(SPOILERS) Why I'm disappointed with Bioshock Infinite's ending

Posted by MAguilera (90 posts) -

Let me first state that I thoroughly enjoyed the game. I started on Hard difficulty and was challenged in all of the places that you would think. Despite the title of this post I am ok with the fiction that is presented at the end of Infinite. Going through the game a second time and listening to the spoilercast gave me a few extra things to think about and the concept of an infinite number of stories works for me.

My disappointment in the ending of the game comes from a compliment I want to give the rest of the game. They did an excellent job of making me emotionally invested in the relationship between DeWitt and Elizabeth. I have tried to think of other times that I was so invested in a character or even the events of a story. Shadow of the Colossus comes to mind, but I'm confident there are better examples. Elizabeth never was a burden, and they did such a fantastic job moving her emotionally from the girl who twirls at the thought of a Paris to the woman who wants to end suffering that I jumped on that wagon as well. Towards the end of the game, after all of the savage Vox Populi attacks on the city, after they tortured Elizabeth and I rescued her again, all I wanted to do was get her to safety. I wanted to end the Chaos that the game had clearly descended into with the Founder-headed people in the asylum. I felt like the game had built to a wonderful crescendo.

But then the story took a turn and changed the meaning of the game to the metaverse and broad concepts of what "Bioshock" is as a story. I found that interesting, and although it felt like a distraction from the broader story I thought we were moving in the right (for me) when we learned that Anna/Elizabeth was DeWitt's child. The broad story arc of protecting and saving Elizabeth fit well into that. Then it became about how DeWitt is Comstock just before the game ended.

Playing the original Bioshock was about Rapture (at least to me). Trying to understand the city, it's players and how everything went down. Infinite stopped being about Columbia as soon as you go through the first tear (I believe Brad pointed out this in the spoilercast) your understanding of what makes Columbia interesting fades. You struggle to understand how this Columbia is different from the last but then you jump again and at that point it is no longer about the city. That works just fine, because (unlike the original Bioshock) it is now about the girl. But then at the very end the story doesn't deliver on the new paradigm.

So my beef with the ending is that while Bioshock was about a man and a city (that lighthouse thing is bullshit in my opinion), Infinite was about a man and a woman. At least it was through all of the game, but then in the end it decides to be about a commentary on infinite possibilities and doesn't close the chapter opened by your journey with Elizabeth.

Great game. Good mechanics. Fucking excellent story, but while the ending closes the story told by the Bioshock franchise (I agree they can't really make another one that is a worthy heir) it doesn't close the story presented in the game.

I

#1 Edited by Bourbon_Warrior (4523 posts) -

The difference I find is in Bioshock the city is already in ruins, some bad shit went down there and you piece it together though audio logs, where as you get to experience what Columbia is about in Inifinite at various times you see it in motion with the NPC's just living life and learn about the dark side of the city the further you get in. I don't know if I would of been as satisfied if the end was just you and Elizabeth going to Paris to live happily ever after, would of just been like "yep, that was a video game story", but what they created with the fiction was way deeper that the simple rescue the princess from the tower trope and I probably wouldn't of even considered this game a masterpiece.

#3 Posted by StarvingGamer (7915 posts) -

I thought the post-credits scene did exactly that, brought the Booker/Elizabeth arc to a satisfying conclusion.

#4 Posted by Bourbon_Warrior (4523 posts) -

I thought the post-credits scene did exactly that, brought the Booker/Elizabeth arc to a satisfying conclusion.

I thought it was just his afterlife.

#5 Posted by MAguilera (90 posts) -

Good Points.

@starvinggamer: I'll agree that the post-credit scene dealt with the resolution but it also kind of felt incomplete. If the goal of that scene was to give you some resolution, then show Anna in the crib.

@tarsier: Nope. I was genuinely concerned for Elizabeth and wanted her out of the trap she had been in the whole game. I think part of it tapped into learning she was your child and being a father of a daughter myself.

@bourbon_warrior: I agree that if the ending was just Elizabeth and DeWitt end up in Paris wouldn't have felt right either. It would have been a video game ending and the game wouldn't be as special. The point that I am trying to make isn't so much about how the ending should change (I think it should stay the way it is) but more about how I felt the story drove hard in one direction then turned all of a sudden into a radically different story at the end and I was left hanging with an incomplete ending to the story I had become invested in. To be more clear, my disappointment isn't more with the ending that is there, but more based in the ending that wasn't there and how surprised I am that I cared about that ending (a resolution to Elizabeth's arc) so much.

#6 Edited by Winternet (8000 posts) -

By the end, the game does make a left turn and loses focus on what was really important in the game, the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth.

Regarding the post-credits scene, I don't think we can give it any importance. It's not part of the game.

#7 Posted by EXTomar (4446 posts) -

I'm actually quite happy with the way the game ended where I would point to another example that completely borked the ending called Mass Effect 3. I don't need a happy ending. I don't even need a completely bulletproof ending. But I do need an ending that is earned and thematically complete and I feel like Bioshock Infinite earns the ending.

#8 Posted by Rasmoss (426 posts) -

The problem I have is that I was emotionally invested but the story becomes more of a brain exercise, that for the last part of the game just keeps throwing plot at you. In the end I found the story interesting but it didn't affect me that much. Especially as the point seems to be that nothing you did matters.

#9 Edited by Bourbon_Warrior (4523 posts) -

@maguilera: Yeah it feels that way until you replay it and realize pretty much everything in the story was so deliberate, so many times during the 1st playthrough I thought "well that was weird and unnecessary", like the twins making you flip the coin etc.

