Work Complete: Bioshock

I started Bioshock just a little while ago, and completed it today. I already knew every little plot point, and those that I'd forgotten were quickly remembered when I reached their scripted points. I enjoyed the secrets, the audiofiles, the rescuing of innocents, the happy ending. It does say something, either about the craft or the tropes they used, that I was affected emotionally by saving the Little Sisters even though I knew it was coming. Not heavily, but you know, enough to note it.

I liked the modding, though all the options grew unwieldy toward the end. I felt my character had a bell curve of personalization, where there wasn't much to start, and toward the end I pretty much had everything I wanted, with Adam to spare. I don't see myself replaying it any time soon; all the mods I wanted I took, and I don't see the game playing out substantially differently if I pick one mod earlier than another. Maybe a bit, but not much.

Bioshock did manage to provide a successful advertisement for Bioshock Infinite, because it looks like they'll be doing more of this limited complexity and customization that runs fairly smoothly from one signpost to the next, and if they manage to get some of that incidental AI randomness that will sweeten it somewhat. I've been told that B2 is better in some ways, though some of the buzz has worn off, so I may seek it out down the road. I'm also curious about System Shock 1 and 2, they being spiritually connected, though I don't know if I have access to the first one, unless it's through the second's disc?

It was a positive experience overall, and I can see why it made the impact it did, a lot of love went into many of the levels, and that richness was clear early on (though it bled out later, especially when I felt that it ran a tad too long for the arc it was trying to show me). I sorta wish it had a longevity mode that would allow me a bit more to do on a new playthrough-- I guess I could hunt down extra secrets and try to see if I found all the audio logs. Sounds a bit tedious, though. Also, as much as I felt the context was fine as far as shootin' folks was concerned, I'm a bit tapped out on the murder-as-solution mechanic for the time being. Not sure if there's much out there that'll help recharge my batteries. Maybe I should get back to making my own games and see if I can put my effort where my typing fingers are, with regard to alternate kinds of conflict resolution.

Anyone out there still waiting to play Bioshock? Any long-term opinions on this game? It must seem pretty old to many of you.

19 Comments
20 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure

I started Bioshock just a little while ago, and completed it today. I already knew every little plot point, and those that I'd forgotten were quickly remembered when I reached their scripted points. I enjoyed the secrets, the audiofiles, the rescuing of innocents, the happy ending. It does say something, either about the craft or the tropes they used, that I was affected emotionally by saving the Little Sisters even though I knew it was coming. Not heavily, but you know, enough to note it.

I liked the modding, though all the options grew unwieldy toward the end. I felt my character had a bell curve of personalization, where there wasn't much to start, and toward the end I pretty much had everything I wanted, with Adam to spare. I don't see myself replaying it any time soon; all the mods I wanted I took, and I don't see the game playing out substantially differently if I pick one mod earlier than another. Maybe a bit, but not much.

Bioshock did manage to provide a successful advertisement for Bioshock Infinite, because it looks like they'll be doing more of this limited complexity and customization that runs fairly smoothly from one signpost to the next, and if they manage to get some of that incidental AI randomness that will sweeten it somewhat. I've been told that B2 is better in some ways, though some of the buzz has worn off, so I may seek it out down the road. I'm also curious about System Shock 1 and 2, they being spiritually connected, though I don't know if I have access to the first one, unless it's through the second's disc?

It was a positive experience overall, and I can see why it made the impact it did, a lot of love went into many of the levels, and that richness was clear early on (though it bled out later, especially when I felt that it ran a tad too long for the arc it was trying to show me). I sorta wish it had a longevity mode that would allow me a bit more to do on a new playthrough-- I guess I could hunt down extra secrets and try to see if I found all the audio logs. Sounds a bit tedious, though. Also, as much as I felt the context was fine as far as shootin' folks was concerned, I'm a bit tapped out on the murder-as-solution mechanic for the time being. Not sure if there's much out there that'll help recharge my batteries. Maybe I should get back to making my own games and see if I can put my effort where my typing fingers are, with regard to alternate kinds of conflict resolution.

Anyone out there still waiting to play Bioshock? Any long-term opinions on this game? It must seem pretty old to many of you.

Posted by Geno

I played it, but didn't really get it. Not really sure what it was trying to be, or what the story was trying to get across from a moral perspective. The gameplay was also a little iffy, didn't really find much impetus to do anything but headshot people with my gun since it was way more effective than using any of my powers. Wasn't bad, but wasn't the singular experience a lot of other people found it to be. 

