This is it, the end of an era. With the closure of Ken Levine’s studio; Irrational Games, looming, it seems that this piece of DLC will be the final chunk of content to be released by the series’ creators. So will it turn out to be the cherry on top of the oddly drugged-up bakewell?
Now, saying too much about Burial at Sea Episode Two would surely spoil what is arguably the franchise’s swansong. Firstly, the most important thing you should know is that the game itself is incredibly spoilerific and deeply entrenched in lore, so it’s absolutely essential that you finish Infinite, Episode One and preferably the original Bioshock before you even open it up. (You can get away with ignoring Bioshock 2 for these purposes.)
The gameplay is the first big change you’ll notice about Episode 2. Whilst it retains the same engine, control scheme and basic mechanics, the emphasis is shifted from combat to a stealth focus. You now play as Elizabeth, minus the dimension-weaving powers, with the aim of escaping the undersea city and rescuing “Sally”. It’s no longer about blasting through a city as destruction looms over it, but sneaking through avoiding Splicers. This new powerlessness is key to its success following the action of the first half, amplifying the gory atmosphere to new levels. Unfortunately it’s obvious from the start that the engine wasn’t exactly built for stealth, but as something to mix up the otherwise passable combat it’s decent.
Who really plays a Bioshock title for the gameplay anyway? It’s all about the story and the world.
You could argue that Burial at Sea Episode 2 ties everything from the series up with a gory piece of “string”. From Columbia’s lofty Heights to Rapture’s sprawling, yet oddly claustrophobic halls, it’s a tale of two cities, with the twists and turns of the narrative complemented perfectly by the locations. For me, the most surprising element was just how well it DOES wrap everything up. Whether it was planned from the start or not, it’s masterfully weaved all the way up to its bittersweet and melancholy, yet hopeful conclusion.
My only criticisms would be the fact that Elizabeth continues to dominate the narrative, whilst very few new characters are really explored, and the fact that often things can be a bit confusing. It’s good that older characters from the original are included in this final chapter, and that their stories are linked so intrinsically to the Infinite universe, but the stories which kept the games so fresh were those of background characters- The Splicer Ghost in the bathroom and the cowering family in Shanty Town. Those were the kind of moments which captured feeling and kept the story progressing. They fed into the lead character’s narrative, improving your understanding of the world without feeling intrusive. Those were the moments I loved, and which feel too few and far between in Episode 2.
All in all though, Episode 2 is a fitting, well-designed conclusion to one of the biggest canons in gaming. With better gameplay and more exploration than the other parts of Infinite the narrative is pulled together in style. It won’t blow your mind like the original, but the 4-6 hour final instalment of Levine’s vision will not only give you a great journey through a familiar world, but will give you a whole new reason to play the previous instalments all over again…
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.