The lights are on
Be warned, there is no way to avoid spoilers for Bioshock Infinite when discussing this DLC. If you haven’t finished the campaign (and don’t want to be spoiled), back out now.
It’s been a long time coming, but the DLC that fans of Bioshock Infinite’s mind-bending conclusion have been waiting for has finally been revealed. Later today, you’ll be able to get the arena-style Clash in the Clouds add-on. Those of us desperate for more of Levine’s storycraft will be waiting a little while longer, though. Thankfully, from what I’ve seen so far, our patience will pay off.
Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea will be delivered in two parts, and will comprise the remaining content for the game’s season pass. The trailer we were shown takes place in Rapture, before the fall. The year is 1958, and Booker DeWitt is a private investigator in Andrew Ryan's city under the sea.
He meets Elizabeth, but not as we’ve known her. She is older, wiser, and more confident than the girl we meet in Columbia’s tallest tower.
“We kicked around a lot of ideas for what to do, and we ended up settling on the most complicated and expensive one,” Levine said of how Burial at Sea came to be. “I have this image in my head of Elizabeth dressed like a femme fatale coming into Booker’s office in Rapture. Well, how do we get there? A lot of people have asked us to tell a story about pre-fall Rapture. To me, it wasn’t really interesting, because it’s the midichlorian problem. We already told the story in the logs, so it would just be demonstrating that, and that’s not surprising or interesting.”
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The first part of Burial at Sea takes place in two halves. In a departure from the traditional Bioshock gameplay, the first segment is devoid of combat. Investigation and exploration are crucial, as players learn more about how Ryan’s faithful followers lived and worked in Rapture. Familiar characters will make appearances, and Rapture’s most terrible menaces, the Big Daddies, haven’t yet been converted from maintenance drones into a protection detail for the little sisters.
I asked Levine why he decided to return to Rapture after putting the city’s story to bed. Rapture isn’t the “main character” it was in Bioshock, instead taking a backseat to character development. “I think it was a little confusing in that Infinite wasn’t as much about Columbia as it was about Booker and Elizabeth,” Levine told me. “I think it continues to be that. In Bioshock, we learned a lot about Rapture, but this is more about the characters and about their evolution.”
During the adventure, Booker and Elizabeth discover they must go to Rapture’s makeshift prison. In an act of aggression against Fontaine, Ryan has sunk his nemesis’ department store, trapping many of the “business man’s” associates. Once there, the heroes find the familiar splicers that plagued players in Bioshock and Bioshock 2.
In an effort to protect me from spoilers, Levine demurred on more detail, but he did tell the group of journalists present at an earlier presentation that the second part of Burial at Sea will not put players in Booker’s shoes. Instead, we’ll be controlling Elizabeth, and we have been assured that she plays very differently. This continues to be very much her story, and neither she nor Booker have changed much despite Andrew Ryan’s philosophical influences.
“Neither of them are particularly ideological,” Levine explained “Their whole quest pertains to children. Children are a theme in all the games, and the effect of society on children like little sisters. Little sisters are very central to the story.”
Creating Burial at Sea, which is about to go into beta testing, was no small feat for Irrational. Very few assets from the original Bioshock were used, with most of what players will experience being created from the ground up. And no, in case you were wondering, the hacking minigame will not make an appearance.
Between a desire to put the DLC in the hands of the team that made Bioshock Infinite (as opposed to farming the task out), and the need to build an intricate recreation of Bioshock’s Rapture, the new story content has taken more time than fans would have liked. Based on what we know of Burial at Sea though, the wait has been well worth it.
Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Part One will be out later this year for $14.99.