Rapture. Taking up Booker’s charge from the previous episode, Elizabeth continues his quest to find Sally, the girl whose disappearance set the events of Episode One in motion. Burial at Sea Episode 2 takes a far darker turn that you’d expect, right out of the gate. Burial at Sea Episode 2’s story takes Bioshock Infinite’s themes of quantum theory and destiny and works them in nicely with the objectivism subtext from Bioshock. The story pitches into new realms here, working two different universes together.
The “illusion of free will” conceit was used so well in the first Bioshock, and the story telling is so rich in Burial at Sea Episode 2. I thought it was a shame to have only four hours if it. As Elizabeth unravels the connection between Rapture and Columbia, a lot of the fan theories fall away but there’s still enough mystery to keep your grey matter churning.
Bioshock Burial at Sea Episode 2 gameplay
My biggest gripe with Bioshock Infinite Burial at Sea Episode One was that the story was being told at the expense of gameplay. The same can’t quite be said for Burial at Sea Episode 2. Episode 2’s gameplay is actually better in parts than the original Bioshock Infinite.
I said that Elizabeth lacks Booker’s strength and confidence. So Episode 2’s gameplay feels like a return to the roots of Bioshock’s opening chapter. Elizabeth is small, weak and is predisposed to screaming when Splicers turn up. You’ve got to consider your actions a lot more carefully. No more running head-first into a firefight with three splicers. Jack managed it, Booker would have taken it in his stride. But Elizabeth has to choose her fights. You’ve got top use your heard. Opting for distraction and manoeuvre will keep you alive longer than fighting.
Pulling guards away from their patrols to dispatch them with a sneak attack becomes the order of the day. The plasmids which Elizabeth finds reinforce the sneaky play style. Possession has more weight than ever and the new “Peeping Tom” plasmid is probablt the best plasmid in any Bioshock game. It basically renders Elizabeth invisible and gives you Batman vision.
Burial at Sea Episode 2 conjures up the same fear horror we got in the first Bioshock game. It returns the game to its thematic roots, which is probably the point. More than ever Episode 2 encourages traversal and non-lethal takedowns. It’s seriously rewarding to move through whole sections of the game without being seen or heard at all. Despite these stealth segments being a lovely rich meal, there just isn’t enough of it. Episode 2 is still a bit of a narrative vehicle. Less so than Episode one, but it does still feel a bit like a walking simulator in parts.
Bioshock Infinite Burial at Sea best bits
The use of colour was my favourite part of Bioshock Infinite. Burial at Sea Episode 2 is no different. Look at the screenshots, the colour palette is just off the chain. The visual contrast between the darker areas of Rapture and the super-sunny Columbia is incredible. I don’t think I’ve seen a video game concentrating so well on colour since the 16-bit era.
The visual style and unique gameplay mechanics would have made a great game as-is. If Burial at Sea had a 15-hour-long story, it would be a standalone hit. It’s a bit of a shame that Burial at Sea worked out the way it did. With Irrational closing its doors and the IP going up the pipe to 2K, it’s likely that this is the end of the line for Bioshock.
Burial at Sea Episode 2 is not only a great swansong for the series, but also for Irrational Games and even for this generation of games. If Burial at Sea had been a full release game, it could have been better than Bioshock Infinite. Burial at Sea’s ending, in Raff’s own words, “might be better than the original Bioshock”. It’s certainly an absolute banger and something I would highly recommend to bookend the Bioshock experience.
Those interested in playing Burial at Sea would be best suited to pay out for the Season Pass. It works out cheaper than both episodes put together, plus comes bundled with the Clash in the Clouds challenge maps.