Anyone else disappointed by the turn the story takes?

#1 Posted by BoG (5180 posts) -

So, this topic has spoilers for everything. I won't mark them. You've been warned.

First off, I want to say that I loved the game, and I enjoyed the story. The story is not what I wanted, and that's ok. I'm a bit bummed about it right now, but I'll get over it. I just want to mention a few of the themes and ideas the story presents and then doesn't explore on a deep level, something that I would have loved. I am a student of American politics, and some of the issues which are part of the games setting would have been fun to explore. But they aren't. I'll elaborate.

The original Bioshock was about the setting. Rapture was a city founded on an idea, and idea which eventually tore it apart. Columbia is exactly the same, a city founded on an idea (Side note: that ending means so much right here!) Columbia is a city founded on the idea of America. American exceptionalism is the defining philosophy of the city. Columbia is American Exceptionalism taken to its most extreme level, the results being the worship of our founding fathers, preservation of extreme ideas (racial purity), and demonizing of those who would do away with that extremism (Abraham Lincoln). These religious ideas lead the city to rally behind their prophet and secede from "the so-called union," the "Sodom below" to preserve their vision of America.

This idea is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Going into infinite, I didn't really know that they created a fictional American Exceptionalist religion. When I entered Columbia, I was blown away. The idea was so cool. I'm very interested in (and critical of) American Exceptionalism. (Furthermore an American religion which probably inspired Levine's fictional one has played a big role in my life, Mormonism, but that is less important). I thought that this was an interesting worst-case scenario of American Exceptionalism, in the same way that the original game is an Ayn Rand worst case scenario.

I would have loved it if the game explored the evils of American Exceptionalism. It doesn't. It showcases it, and then changes subjects. Maybe we see how the idea can be intolerant and lead to violence, but the game never goes further than that.

Why didn't the writers see fit to describe a conflict between Columbia and the United States? Why didn't they go deeper into the motivation for secession? Why didn't they expound the radical doctrine of Comstock? These, and so many more ideas, would have been so interesting. There were so many ideas that would have made for a good story, but they didn't use them.

Again, I liked the game and the story, so I'll get over it. I'm just a bit bummed that the game created the perfect setting for a story about American Exceptionalism, and then went in a totally different direction.

Thoughts?

#2 Posted by Bocam (3665 posts) -

Cause the story was never about that. It's about Booker and Elizabeth's relationship.

#3 Edited by Tidel (360 posts) -

I would argue the game very much tells a story about American Exceptionalism, but just doesn't end there. All the things you seem to think are lacking -- the secession, the doctorine -- are there, built into the world, in newsreels, in the behaviour of the people of Columbia, in the Vox.

I think it's more than enough that so the world feels weighted and considered and all-too plausible in that dystopian way, but the story it tells is at once much bigger and far more intimate -- it's about the whole multiverse; choice, regret; the many tragic lives of two people.

#4 Edited by Chaser324 (6247 posts) -

Maybe it's a bit disappointing that those concepts of nationalism, religion, racism, etc. aren't explored a bit more, but I give the game a ton of credit for addressing them in any capacity and especially for doing so with maturity and touches of subtlety. In an era where the vast majority of games out there are straight-forward dude-bro romps, it's incredible just to see a AAA game from a major publisher with the courage to even try to be about something. For it to actually be largely successful at it, makes it even more impressive.

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#5 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

I didn't mind the overall story once it got to the end, but I found the exchanges between Elizabeth and Booker lackluster at best.

The real disappointing part of the game is how gloomy it becomes. It's so visually striking at first when everything is bright and colourful, but all of that goes away and doesn't return quite quickly.

#6 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

No, I really enjoyed having my expectations fux0red all over again.

@sooty said:

The real disappointing part of the game is how gloomy it becomes. It's so visually striking at first when everything is bright and colourful, but all of that goes away and doesn't return quite quickly.

I'm inclined to agree. My favorite parts of the game are when you're zipping around skylines in this huge, colorful sky-city and mangling dudes' faces.