Edited by NTM

Bioshock is and always has been a fantastic game to me, it's not one where I'll go on and on about how good it is, but it's special to me. It's also one of the few games I'll never understand why someone dislikes it. I know, opinions, but still. There are people that dislike the combat, and while I wouldn't say the combat is the main reason to play Bioshock, I personally don't think it's bad. I love taking guys bodies with telekinesis and throwing their dead bodies at foes, and just using the powers and weapons creatively. I mean, if you were to just run and gun all the way through, I can see why that at times would be somewhat dull, but it's not the purpose.

Also, the atmosphere, I mean... that's amazing. Whenever someone would mention the words, best, atmosphere, and game, I think, Bioshock. Bioshock is one of my favorite games ever made, I have it on all of the systems (360, PS3, and PC), and beat it multiple times, but it's also very awkward because it's not really a game that has sequels or prequels I get that excited about, nor is it a game I use words of praise about since it's not a game I talk about much. That's not to say I didn't think Bioshock 2 was great, or that Bioshock Infinite doesn't look fantastic, I just don't really think about the game quite as much as other games to come out. I don't know; Bioshock is really kind of weird to me in ways.

Like I said, Bioshock is special.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

@Geno: As far as gameplay, I felt similarly. I did enjoy getting blind-sided and having to react, and having to manage my stuff. I did find that the dynamic loot system meant I never really was in dire need of very much for most of the game, though. Less survival horror than spikes of activity followed by lots of scavenging. I can't imagine enjoying it as much if I'd played it on the lower difficulty levels, either.

@NTM: That creativity helps a lot, yeah. Picking up stuff with TK was a favorite, although it made things a bit easy, sort of corpse yo-yo where I'd pick the same thing up again and again and batter someone to death with it. But the very idea is amusing to me somehow. I did find the powers were less appealing than the weaponry, though. I didn't use them nearly as much as I did the machinegun, pistol, finally crossbow.

The atmosphere was good; it seemed to channel an era EARLIER than it was actually supposed to depict, though, and I wonder if part of that stemmed from their originally wanting to set it earlier. I realize that they're effectively having cultural evolution in an alternate parallel to topside culture, but at times it nudged a bit too closely to the Fallout aesthetic to seem as original as it wanted to be. The water effects, the general mood, though, were fun.

I get what you mean, though, and I'm guessing you probably played it pretty early on, before stuff was spoiled. I don't know how I might have reacted had I been more invested in the story than I was. I paid the price for watching someone play it, I suppose, although I got a lot out of it just by watching. The tactile side of things, the gameplay, was what I more picked up on this time, and I'd say it wasn't profound, but it was different enough and customizable enough that it was much less cumbersome than I'd anticipated, letting me enjoy it for what it was rather than being annoyed by whatever anachronisms it might have had.

Thanks for your thoughts, both of you.

Posted by Mnemoidian

For me, gameplay and story is all secondary to a single moment in that game, a singular experience that I'm probably remembering way more fondly than it actually is...

The "Would you kindly" reveal. I remember struggling to disprove it, but realizing that every time Atlas had said those 3 words, I'd gone ahead and done what he wanted me to. Effectively, he'd mind controlled me, and I hadn't even realized it.

It's pretty difficult to follow up on something like that, though.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

@Mnemoidian: Yeah, they were pretty meticulous about it, and that totally deserved to be a meme for that reason. It was described as a "Brechtian" touch by someone at Rock Paper Shotgun but not being familiar with that guy's work, I don't know quite what it means. That whole sequence leading up to the reveal helped cement the incident, though. People say it's a commentary on games as a whole, and it kind of is, but it doesn't seem to go anywhere after that as some have pointed out. But it was quite rewarding, no doubt. It was one of the first times I've ever seen a narrative actually admit its own nature. I guess I'm a fan of things getting a bit meta at times :)

Posted by NTM

@ahoodedfigure: Yes, I was going to add that I had played the game when it first came out; it wasn't even a game I had been extremely excited about. My brother thought "Well, it's another FPS, better get it!" and he just told me once we put it in "Alright, why don't you beat it?" Or something like that, 'cause I was the only one to beat the game. I also remember it was one of those games I thought looked quite interesting 'cause I saw its first reveal, and an opinion of that was about as far as got to knowing anything Bioshock, so when I had finally played it, I was very surprised. Also, the ending surprise...

