Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea is a set of two distinct episodes that feature both Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth Comstock as playable characters yet take place in the underwater city of Rapture. You could say that these DLC episodes are prequels to the first Bioshock game as they take place before the events of Jack’s arrival in Bioshock, back when the city was alive and thriving – not full of splicers and destruction. If you are reading this mini-review I will assume you have at the very least completed Bioshock Infnite, as much of it will not make sense otherwise. Any plot points revealed or characters discussed will have to do with those in Bioshock Infinite and the first Bioshock game. I will not be going into detail on who certain characters are and the like, so keep that in mind. Also, as I’m sure you have guessed, there will be lots of spoilers. Read at your own discretion.
BEWARE OF SPOILERS FOR BIOSHOCK INFINITE, BOTH BURIAL AT SEA EPISODES AND BIOSHOCK ONE!
In Burial at Sea Episode One players assume control of Booker DeWitt, Bioshock Infinite’s playable protagonist. Booker is working as a Private Investogator inside the underwater city of Rapture and is promptly contacted by Elizabeth, a rather sultry and mature young woman who is looking for a little girl named Sally – thus requiring Booker’s assistance. She doesn’t divulge too much information about who Sally is or why she needs to find her, but she does say that the artist Sander Cohen might know about the girl’s whereabouts. This leads players outside of Booker’s office and into the hustle and bustle of Rapture. What’s great is that you can take this opportunity to explore the city, sidestepping the main objective, to see what Rapture was like before the first game. You can walk up to folks and listen in on their conversations, take a look out the windows at the beautiful underwater scenery or even browse the local shops. All the while Elizabeth will tag along with you as a guiding/helping hand, much like she did in Bioshock Infinite.
Eventually you discover that you will need to procure a specialty mask to enter Sander Cohen’s club, without one you will not be allowed admittance. From here you must visit a handful of shops run by those who Cohen deems “artists” to find and steal a mask. Elizabeth will help distract the store owners while you slip around to the back offices and attempt to find a mask; note that only one shop owner will still be in possession of a mask. As soon as you do find it and make your way inside Cohen’s club, you will have to convince Cohen through dancing with Elizabeth that you deserve to know the information he has to give on Sally. Both Booker and Elizabeth are rendered unconscious for failing to inspire Cohen’s muse, but regardless of their failure they are brought to a bathysphere that Cohen says will lead them to Sally.
Upon waking up the two find themselves heading towards the sea floor where Fontaine’s Department Store, which was recently sunk by Andrew Ryan, resides. Cohen speaks to them over the radio and says that Sally can be found in the Housewares section. This is where the game takes a turn away from the exploration and towards a more combat oriented gameplay. There are now splicers and other enemies to fight as well as Plasmids and weapons to acquire. There are new Plasmids available in this DLC, such as Old Man Winter, and a variety of weapons to use that resembles the arsenal of both Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite. After a series of tasks and missions, Elizabeth and Booker eventually find Sally who is now hiding in the ventilation system. The two protagonists decide to close all but one of the vent openings and turn the temperature so that the heat will force her out. Sally begins screaming due to the heat and makes her way to the open vent in the Toy Department.
Booker reaches up to grab Sally out of the vent, but to his horror realizes that she is now a Little Sister. Sally calls out for her protector – a Big Daddy – and Booker must fight him off. After winning the battle Booker tries to properly rescue Sally only to be hit with a wave of memories that were previously hazy to him, rendering him unconscious. Through a flashback Booker realizes that he is actually a regretful Zachary Comstock who made a bargain with Robert and Rosalind Lutece to steal Anna, Booker’s child, when she was a baby. In this Comstock’s timeline though, unlike the timeline of the Comstock and Booker in Bioshock Infinite, he fails to keep Anna alive. Her head is severed when the portal closes as opposed to simply her pinky finger. He wakes up and reveals that he had the Lutece’s open their tear device to transport him to Rapture so that he could forget what he had done and proceed to live on as Booker DeWitt, Private Investigator. He apologizes to Elizabeth, but she does not accept his apology and instead stands by as he is killed by a Big Daddy drill from behind. This is where Episode One of Burial at Sea ends.
Burial at Sea Episode Two stars Elizabeth as the main protagonist and playable character after the death of Booker/Comstock in the previous episode. Episode two opens in Paris, France. The scene appears to be dreamlike in that it is serene and eerily perfect, but quickly changes to a more nightmarish tone right before Elizabeth wakes up. She finds herself to have been rendered unconscious in the Toy Department of Fontaine’s Department Store next to the dead body of Zachary Comstock. A man called Atlas comes into view as he orders his men to search Comstock’s body then to kill Elizabeth and do the same to her. A familiar voice in Elizabeth’s head tells her to inform Atlas that she can get him out of the store and back to Rapture, coaching her on what to say and even telling her to use Dr. Yi Suchong’s name to give her credibility. The voice is none other than Booker’s and even though she knows he is not there and never really was, she listens. In exchange for help out of the store, Atlas says he will give Sally to Elizabeth but threatens that if Elizabeth fails or is caught lying that Sally will be harvested.