The asylum part was fun because it was short and turned the gameplay on its head, but most of the combat after that was not quite as satisfying.

#7 Posted by TheManWithNoPlan (5112 posts) -

The American exceptionalism taken to the extreme was really just a backdrop to the actual story. I can see being disappointed about the ideas not being explored more, but I'm glad it didn't touch more on it, as it might've gotten a little too preachy or worse. I mean they were already touching on some really knarly racial elements. I'm glad they stuck to Booker and Elizabeth's story and left Columbia's racial/class war in the backdrop as the game went on.

#8 Edited by selfconfessedcynic (2495 posts) -

@chaser324 said:

Maybe it's a bit disappointing that those concepts of nationalism, religion, racism, etc. aren't explored a bit more, but I give the game a ton of credit for addressing them in any capacity and especially for doing so with maturity and touches of subtlety. In an era where the vast majority of games out there are straight-forward dude-bro romps, it's incredible just to see a AAA game from a major publisher with the courage to even try to be about something. For it to actually be largely successful at it, makes it even more impressive.

Though I agree with your sentiment here, I would argue that - outside of the core story which is incredibly well executed - Irrational was anything BUT subtle.

I love the game but, unlike @bog apparently, I found the world overpoweringly overdone for the first 1-2 hours after you get into Columbia. I actually put the game down for a day, sick of being bludgeoned over the head with information I had processed and understood within the first few seconds of being in the church. If the game did go on to the elements bog describes, then I call into question whether the approach used at its beginning - which so enamoured him - is remotely feasible or digestible over an entire game.

On my part, I'm thankful that the world itself takes a back seat deeper in and, as others have stated, the story focuses intimately upon the two leads. I haven't cared so much about characters in a game since Uncharted 2 (with the relationship between Drake and Elena).

#9 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

@chaser324 said:

Maybe it's a bit disappointing that those concepts of nationalism, religion, racism, etc. aren't explored a bit more, but I give the game a ton of credit for addressing them in any capacity and especially for doing so with maturity and touches of subtlety. In an era where the vast majority of games out there are straight-forward dude-bro romps, it's incredible just to see a AAA game from a major publisher with the courage to even try to be about something. For it to actually be largely successful at it, makes it even more impressive.

On my part, I'm thankful that the world itself takes a back seat deeper in and, as others have stated, the story focuses intimately upon the two leads. I haven't cared so much about characters in a game since Uncharted 2 (with the relationship between Drake and Elena).

Really? Booker to me is a pretty dull character, not helped by that voice actor being in what feels like every game released in the last 2 years.

#10 Edited by Incapability (197 posts) -

I agree that the setting was interesting, I found the world and story to be incredibly fascinating - the way there were weird, barbershop quartet and fairground organ versions of 80's pop music, the worship of the founding fathers as gods, the whole larger than life thing everything had going on, and the full-on, blatant racism and bigotry that was just so prevalent - but I think exploring where that came from wouldn't produce satisfying answers. I don't think it would ultimately be interesting, it would just be "Zachary Comstock is a huge fucking racist piece of shit, that's why."

But at least the game had me thinking that was the point, until it starts dropping science on you. Once you reach the end, the way everything just goes off the fucking rails should be anything but disappointing.

#11 Posted by stalefishies (330 posts) -

I'll be amazed if none of the DLC directly expands on the story of Columbia and ties up the nationalism and racism stuff a lot more nicely than 'Oh, I guess she's pretty evil too, huh. Now I have to kill red guys and blue guys.' That doesn't really excuse the game itself, though.

#12 Posted by believer258 (11555 posts) -

@bocam said:

Cause the story was never about that. It's about Booker and Elizabeth's relationship.

Pretty much. Columbia is just a backdrop, fancy scenery. Very good and interesting scenery but I don't think the floating city is anywhere near as integral to the story as Rapture was to the original.