If I can spoil something here, I didn't even know Andrew Ryan was the main characters father and I assumed the twist was Fontaine not being the character I thought he was, it wasn't until later when I was reading stuff that I figured out what the actual twist was, but by then I was like, "Oh..." I guess at the time I didn't really know exactly what was going on? I'm not sure why I missed that. Oh, and I agree entirely about the whole use of weapons and powers. I too liked using the weapons a bit more, I just think it was also fun to use some powers here and there, and the whole picking up bodies and throwing them killed most people in one hit. I enjoyed it all very much.

I think the main thing though to take away from Bioshock (for me at least) is its characters and the settings revolving around them. One thing I disliked at first, and kind of still do to a very small extent, was that the game takes place in the 60's, but you go to a place that has 40 to 50's era stuff, and I would have liked it if it was modern times and you having to go to a place that felt like it went far back into the past. Like, nothing, for about 40 years had changed. That would have been more interesting to me I guess. Oh, and I didn't play the original Fallout games if that's what you were referring to, but I still think even through those, Bioshock is still extremely original.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

As a game, Bioshock can be defined as Electro-Bolt+Wrench against 90% of the enemies and the grenade launcher against the remaining 10%, all culminating in a not amazing endgame with a crappy escort sequence. As a piece of world building it's pretty great. The story itself is a tad overrated, since they are literally using the exact same twist that they used in System Shock 2 with similar results, but Bioshock can and should be considered one of the most important games of this console generation. I never played Bioshock 2, so I can't comment on if that cheapens the original or not.

I'm interested in seeing more of these impressions from you. Now that you have a fancy-schmancy computer, the last 8 or so years of PC games are open to you. A perfect opportunity to play everyone's* favorite D&D 3.5 violence simulator.

*at least, my favorite. And Mento's.

Edited by believer258

Bioshock is a really good game and I'd strongly recommend it to anyone who even remotely likes first person shooters; however, I don't quite think it's perfect. The level objectives almost always consist of going to gather pieces of something to break/open some sort of obstacle in your way and this song and dance starts to feel really grindy and bad at some points. However, an even worse idea than that is the camera that you use to take pictures of enemies to increase your damage on them. How the fuckmothering hell does that work? It would be quite excusable if it were even a good mechanic in the first place, but no - an already difficult game asks you to whip out this camera for pictures every now and then if you want to keep doing decent damage to enemies. I hate this mechanic and I sincerely don't understand why this didn't get more vehement complaints. It's the stupidest, lamest, most horrible idea I've seen in any game I can reasonably call "good".

And yes, despite my hate for the camera the game is "good". When the camera isn't in play, I find the combat pretty tough and quite satisfying. The upgrades and mods (or whatever) systems work quite well and do a good job of giving you a sense of progression and empowerment without leveling up and numbers. The guns all feel pretty powerful and the game really feels like it asks you to use your skills; same for the powers. The story is pretty good, albeit a little bit over-praised. I'm already seeing some of the "Final Fantasy 7" effect where it's been praised to the point of newcomers not really seeing why. It's good but it's not insanely great. The atmosphere is probably the game's best feature - it really nails everything about a ruined utopia where most of the denizens have lost their marbles. Hearing a Big Daddy is often enough to send chills down your spine, though the fact that they don't attack you on sight is a godsend as well as an interesting idea.

All in all, I think it's one of the highlights of this generation but I don't think it quite reaches perfection. It just scratches greatness.

EDIT: Another complaint: The hacking minigame isn't so bad until you've tried to do it to every single damn thing in a level, at which point it becomes really tiring and you'd rather just deal with high prices/dodging cameras/wasting ammo on turrets/etc.

As for Bioshock 2, if you liked the first one then you'll probably like the second one. It has its haters but I've never heard a good and proper criticism of Bioshock 2 being a turd next to Bioshock 1's gold standard. The story isn't as good but it isn't THAT bad.

EDIT 2: Completely offhand note - more games should use a "New Game Plus" feature. Actually, for that matter, I wish that more games would allow you to somehow "break" the game after beating it, i.e. letting you use the best weapons and powers throughout the entire thing. A post-game mode where you could do something like this would have been fun in Bioshock, I think.

Posted by Deusx

I think Bioshock is one of the best games I´ve played in the last 10 years. It´s definitely on my top 10 best games ever. 1st is Dark Souls though.

Posted by Hizang

I made it quite a way into Bioshock before I just got so bored and frustrated that I gave up, I got to the point after I had made the tree's all healthy or whatever. Really bummed on that game.

