Review: Burial at Sea Episode 1 (DLC)

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written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)

Welcome to Burial at Sea, the first DLC episode to arguably one of the best games of 2013! This time we return to the underwater city of Rapture... before the fall mind you. Rapture is the complete opposite of Columbia, (aside from being under the sea rather than being up in the air) unlike Columbia’s Zachary Comstock who values God and extreme conservative ideals… we have Andrew Ryan, a man of industry clear about his feelings towards Gods and Kings. The setting of the first BioShock game was quite a shock to return to, after showing up in Rapture during the very surprising ending of BioShock Infinite this DLC pack was expected.

bruised and battled damaged, still has that icy stare

bruised and battled damaged, still has that icy stare

As I mentioned in my review of BioShock Infinite, I was never a fan of the first BioShock game, I played it briefly and put it down. Since playing Infinite I was more open to returning to Rapture and thoroughly enjoyed my romp thru the first BioShock. It’s very rare that I’ll return to a game I’ve “written off” and realize how much I enjoyed it.

Story:

Booker Dewitt is a private investigator in Rapture, Elizabeth comes to him with a job, find this missing girl. Right off the bat Booker senses something strange about this mysterious woman. Her knowledge of Rapture is limited and she questions what happened to the little girls who became Little Sisters.

The setting may be the same as previous BioShock games, but the narrative retains the luster from BioShock Infinite. Elizabeth is clearly advancing the story and leads Booker to the surprising ending (don’t worry, no spoilers). It’s clear at the start that this Elizabeth is THE Elizabeth from BioShock Infinite, but obviously the Booker you are controlling is not the same man. She gives little nods to the Infinite universe when she calls an Air-Grabber a SkyHook.

meet the Fontaine Air Grabber, Burial at Sea's Sky-Hook

meet the Fontaine Air Grabber, Burial at Sea's Sky-Hook

While I did enjoy the story, much of this first episode was spent exploring a pre-fall Rapture, I didn’t even get to shoot anything till mid way through the campaign. Fun but for someone who wasn’t as tied to the world of Rapture as he was with Columbia, I just wish I spent more time shooting things. The latter half of the campaign is spent in a sunken Fontaine Department store (Fontaine was Andrew Ryan’s key nemesis from BioShock) now converted into a prison housing some of Fontaine’s more extreme followers, the crazed splicers.

The dichotomy of the Elizabeth here versus her character in Infinite was one of my favorite points of the narrative, she’s colder… no longer the scared or naïve girl she was in Infinite. She speaks in a lower register and refuses to call this Booker Dewitt “Booker,” rather opting for a more impersonal “Mister Dewitt.” It’s hard to live up to the grand scope of BioShock Infinite but overall the ending was satisfying, the twist at didn’t share the same “oomph” that BioShock Infinite had, (and it was a bit more confusing) but overall not a negative.

Presentation:

The engine stays pretty much the same, graphically it looks just as good as BioShock Infinite. Rapture is a much darker more claustrophobic place, and while not a negative this did change the experience quite a bit. In place of sprawling town squares and cities, lots of corridors and dilapidated store fronts ended up being the key locales.

OhSHITOhSHITOhSHITOhSHIT! I hate these things

OhSHITOhSHITOhSHITOhSHIT! I hate these things

The levels never really open up much and I found myself feeling so confined in this space. Aside from the Air-Grabber (SkyHook) the weapons found did not differ much from those found in Infinite. More of the same with a new visual aesthetic.

Contrasting with the pre-fall areas of Rapture, Fontaine’s Department Store ends up being more like the BioShock experience. The dark corners and dimly lit areas of this shopping center turned prison make for a spine tingling experience. You never know what’s waiting for you on the other side of a door.

Gameplay:

Here is where the campaign differs mostly from your first romp through Rapture. Gunplay and plasmid use feels much like it did with Infinite. I was disappointed with how they didn’t take this chance to include some of the more iconic BioShock plasmids. Devil’s Kiss and Possession are unlocked right from the start and you eventually pick up Shock Jockey. Ever since the reveal trailer where Booker light’s Elizabeth’s cigarette, I was hoping for the return of plasmids like Incinerate, Insect Swarm, or Enrage.

how does he see with that damn box on his head?

how does he see with that damn box on his head?

Zipping through the sky doesn’t have the same charm it did in Infinite but it was welcome to have the Air-Grabber as a melee weapon, though a little bit of me was hoping he’d have a wrench.

A new plasmid and a new weapon also make their debut, the Old Man Winter plasmid gives Booker the ability to freeze enemies or create a walkway of ice from flowing water. A sort of microwave radar gun (the name escapes me) which makes for an impressive explosion if you fry a splicer long enough.

Verdict:

The biggest let down for me was the length, don’t expect much narrative from this first episode and with a pretty major cliffhanger at the end (preceeded by a surprising reveal) you’ll find yourself only spending a good hour or so in Rapture. More of the same isn’t bad but I can’t help but feel they missed out on a few key points to give this DLC episode that original BioShock feel

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