#13 Posted by rebgav (1429 posts) -

@bog: The progression of the plot and the evolution of the setting are, I think, meant to tell the story of Columbia through your in-game experience so you're ushered through the progression from Govt. sponsored propaganda tool (and weapons platform), the conspicuous injection of Comstock as a religious leader along with the souring of political relations and sudden isolation of Columbia and the seemingly inevitable corruption, rebellion, and decline. The problem that Columbia represents is not the doctrine(s) on which the city is founded but the amalgamation of politics and religion in the society and the perceived infallibility of authority. Comstock has crafted a fatalist society based on isolation and indoctrination, the specifics aren't really hugely relevant so perhaps focusing on criticizing one specific ideology would be missing the mark.

#14 Edited by manuelmagana (8 posts) -
@believer258 said:

@bocam said:

Cause the story was never about that. It's about Booker and Elizabeth's relationship.

Pretty much. Columbia is just a backdrop, fancy scenery. Very good and interesting scenery but I don't think the floating city is anywhere near as integral to the story as Rapture was to the original.

::spoiler alert::

Can't say I agree. I think it was about Booker, Elizabeth, and Comstock's relationship. Without Comstock's "rebirth," Columbia would not have existed. Without Columbia existing, the events of Bioshock: Infinite would probably not have occurred: the Twins/Elizabeth/whomever would have never been able to bring Booker to Columbia to "rescue Elizabeth" from Comstock.

The folks over at Irrational used a one-two punch of multiverse theory and time travel theory to tell their story.

Granted, the story could have been set in Rapture, or any other location that was semi-isolated from the rest of the world. Hell, it could have been set on the island (islands?) from Lost and the same story could possibly have been told.

But without Columbia, it would no longer be Bioshock: Infinite as we know it.

#15 Posted by believer258 (11555 posts) -

@believer258 said:

@bocam said:

Cause the story was never about that. It's about Booker and Elizabeth's relationship.

Pretty much. Columbia is just a backdrop, fancy scenery. Very good and interesting scenery but I don't think the floating city is anywhere near as integral to the story as Rapture was to the original.

::spoiler alert::

Can't say I agree. I think it was about Booker, Elizabeth, and Comstock's relationship. Without Comstock's "rebirth," Columbia would not have existed. Without Columbia existing, the events of Bioshock: Infinite would probably not have occurred: the Twins/Elizabeth/whomever would have never been able to bring Booker to Columbia to "rescue Elizabeth" from Comstock.

The folks over at Irrational used a one-two punch of multiverse theory and time travel theory to tell their story.

Granted, the story could have been set in Rapture, or any other location that was semi-isolated from the rest of the world. Hell, it could have been set on the island (islands?) from Lost and the same story could possibly have been told.

But without Columbia, it would no longer be Bioshock: Infinite as we know it.

I've already beaten the game so you didn't spoil anything for me, but we have spoiler blocks here. Please, use them, especially for this game.

#16 Posted by Jeffsekai (7025 posts) -

I really loved the way the story ended up.

#17 Posted by manuelmagana (8 posts) -

@believer258: sorry. no idea how I missed the "spoiler block" thing up in the task bar. Will do.

#18 Posted by mrfluke (5044 posts) -

@bocam said:

Cause the story was never about that. It's about Booker and Elizabeth's relationship.

this,

aand ken levine was asked to turn down the religious commentary in the game.

#19 Edited by StarvingGamer (7899 posts) -

DLC

#20 Posted by MildMolasses (3211 posts) -

The American exceptionalism taken to the extreme was really just a backdrop to the actual story. I can see being disappointed about the ideas not being explored more, but I'm glad it didn't touch more on it, as it might've gotten a little too preachy or worse. I mean they were already touching on some really knarly racial elements. I'm glad they stuck to Booker and Elizabeth's story and left Columbia's racial/class war in the backdrop as the game went on.

To me it was a red herring to distract from the real story being told. It was a concept used to lure you into this being called Bioshock. You're an outsider, working your way into an ultra-isolated haven for an extremist group of people. Its a trick to take your focus off of the why and put it on to the what of the situation. Thus when going in, and I admit I'm making an assumption for a lot of people, we are trying to figure out what happened to this place how did it get to be the way it is. However that isn't story that Irrational is telling us. They are explaining why this story seems so familiar.