#10 Posted by rebgav (1429 posts) -

Then ending sequence does too much heavy-lifting. Trying to resolve the story of Infinite while laying out the structure of the universe (which itself is like a metacommentary on the shock franchise/games in general) while also throwing two (three!) narrative twists at you, and doing that while having to build the logical framework for the final baptism scene causes the ending to be incredibly densely-packed and I can see that making it difficult to follow the first time though, especially if you haven't discovered all of the audiologs which inform the narrative. It would probably be okay if the sequence were longer so that the information could decompress a little bit but that would probably cause issues of its own. Ideally, they could have divulged some of the information earlier but looking at the game as-is it's hard to see where or how it would fit.

I think that the more familiar you are with the specifics of the story the stronger the ending is but the online reaction after a first playthrough has tended to be that it's frustratingly cerebral or a bewildering mind-fuck and I'm not convinced that is the intention.

#11 Posted by MAguilera (90 posts) -

@rebgav: The density of the final scenes was an issue (at least for me). I felt like the number of twists left me looking at the story I wasn't interested in (or hadn't had time to become interested in).

@bourbon_warrior: I'm going back through on 1999 mode and am looking at those seemingly irrelevant moments again. It certainly is insightful. Perhaps this time through with my focus more on the DeWitt/Comstock relationship I will be invested in the story that the ending resolves.

I still think my disappointment stands. Not in the quality of the ending (again, I think it was a strong ending), but in the feeling that I read one book, only to find the ending of another book in the last few pages. Now I'm being told that I need to read the book again, and realize that the actual story (the one that fits the ending) was written in the footnotes of the book I was told to read. Even if I do read this second book (which I am and enjoying), what about the ending of the first one?

#12 Posted by mordukai (7125 posts) -

I really don't think it's meant to close the story. Personally I think the Infinite name is because the story is infinite and will always loop itself back around. I really think, like Ryan has, that this particular "loop" that we got to play is that at least one of them broke away from the usual formula.

When I finished the game there I couldn't help but remember what Tricia Helfer's character said at the very end of BSG "Let a complex system repeat itself long enough eventually something surprising might occur."

That's how I see it anyways.

#13 Posted by Rasmoss (426 posts) -

@mordukai said:

I really don't think it's meant to close the story. Personally I think the Infinite name is because the story is infinite and will always loop itself back around. I really think, like Ryan has, that this particular "loop" that we got to play is that at least one of them broke away from the usual formula.

When I finished the game there I couldn't help but remember what Tricia Helfer's character said at the very end of BSG "Let a complex system repeat itself long enough eventually something surprising might occur."

That's how I see it anyways.

But the point is that every time a choice is made, a new universe is spawned. This coupled with the fact that the result of every choice in a universe is already given (making everything that happens pretermined), it must mean that even the Lutece Fields must be a result of an inevitable chain of consequences. So the event of the game is just playing out in a way where the outcome is given from the start.

#15 Posted by Winternet (8000 posts) -

@maguilera: That's one of the problems. The conflict between Booker and Comstock is pretty nonexistent throughout the game, so when the game focus on that in the end, it doesn't have a strong impact.

#16 Posted by StarvingGamer (7915 posts) -

@starvinggamer: I'll agree that the post-credit scene dealt with the resolution but it also kind of felt incomplete. If the goal of that scene was to give you some resolution, then show Anna in the crib.

But that's kind of the thing right, with this kind of flippy dippy alternate reality time travel parallel universe sort of story? Give your audience just enough to work themselves up with speculation. Like Inception.

#17 Edited by MAguilera (90 posts) -

@starvinggamer: True, that is a common trope. Give the audience just enough information to keep them speculating. It certainly seems like that is happening, but if I spend my time speculating then given the infinite realty situation there is no resolution. For all we know a walrus could be in that crib depending on what reality we are in t the time. What is the point of that speculation if there is infinite possibility? At that point it comes down to faith. I choose that Anna is in that crib because that is what I want to believe, but there is no logical justification for that standpoint given infinite options.

As I think about this more I wonder if an opportunity was missed to have a slight message on the significance of your reality. While much of the end of the game establishes that you don't really have a choice in many of these matter, the ending baptism would suggest that you do (even if that is antithetical to the previous message). Maybe there should be a Voxophone about how despite the infinite realities your decisions shape your reality and the choice you made to kill yourself/Comstock led to a reality where you still have your daughter? While there are still infinite other options this is the one you get to live in. One vox about it wouldn't tip the scales completely against the ending narrative but would also validate the post-credit ending as having some significance.

#18 Edited by mordukai (7125 posts) -

@rasmoss: Probably. All we got is one thread of the overall story arch. As far as everything being predetermined then it's really up to the viewer. The Lutece definitely give you that impression. However, they also give the impression that this time things might turn differently as does the ending.

#19 Posted by OurSin_360 (825 posts) -

I think a good story is always about the characters and not the setting, i liked that columbia remand a back drop to unfold the plot rather than a focal point.

#20 Edited by Rasmoss (426 posts) -

@mordukai said:

@rasmoss: Probably. All we got is one thread of the overall story arch. As far as everything being predetermined then it's really up to the viewer. The Lutece definitely give you that impression. However, they also give the impression that this time things might turn differently as does the ending.

Yeah, Lady Lutece says in the beginning that the experiment "has already failed", so I guess the fact that it succeeds shows that something new has happened. I just can't wrap my head around how that i possible with the rules they establish for Bioshock's universe.

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