It’s hard to downplay the significance that the Bioshock series had on the previous generation of consoles. It started with Bioshock in 2007, and was followed up with Bioshock 2 in 2010, and then most recently Bioshock Infinite which was released in March of this year. The games are all spiritual successors to the game System Shock, which was released in 1994, but due to the gap in time between System Shock and Bioshock there were not too many people who were prepared for what Ken Levine and his team had prepared for us. Without getting too far off topic Bioshock introduced many gamers to the idea that a game could tell a story within the gameplay, and that a game’s story could be more than “go save the princess”.
The fundamental gameplay elements that Bioshock first introduced were expanded on and perfected for Bioshock infinite (henceforth in this review it will just be called “Infinite”) and the story that it told was just as mind blowing as the first game had been six years earlier. I won’t spoil anything for those of you who have yet to play any of the games (what is wrong with you?!) but I don’t feel like I am exaggerating when I say that Bioshock, and Infinite both have endings that put some Hollywood movies to shame in regards to exciting, surprising, and amazing storytelling.
So why release Burial at Sea? I will admit that I was sceptical of the expansion when I first read about it. I was fully expecting a half thought out money grab, that was seeking to use my love of the series to get more money from me. The idea of taking the latest game and combining it with the first seemed like using a fan fiction story and charging me to read it. I am happy to report however that after sitting down and playing through the first episode of the expansion that this is not the case, and if you liked the series, you will absolutely enjoy Burial at Sea.
So how does it play? Well, pretty similar to Infinite, but with enough differences that it feels fresh. Placing the player back in Rapture before its fall means a few important things as far as set up is concerned; because rapture hasn’t completely fallen yet there aren’t as many gun wielding enemies, and much less ammunition. Even your weapons hold less ammo, so forcing the player to choose between taking a shot and trying to sneak by enemies is an intentional game element. On a positive note the gameplay shifted back towards the original Bioshock where you can carry more than two weapons at a time, removing some of the stress from infinite when you had to drop a weapon and hope it wasn’t going to be important in the next area. You also are dealing with splicers again, which will be a familiar sight for Bioshock veterans, but coming from Infinite where most of the enemies were gun wielding this really changes how you play the game. Combining both the elements made for a much tougher game, and forced me to consider what I was doing far more often than I did in Infinite.
Besides the gameplay changes, the story and the game environment are much darker than Infinite. With light only being provided by artificial sources the world seems darker, and the enemies you face are no longer brainwashed soldiers, but normal people who were brainwashed and then driven mad. There are multiple points where the player is confronted with the sadness of the story and I genuinely felt bad, especially after playing through the previous game’s and knowing where this world was headed. I was supremely impressed with the expansions ability to change how I felt about the environment so drastically while still only being downloadable content.
In many ways these two episodes of DLC could be looked at as paying the fans of the series back for their loyalty. Both episodes are being released long enough after the original game that they don’t seem like they were already done and were waiting to be released when the sales were still up. But it’s also strange that Burial at Sea came right when everyone was getting pumped up about the new console launches. It was nearly lost among the articles speculating on launch days and new game reviews. The timing may have just been bad, but it almost seems like it was planned out this way to avoid too much scrutiny.
But another strange part of this game’s release is that Irrational games felt the need to split Burial at Sea into two episodes. It’s not an uncommon practice, but typically they are something you see smaller game studios doing, for smaller games. If you paid for the season pass you get all the DLC for the game when it’s released, but if not you will have to pay for each episode of Burial at Sea individually. Most gamers won’t be upset about it, but there will be a few who either don’t understand why it’s split up, or don’t want to pay for two parts of the same story. I personally liked the decision to split up the episodes. It paces the game well, and got me even more excited for Burial at Sea: Episode two.
Burial at Sea: Episode One is an amazing way for Irrational Games to pay back their loyal fans and simultaneously deliver a new, and interesting story. It could never be a full game, and to someone who has only played infinite may not enjoy the difficulty curve. But for the fans like myself who have played through each game listening to every recording, and painstakingly maxed out their Eve, salt, or upgrades, this DLC feels like a thank you note, combining what made all the games great, and joining together two of my favorite games of the past console generation.
If I have to give Burial at Sea: Episode One a score, I’ll give it a 9, but I can see where other people might not. My nostalgia for the past games all plays a significant part, but isn’t that the point? As far as gameplay is concerned it continues where Infinite left off, while adding a few new tricks. The story is entertaining, but can be confusing at points, and if you never played the original Bioshock there will be some plot points that fall flat. However for anyone who has played through the series, this game will reward you greatly for your time with an awesome story, and fun gameplay!
Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea is availible for PC, Xbox, and PS3
Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Review Episode 1 (Spoiler-Free)
Is Burial at Sea worthy of the Bioshock name?What Our Ratings Mean