It's a lot like MGS 2, where you're going along with the story, and finding a lot of similarities to the first game, when they just pull the curtain back and tell you the whole thing was an experiment to recreate the events of the first game and see if there was a similar outcome. It's all about creating expectations going in that they can use to tell an even larger story. Its all a sleight of hand trick

#21 Edited by Ares42 (2546 posts) -

My big quandry is how we went from a game that clearly had things to say and the developers saying they didn't want to make a sequel unless they had something new to say, and people are content with the idea that their new thing is "Time Travel, BITCHES!".

#22 Posted by selfconfessedcynic (2495 posts) -

@sooty said:

@selfconfessedcynic said:

@chaser324 said:

Maybe it's a bit disappointing that those concepts of nationalism, religion, racism, etc. aren't explored a bit more, but I give the game a ton of credit for addressing them in any capacity and especially for doing so with maturity and touches of subtlety. In an era where the vast majority of games out there are straight-forward dude-bro romps, it's incredible just to see a AAA game from a major publisher with the courage to even try to be about something. For it to actually be largely successful at it, makes it even more impressive.

On my part, I'm thankful that the world itself takes a back seat deeper in and, as others have stated, the story focuses intimately upon the two leads. I haven't cared so much about characters in a game since Uncharted 2 (with the relationship between Drake and Elena).

Really? Booker to me is a pretty dull character, not helped by that voice actor being in what feels like every game released in the last 2 years.

Call me a sucker for redemption stories : )

For me, Booker's dealing with his past and his need for redemption drove the story just as much as Elizabeth's desires for freedom and revenge. Also, I've been a fan of Troy Baker since he voiced Kanji, shrug.

#23 Edited by DystopiaX (5291 posts) -

No, I really enjoyed having my expectations fux0red all over again.

@sooty said:

The real disappointing part of the game is how gloomy it becomes. It's so visually striking at first when everything is bright and colourful, but all of that goes away and doesn't return quite quickly.

I'm inclined to agree. My favorite parts of the game are when you're zipping around skylines in this huge, colorful sky-city and mangling dudes' faces.

The asylum part was fun because it was short and turned the gameplay on its head, but most of the combat after that was not quite as satisfying.

I liked it because it was a contrast- you see the city as it is intended to be perceived by Comstock- as a utopia, and then later in the game you walk through the same environments and they're burning and broken and shit. The dark nature of the latter half of the game fits with the story they're telling IMO. It would be weirder for everything to go to shit and everything is still bright pastel colors.

#24 Posted by Dahnosaur (19 posts) -

No, the ending was the best part of the game by far. Beautiful and perfect, I would say.

#25 Posted by BoG (5180 posts) -

@ares42 said:

My big quandry is how we went from a game that clearly had things to say and the developers saying they didn't want to make a sequel unless they had something new to say, and people are content with the idea that their new thing is "Time Travel, BITCHES!".

I have to agree. As much as I enjoyd the story, an exploration of American Exceptionalism would be unique in the world of video games. Time travel is old news.

#26 Edited by Karkarov (2939 posts) -

I mostly concur, I dig where they went with the story, but I found myself enjoying the first half of the game more than the second half. I also didn't like that 75% of the plot was held back until the last 2-3 hours of a game that takes probably 15 or so if you play it thoroughly.

#27 Posted by Ares42 (2546 posts) -

@bog:

Well, as I've eluded to in other threads, I believe there's more to it, but people seem to just be stuck on the time travel stuff because apparently that's really neat. It's almost like noone watched Looper, "it's time travel, it will not stand up to scrutiny, just deal with it".

#28 Posted by golguin (3830 posts) -

@ares42 said:

@bog:

Well, as I've eluded to in other threads, I believe there's more to it, but people seem to just be stuck on the time travel stuff because apparently that's really neat. It's almost like noone watched Looper, "it's time travel, it will not stand up to scrutiny, just deal with it".

