The time has finally come for the final piece of story-based downloadable content to be released for BioShock Infinite, bringing the stories of Rapture and Columbia to a close. While Episode One proved to be quick and almost disappointingly recycled from the game proper, Episode Two provides us with new ways to play the game and the chance to step into the heels of Elizabeth, Booker DeWitt’s young ward. The narrative has reinforced the concept of “constants and variables” over and over, but with the stories closing out with this DLC, perhaps I’m finding myself wanting so much more.
Burial at Sea, Episode Two is special because it encompasses bits of the original BioShock and BioShock Infinite. Needless to say, if you haven’t finished either or those games or Burial at Sea, Episode One, then there are massive spoilers ahead. Otherwise, this review will assume you’ve played through all of the BioShock games and are up to date on your lore.
The first thing you’ll have to know is that you’re in for a treat. Episode Two is substantially longer than the piddling, yet still somewhat competent, adventure in Episode One. It will take you about five-to-six hours to complete the DLC, depending on how often you stop to stare at the details in the environment. While you no longer control Booker DeWitt/Comstock, you will find yourself pleasantly surprised with how Elizabeth operates. Just don’t expect to run around with your guns blazing and plasmids blasting foes to pieces.
Whereas Episode One’s gameplay felt like more of the same from BioShock Infinite, Episode Two almost feels like a completely different game. Elizabeth isn’t as hardy as Booker, meaning she can’t take a lot of hits, so you won’t be having any lengthy shootouts with Splicers. Because of this, there’s an emphasis on stealth. Liz can sneak around while crouched, making minimal noise so as to not alert any Splicers. If she can stay undetected, she can knock out unwary foes. She can even dangle from hooks and land silently next to enemies, rendering them unconscious from an airborne strike. Liz pretty much embodies the phrase “silent, yet deadly.” Or, in her case, “silent and non-lethal.”
To help stay off the radar, she can also clamber into vents, just like a little sister. These vents usually lead to somewhere with a pile of helpful goodies to collect, so it’s a good idea to be an explorer. While stealth is all well and good, sometimes Liz will have to resort to a more direct approach. She gets access to classics like the hand cannon, shotgun and radar range, as well as the new crossbow that can fire bolts that pacify or distract. With regard to plasmids, Liz can put a new one called Peeping Tom to good use, because it allows her to see enemies through walls and walk around while invisible.
The stealth mechanics add some delicious tension to exploration and a thrill to the combat that wasn’t really present in Episode One because Booker felt nearly invincible with all of his weapons and powers. Because Liz can only take a few blows before expiring, you’ll want to keep to the shadows and avoid noisy surfaces like puddles or piles of broken glass. I enjoyed this style of gameplay because I never felt like Liz was vulnerable, especially because successfully sneaking up on enemies resulted in a knockout. The only sweat-inducing part was when I had to cross a large room with a Big Daddy roaming around, but that’s normal for BioShock anyway.
There seemed to be a lot more voice acting in this episode, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Not only was it a joy to hear more of Courtnee Draper as Elizabeth, but we also got Troy Baker back as Booker, albeit a version of Booker born from Liz’s own memories and subconscious. Not only that, but we get to see more of Elizabeth as a person as she explores her own past and thoughts about the incredible events she’s lived through. Trust me when I say that you will be hearing a lot from Liz and Booker, whether it’s exposition, commentary on the events that are happening in the game or just general musings.
While the gameplay is fun and adds something new to the BioShock experience, it’s ultimately the story and the characters who are the stars of Burial at Sea, Episode Two and really make it shine. I don’t want to spoil too much, but you’ll see locations you’ve never thought you’d see again, events from the past being played out and viewed from a different angle and more revelations than you can shake a golf club at. What Burial at Sea, Episode Two does is wrap everything up for the entire narrative that spans from BioShock to BioShock Infinite and places a maudlin little bow on the whole thing.
While not everyone will be satisfied with the ending, most of our questions end up being answered in one way or another. Of course, this leads to some other questions, but the BioShock saga, at least the one that involves the cities of Rapture and Columbia, is laid to rest at the bottom of the sea. But who knows? With all of this talk about constants and variables, we may yet see another lighthouse, another man and another city.
This review was completed with a purchased digital copy of BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea, Episode Two for PC.