It stumbles in places, but Burial at Sea Episode 2 provides a meaningful conclusion to Bioshock Infinite
Episode 1 of Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea felt like an hour and half of set up. It was a neat experience but by the time the story really felt like it was getting going, it cut to black and the credits were rolling. Episode 2 is where all that pays off. All the pins that were set up are knocked down, in a 4 hour experience that feels like definite conclusion to Irrational’s world they first brought to us back in 2007.
Taking place right after the end of Burial at Sea Episode 1 (Spoiler warning), you take direct control of the game’s female lead Elizabeth, who is stuck in Rapture and wishes to escape with little sister Sally. Her only hope is to make a deal with Atlas, a character people who played Bioshock 1 are intimately familiar with. Of course it’s not that simple and things quietly spiral into the craziness that the series in known for.
The game does attempt to answer some lingering questions people have had and while it does indeed do this, I question whether they should have in some spots. You the player getting to piece together the ideas and connections are half the fun, and the narrative loses a bit of its cleverness when it just flat out tells you, this is what happened.
Regardless of all the twists and turns, for me the story is really about Elizabeth. She’s a broken person at this point, and a lot of dialogue is her self-reflecting on the events in her life. It was these moments that grabbed me the most, showing how complex a character Elizabeth really is, and why I like her so much. Whether the narrative of Burial at Sea grabs you is ultimately a matter of opinion. If there’s one thing I learned from Bioshock Infinite, it’s that storytelling is very divisive and everyone’s going to react differently to it. But if you’re a fan of the Bioshock universe, you’ll going to want to check it out for yourself just to see everything is brought to an end.
Elizabeth is not the tough killing machine that Booker is, and this is addressed by making her much weaker (the health bar is smaller and she lacks the rechargeable shield) and adding a new stealth mechanic. The stealth is an interesting idea and makes sense with Elizabeth’s character but it doesn’t quite work out. You rely on melee stealth knockouts and a brand new crossbow, with a variety of non-lethal darts. You’re also given a new plasmid called the “Peeping Tom,” which lets you both go invisible and see though walls. The darts work great but you won’t find enough to rely on them solely. The melee is serviceable and Peeping Tom works great to the point where it’s actually kind of broken after you get an upgrade for it. What really kills it is the AI. They just aren’t smart enough to work for stealth, with plenty of moments where they would walk right past me and not take note. It’s all serviceable enough to get to the story and visuals you ultimately care about, but it’s by far the weakest Bioshock’s been in terms of gameplay.
Episode 1 had a problem where the free roaming sections and combat areas felt too separate from each other. Episode 2 fixes this by providing more balance between the two meaning you’ll get plenty of opportunities to just look around. This is good because I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of looking at the art in this game. Burial at Sea Episode 2 has some of the best looking environments in the series, which unique elements filling every room you visit. You’ll want to spend your time after you’ve dispatched your enemies soaking in all the details. They pull no punches, and from the get go you’ll visits places I wasn’t expecting but welcomed whole heartily.
Burial at Sea Episode 2 stumbles under its own ambition. Its stealth, while a good try, doesn’t quite pan out how you want it to, and it has maybe just a little too much fan service. The game more then makes for this with its fantastic conclusion to Elizabeth’s character and feeling of wrap up for not only Bioshock Infinite, but the series as a whole. Its Irrational’s final love letter to the series that they’ve devoted almost a decade towards and it leaves everything in a good, satisfactory place.