Posted by me3639

There is only 1 flaw in the game and that is the ending, which Ken Levine has agreed. Other than that Bioshock is in the leauge of HL-2. Its what great games will always be measured against.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

@me3639: And here I am liking the ending, at least the good one. Set a nice tone, made me feel like there was some recognition of what I did... I DO agree with Levine on why it was less than ideal, though, in that it doesn't address specific achievements or have the level of customizability you had throughout the main game. It's just a blanket ending that doesn't complement the game mechanics at all. Mechanically speaking, I'd agree that games should manage to have some level of fidelity to what they've done up to that point. I've seen other complaints about the end boss, and my own complaint about the escort mission is similar. In a way, that game really gets a lot of mileage out of its world building, but I don't think that's a bad thing, especially since it allowed Irrational to get a solid base to make more games with.

@Hizang: If you hit that point in Arcadia, then maybe there might not have been much more for you. It depends upon what you got out of the audiologs and worldbuilding, perhaps, since there are a few interesting things further in, a few pieces that come together that tell the forensic narrative in what I felt was a cool way. But yeah, if you were bored at that point it probably wasn't for you, which is cool. FIDO.

@Deusx: I'm hoping to play Dark Souls eventually when it comes out for the PC, but I'm a bit worried about some of the conversion problems they reportedly had. Seems like it might be a bit of a janky port rather than a ground-up job. Not necessarily surprised, but if it's going to be a painful thing to play it makes me wonder if it'll be worth it.

@ArbitraryWater: I knew about the wrench thing and deliberately avoided it, but then as a quick experiment I retooled my dude to be primarily wrenchy, and yeah you could really whale on guys; I was a bit bothered by how many mods allowed an increase in wrench performance. I'm not sure how it would have worked with the way I played, and on the hardest difficulty level I died quite a lot before I could have ever closed the distance. The vita chambers were actually welcome as they're just a simple quick-load as far as I'm concerned; not sure how I'd have done if I'd turned them off.

I'm not sure why, but my impression felt that some parts were too long, some parts were too short. I can't tell if that's some sort of "always 3 Acts" attitude or not on the part of the creators.

I have System Shock 2 on disc. Never played it. I wonder if it's even possible on this machine. Would be interesting to take a step back, especially since I like the Thief engine it's based on.

I'll take your murder-sim recommendation under advisement, although I guess I'll have to do some research to get the right combination of patches together?

Posted by DelroyLindo

One of my fondest memories of that game was setting up a gauntlet of traps, shooting a Big Daddy in the face and watching him run towards me through all of them and dying by my feet.

Felt good.

Posted by Nentisys

I honestly think System Shock 2 was better in every single way. (except graphics)

Posted by ahoodedfigure

@believer258 :

Yeah, you're totally right. The camera thing started out kind of nice, but watching that bar slowly inch its way up later on was a painful and unrewarding process for me. I liked getting a few bonus tonics from it, but damage plus plus, just like plasmid plus plus, was just an extension, not something that felt really meaningful. It DID feel like hit points were raised when I reached Haephestus such that I was merely keeping up with the damage levels, which didn't feel so hot. I'm fine with the weird science of the camera mechanic, but not when the mechanic isn't worth it.

The fights with the big daddies especially were fun for me, where I really felt like I was just a split second away from getting Suchonged (and I was, quite a lot). Was a good idea to make them idle otherwise. Felt a bit more like an ecology that way. And using them as angry meat shields was one of my favorite tactics, even though I refused to use the hypno plasmid.

The hacking game started out neat, but quickly wore me down too. Felt fiddly, and once I actually got blocked ON THE EXIT SQUARE, which I felt was a bit much. I tended to just blow up turrets and cameras toward the end, though I had enough mods that hacking was worthwhile for me, even if it became just another thing to do that had lost its charm.

I feel like I would have played through Bioshock again, instantly perhaps, if I'd had something similar to what you're suggesting, getting weapons out of order or allowing me to keep what I had with a higher level of difficulty. Something would have been nice. As it was, I uninstalled it after showing my partner the ending I got, since I felt I'd done pretty much everything the game had offered. It's not necessarily bad, but I guess I was expecting SOME sort of incentive to play again (other than the kill-the-girls runthrough. No thanks).

@NTM :

@ahoodedfigure: Yes, I was going to add that I had played the game when it first came out; it wasn't even a game I had been extremely excited about. My brother thought "Well, it's another FPS, better get it!" and he just told me once we put it in "Alright, why don't you beat it?" Or something like that, 'cause I was the only one to beat the game. I also remember it was one of those games I thought looked quite interesting 'cause I saw its first reveal, and an opinion of that was about as far as got to knowing anything Bioshock, so when I had finally played it, I was very surprised. Also, the ending surprise...