I think the whole multiverse idea is pretty fresh. I can't think of any fiction that's dealt with it. Time travel stories are a dime a dozen, but this isn't time travel.

#29 Posted by BlatantNinja23 (930 posts) -

Nope, I was happy with how it turned out

#30 Posted by Ares42 (2546 posts) -

@golguin: Any time travel plot that is not just playing out the inevitable is by definition a multiverse plot. The idea that you can travel back/forward in time and change events inherently means that you're not overwriting history but rather creating a new dimension, as if it in fact changed the same story line it would sooner or later collapse on itself. While the story of Bioshock Infinite might not directly be about the main characters travelling back and forward in time it's absolutely about changing events at different points of a timeline leading to different outcomes, just like any other time travel plot.

#31 Posted by golguin (3830 posts) -

@ares42 said:

@golguin: Any time travel plot that is not just playing out the inevitable is by definition a multiverse plot. The idea that you can travel back/forward in time and change events inherently means that you're not overwriting history but rather creating a new dimension, as if it in fact changed the same story line it would sooner or later collapse on itself. While the story of Bioshock Infinite might not directly be about the main characters travelling back and forward in time it's absolutely about changing events at different points of a timeline leading to different outcomes, just like any other time travel plot.

Yes, it is about arriving at a desired reality. However, it is not so much changing events as it is looking for the reality where the events change in the manner you require. Their end goal was to prevent a specific variable from existing in their multiverse and while the idea of a multiverse allows for every possible iteration to exist (even mundane stuff like towels being a different color or having tea instead of coffee as Elizabeth mentioned in the elevator scene) you can believe that Elizabeth has god like powers and is able to erase that variable.

In the grand scheme of things it isn't much different, but in the context of the story it is everything. They didn't fix the Chen Lin death by going back in time and stopping him from getting tortured. They jumped into a different universe where he didn't die because he was white instead of Asian. Both ways would have worked, but the fiction says we live in a multiverse where the quantum theory rules.

#32 Posted by Ares42 (2546 posts) -

@golguin: Well, putting a new wrapper on it doesn't really make it fresh =) And still, it doesn't change the fact that that part is just another story and not some grander expression like we saw in Bioshock. Not saying it's a bad story or anything, but it's still a disappointment if that is all there is to take away from the game. Especially considering they make an effort to touch on bold themes that aren't really necessary for that story to be told. It would basically mean that they used those themes just as attention-grabbers without having anything specific to say.

#33 Edited by Encephalon (1238 posts) -

I was surprised what Infinite was really about at first, but I've actually come to appreciate the hard left turn the story takes.

If they put more of a focus on Columbia, I feel the story would be too analogous to Bioshock's: "Wow, look at this outlandish city founded on lofty ideals! Oh shit, these ideals taken to their extreme are monstrous, now everything is fucked!" approach. There's probably a great story to be told about a super patriotic sky city, played relatively straight without the multiverse craziness, but I doubt Irrational could make it feel terribly fresh in the wake of Bioshock.

#34 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

@ravenlight said:

No, I really enjoyed having my expectations fux0red all over again.

@sooty said:

The real disappointing part of the game is how gloomy it becomes. It's so visually striking at first when everything is bright and colourful, but all of that goes away and doesn't return quite quickly.

I'm inclined to agree. My favorite parts of the game are when you're zipping around skylines in this huge, colorful sky-city and mangling dudes' faces.

The asylum part was fun because it was short and turned the gameplay on its head, but most of the combat after that was not quite as satisfying.

I liked it because it was a contrast- you see the city as it is intended to be perceived by Comstock- as a utopia, and then later in the game you walk through the same environments and they're burning and broken and shit. The dark nature of the latter half of the game fits with the story they're telling IMO. It would be weirder for everything to go to shit and everything is still bright pastel colors.

I think it being colourful made it creepier, I'm not saying the whole game should have been like that but I'd liked more of it to have been, it's a much better looking game when it's bright and saturated.

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