Once alone, Elizabeth makes her way out of the area she is in only to find her own dead body amongst some rubble. The same Big Daddy that killed Comstock also killed the version of her from episode one, which caused her quantum-superposition to collapse into a singular Elizabeth. She can no longer see behind all of the doors, open tears or contact alternate reality Elizabeth’s. All she has is herself and the voice of Booker, who is simply a manifestation of her own subconscious which she uses to comfort herself throughout the episode. We find out that the Lutece twins advised Elizabeth to stay away from Rapture, she defied them and went in anyway to right her wrongs and save Sally, whom she previously exploited. Elizabeth is soon equipped with a Crossbow which can be used to silently immobilize enemies with sleep darts. Later on other types of bolts can be found which do more than merely knock the enemy out. She also has access to other weapons and Plasmids throughout the episode. The gameplay style as a whole differs from the previous episode in that it focuses more on stealth rather than face-to-face combat. Elizabeth is notably less skilled than Booker was in combat so she utilizes her intelligence and cunning in order to take out enemies effectively. A unique aspect of this episode involves Elizabeth dying in combat, which causes the last checkpoint to be reloaded. Dying as Elizabeth has way more of a consequence then it ever did for any Bioshock protagonist before her, which makes for an interesting dynamic when it comes to how you approach combat scenarios.
After some exploration Elizabeth comes across a Lutece Device that Suchong used to contact Jeremiah Fink in Columbia. She comes to the conclusion that in order to get Atlas and herself out of the Department Store she must use a Lutece Particle, which is what was used to keep Columbia afloat, to push the store upwards and back towards Rapture. After speaking with Dr. Suchong, who agrees to help her back through the tear as long as she brings him back a hair sample from Columbia, Elizabeth heads into Columbia. She is now aboard the First Lady Airship before Booker and Elizabeth took command of it in Bioshock Infinite. While behind the scenes in Columbia, Elizabeth comes across quite a few stunning revelations; one of which being the fact that Suchong and Fink were working together to create Plasmids/Vigors, among other things. It is quite the game changer, if you will, to venture through this part of the episode as many of the events in both Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite are revealed to be connected in one way or another – or at the very least more related than we previously thought. Elizabeth gets the Lutece Particle, as well as the hair sample, and heads back to Rapture. She is immediately confronted by a video image and the voice of Andrew Ryan, inviting her to join him and threatening to have his men kill her if she declines. She of course says no and ends up fighting off his men, narrowly escaping and making her way to where she needs to place the Lutece Particle. After placing it properly, Elizabeth is swiftly captured by Atlas’ men and brought to Atlas himself. She is overdosed with truth serum by Atlas in an attempt to gain information about an “Ace in the Hole”. She passes out and later wakes up with the Rapture Civil War in full swing. Atlas then attempts to torture her for information at this point but she has none to give so he turns to Sally. This causes Elizabeth to recall a memory from another Elizabeth that reveals the “Ace in the Hole” is in Suchong’s lab.
She is sent to the lab to get the “Ace in the Hole” and in the process bonds two Little Sister with a Big Daddy – leading to the death of Suchong. She retrieves the “Ace in the Hole” from Suchong’s desk and returns to Atlas, translating the phrase “Would you kindly?” from Suchong’s notes. Atlas has gotten what he wanted and delivers a fatal wound to Elizabeth, leaving her to die with Sally by her side. In her last memory she sees the events that are to take place now that she has given Atlas the phrase used to control Jack and finds solace in the fact that Jack will soon arrive in Rapture. He will end up saving Sally by rescuing the Little Sisters. Her mission is complete and Elizabeth dies as Sally sings La Vie en Rose to her. After the credits we see Rapture with the tail end of a plane falling through the ocean, signalling Jack’s arrival in the city under the water.
This DLC set is definitely the best I have ever played for any game. The attention to detail and references to past games in the series were incredible; I was left speechless upon completing both episodes. I found the gameplay to be a bit tired in the first episode but it definitely picked up and changed pace in episode two. Episode one really did a fantastic job of showcasing Rapture in its glory days. While we only get to see a small portion of it, it’s still nice to enjoy Rapture before its fall. I enjoyed the subtle changes, such as reloading the last checkpoint when dying in combat as Elizabeth and the use of stealth-based combat in episode two. What was most impressive, as is the case with all of the Bioshock games, is the narrative and character relationships. The fact that the story line was all brought back to the first Bioshock game, seeing that it was all connected, was amazing. What a great way to tie the games together through Elizabeth and her actions, further proving that she is the most well-developed and well written characters in the series.
I’d like to take a moment to recognize Ken Levine and the entire Irrational Games team for bringing us Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite and these amazing DLC episodes. They have been among my favorite games over the years and I just can’t praise this team enough for their hard work and dedication to making quality games with utterly breathtaking storylines and characters. The studio will be missed, but they departed on a very high note – an accomplishment few achieve in the development business. Major props go out to these folks. Ken Levine himself is a genius and a true artist, I love his work and I look forward to seeing what he brings us in the future.