If I can spoil something here, I didn't even know Andrew Ryan was the main characters father and I assumed the twist was Fontaine not being the character I thought he was, it wasn't until later when I was reading stuff that I figured out what the actual twist was, but by then I was like, "Oh..." I guess at the time I didn't really know exactly what was going on? I'm not sure why I missed that. Oh, and I agree entirely about the whole use of weapons and powers. I too liked using the weapons a bit more, I just think it was also fun to use some powers here and there, and the whole picking up bodies and throwing them killed most people in one hit. I enjoyed it all very much.

I think the main thing though to take away from Bioshock (for me at least) is its characters and the settings revolving around them. One thing I disliked at first, and kind of still do to a very small extent, was that the game takes place in the 60's, but you go to a place that has 40 to 50's era stuff, and I would have liked it if it was modern times and you having to go to a place that felt like it went far back into the past. Like, nothing, for about 40 years had changed. That would have been more interesting to me I guess. Oh, and I didn't play the original Fallout games if that's what you were referring to, but I still think even through those, Bioshock is still extremely original.

The twist I didn't pick up on, despite having watched it, was about who the main character's MOTHER was, actually. And it's easy, with audiologs and radio babbling while you're being shot at, to miss a sufficient amount of details to not pick up on that sort of thing. It was clearly presented I think, but if you were focused elsewhere I could see you maybe missing it. I'm pretty sure I missed playing an audio log or two because of some distraction or another.

The aesthetic was weird, but I guess if I ignore the decade and just look at what was there, then maybe it doesn't matter as much. I say maybe because I never actually managed to forget. And Fallout, both old and new, had the cutesy Pip Boy contrast with the violent surroundings... it was definitely inspired by that, but I don't think of it as lesser for it; I want to see more games take these kinds of risks with their settings, as long as they try to at least make it incrementally different.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

@DelroyLindo: You had a bit more patience than me :) But yeah, the way you could use the environment and force enemies to fight each other was great. I used to do the latter all the time in Doom and it felt damned satisfying. And hell, those prox mines could go on the CEILING so you could catch a spider splicer, and those electro bolts, once you figure out how they work, are a real nice way to slow someone down. Taking down a big daddy that way, though, that's an accomplishment.

@Nentisys: I hear that System Shock 2 did have more actual customization features. I've kinda wanted to play it for a while, although my sequelphobia makes me want to play the first one first, if you know what I mean. Yeah, the graphics are destined to be worse, but as someone who likes the Thief engine a lot, I can totally forgive that part. Maybe I'll research a bit to see if it can even be played in Win7. I'd like to see how it feels compared to stuff that came out later.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@ahoodedfigure:All that you need is the Circle of Eight mod, preferably the vanilla version, as all the new content unbalances it. Similarly, there is a thing out there for System Shock 2 that installs it in Win 7 for you and acts as a shell for all the mods you may want to use. (Though, I got stuck somewhere on Engineering deck and have failed to go back since.) The good thing about zealous fanbases is that they do the work for you, something similarly expressed with the translation patches I've been using to play Japanese Fire Emblem.

Posted by azrailx

bioshock is basically system shock 2 with:

better graphics, pretty much same plot, worse rpg elements, no inventory

Posted by ahoodedfigure

@ArbitraryWater said:

@ahoodedfigure:All that you need is the Circle of Eight mod, preferably the vanilla version, as all the new content unbalances it. Similarly, there is a thing out there for System Shock 2 that installs it in Win 7 for you and acts as a shell for all the mods you may want to use. (Though, I got stuck somewhere on Engineering deck and have failed to go back since.) The good thing about zealous fanbases is that they do the work for you, something similarly expressed with the translation patches I've been using to play Japanese Fire Emblem.

OK, I'll keep an eye out for it when I move in that direction. Seems my gut is demanding some sort of System Shock 2 action so I'll do that... Probably will use the thing you mention plus a texture pack that'll make things hi-res, since the original low rest stuff looks a bit too hideous in the screen shots I've seen.

Too true about die-hard fans. I'm almost at that level, sans technical expertise for a few of them but nowhere near as specialized as so many people are. So cool to see this level of support, even after all this time. Too bad there can't be this kind of specialist for every game in existence, but some games were unlucky enough or unworthy enough not to get the luxury treatment.

One neat thing is that Firaxis seems to STILL have all their stuff together for their old games. I can still pick up patches and support for Alpha Centauri after all this time, which to me is way beyond the norm. They're pretty neat, those guys.

@azrailx: I feel like I might be moving in the direction of System Shock 2, so I'll be able to compare notes if I get it working.