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Steam(ing) Pile: Bioshock + Burial at Sea

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This is the first part of my new series that I boldly (or in bad taste) call Steam(ing) Pile. Games from my backlog of Steam games. I have a love-puzzlement relationship with Steam. I love that I can buy games for so little money. I am puzzled that every Steam sale evokes the same happy jitters Christmas did when I was a kid. I seem to suffer from the odd compulsion of having to buy EVERYTHING because it’s cheap. Sometimes the purchase is utterly amazing. Sometimes I find after 30 minutes of playing that I utterly dislike that game. Here’s looking at you, Civ IV and every DLC in existence cluttering up my library. So here’s to going through my library, where I shall ask the question: is this a steaming pile of crap, or is it a steaming pile of utter awesomeness?

In December, I played Bioshock Infinite. Across the gamingsphere, it was applauded and lauded as outstanding by the press, with about the same amount of gamers ripping it to shreds for its gameplay. I went into it curious, and a bit nervous as usual because I suck at FPS. For me it turned out to be the game of the year because I loved everything about it. I loved the looks, the atmosphere, Booker and Elizabeth, and the serious mindfuck of an ending that caused me to have a sleepless night as my brain tried to make sense of it all.

This brings us to Bioshock. Released in 2007, I started playing it in 2009, made it to the midway point, and then kinda petered out, never going back. Bioshock Infinite made me want to go back though. I have a season pass, which means access to Burial at Sea, the DLC for Infinite that takes you back to Rapture. I wanted to experience Rapture as it is in the original game before going there with Booker and Elizabeth.

A breathtaking view that never gets old throughout the game, when you get glimpses of it.

A breathtaking view that never gets old throughout the game, when you get glimpses of it.

The parallels between Bioshock and its successor are obvious from the start, with the main difference being that Rapture is already a dystopia, a fallen study of objectivism, whereas Columbia only crumbles when Booker comes there. It is 1960 when Jack, the protagonist, is the victim of a plane crash and ends up stranded in the sea near a lighthouse. The lighthouse has a vessel in it, a so-called bathysphere that takes him down to Rapture, a city under the sea. There, he finds that the few survivors are mostly drug-crazed addicts called Splicers who have genetically modified themselves and all hunger for ADAM, a substance that is produced and harvested by Little Sisters, genetically modified young girls. Jack is thrown into a conflict between a guy called Atlas and the creator of Rapture, Andrew Ryan. Atlas promises to help Jack escape Rapture, if he in turn helps him to get to his family. This requires exploring many parts of Rapture, filled with horrors, splicers and demented survivors like Sander Cohen. In the end, Jack learns the truth about Rapture’s fall.

Don't ever trust a baby stroller in Rapture. Not in Bioshock and not in Burial at Sea.

Don’t ever trust a baby stroller in Rapture. Not in Bioshock and not in Burial at Sea.

Bioshock was significantly harder than Infinite, for sure. It was also way more gruesome because the amount of mutilated corpses you stumble across is quite mind-boggling. It’s grim, it’s dark and it’s fascinating. It has a fantastic storyline with a deep twist. If you haven’t played Bioshock, don’t read spoilers, or the mid-story twist will lose its enormous impact. It’s quite incredible. My advice to those who like dystopian stories and don’t mind dipping into horror waters: play it. Play it before you play Infinite. If you are rubbish at shooters like I am, turn it down to easy because even noob me managed to not die a single time after turning the difficulty down. It’s an incredible story.

Right after completion, I fired up Infinite, to play the first part of the two-part DLC Burial at Sea. The DLC is set on New Year’s Eve 1958, immediately before all hell breaks loose in Rapture. Whereas just hours before I had explored Little Wonders orphanage, I now saw the Little Sisters in action, in a Rapture full of life, full of people partying, gay couples, sipping cocktails, being served by Houdini waiters using their plasmid powers to teleport from table to table. You see people admiring a Big Daddy fixing things out in the water. You see signs that Fontaine died and his assets were claimed by Andrew Ryan. The first part of the DLC is nothing but glorious. I completely agree with the RPS review. Burial at Sea is ripe to be an RPG, instead of an FPS. As you act the sleuth with Elizabeth, I felt this part could have gone on and on, no shooting required.

Maybe Andrew Ryan's society did some things right.

Maybe Andrew Ryan’s society did some things right.

Story-wise, you play Booker again. A gambling Booker who gets hired by a lady called Elizabeth who is looking for one of many missing girls in Rapture. The girl’s name is Sally, and Booker knows her. Sander Cohen makes his return, pointing Booker and Elizabeth on the trail of Sally. Elizabeth clearly knows more than Booker does, and seems to be aware of events from Infinite. After the glitter and glitz of partying Rapture, they have to go to Fontaine’s Department Store, where Andrew Ryan locked up all of Fontaine’s splicing followers. As soon as that part began I realized how much I missed Booker and Elizabeth after playing perpetually silent Jack. They’re still fantastic together. I loved the more stealthy elements. I loved fighting a Big Daddy again. I enjoyed the return of Elizabeth’s Tears as tactical elements. Okay, who am I kidding. As elements to make the game easier because you know when tears show up, combat is impending.

Elizabeth in Rapture is definitely not as light-hearted as Elizabeth in Columbia.

Elizabeth in Rapture is definitely not as light-hearted as Elizabeth in Columbia.

Burial at Sea ends on a whopping cliffhanger and I am foaming at the mouth now to see a continuation of the story. Once again I am asking myself: What the fuck just happened? March 25, I am ready for you.

Bioshock: 5/5
Burial at Sea Part 1: 5/5 – beware though: it has a hefty pricetag for a 90-120 minutes game. I am glad I got the Season Pass highly discounted.

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