Tuesday, March 26, 2013


This post is way too long for HULK so Clayton doing it

(For the record, this article is more focused on the story of Bioshock Infinite, not its art or the incredible designs. )

Every once in a while when I see a launch trailer I begin to grab as many elements from the trailer as possible to try and figure out what to expect from the game being launched. Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I'm wrong, but over the last few years I have become more and more disappointed. Bioshock Infinite has unfortunately continued this trend by showing a lot of great elements in their marketing that only barely made its way into the final product.
I figured our game was more or less going to start at the lighthouse, like all the trailers had already showed and the game most certainly continued. For the sake of being a design nut I had also written down that it might be interesting to wake up inside the floating city, staring at that massive mural of propaganda like we saw floating around in other trailers.  From that point we would then go through flashbacks of how we had arrived at that propaganda then ending with us meeting Elizabeth for the first time. Flashback ends as we see Song bird zooming away while we figure out how to get to them. I liked the idea because it broke up some of the monotony that usually happens at the beginning of big budget videogames, but Bioshock beginnings are usually still good so I guess the point is a little moot in this instance.

Now.... for what I consider to be the biggest issue of the game, The meeting of Elizabeth.

In the trailers we can clearly see Elizabeth using her abilities and a few different things became very very clear.

One: Her abilities are dangerous, almost elemental in nature

Two: They hurt her at some level ( you don't start bleeding from your nose for no reason)

Three: She has serious difficulty controlling the rifts ( as seen with the horse scene)

Four: Booker's abilities come from a similar source ( Hence why the two can easily be mixed)

I figured this meant that Elizabeth was going to be the source to everyone's power and whoever was going to be the boss of this game was going to be using her as a lab rat or perhaps even a cow. Somewhere within the confines of the first hour of the game we start finding the vigors that are in truth a perfected version of whatever it is that Elizabeth is generating ( let's make this a plot element).

Now, I expected us to somehow enter the city, look around, maybe take in the views ( perhaps learn a proverbial butt load of how the city works) and try to act the part of a tourist. No one sends someone into a situation all alone unless they know what's going on or have some sort of ingenious plan. I was really hoping we would either "A" do some stupid complicated bank heist with Elizabeth's room being the goal or "B" somehow accidentally run into Elizabeth while exploring the city ( or maybe whoever was arranging for Booker to enter the city would arrange for her to escape). There was certainly some evidence of her escaping and running from Songbird inside the trailers. ( Would be kind of cool to have Elizabeth's escape be some kind of bonus content for after the game was finished) and Booker already had the key to her cell so in some ways I had evidence to support both very silly ideas ( and man, they were very different from the final game weren't they?). Anyhow, we find Elizabeth, hash out a plan, maybe aim to steal an airship, and start running out into the city to search for ways to make it actually possible.

Since back then they were talking a lot about how Elizabeth was going to be integral to the story as much as Booker, I thought it might be fun if they were just throwing ideas at each other as to how to get the air boat until something stuck. The trailers certainly showed them communicating a lot, being snarky with each other, noticing when something wasn't working, and more or less reminding me of how fun the Prince Of Persia remake was ( some of that did make it's way into the game, but it wasn't quite the same anymore). I figured it would be very natural for the two to be racking ideas at each other ,maybe they would take turns trying each others ideas, watch the idea fail, then decide to give someone Else's idea a try. Better yet, why not have multiple areas of city ready to explore but only enough time to explore a couple? Might make the second play more fun if more of the city left to explore.

Somewhere after these two plans fail we are finally given a third plan that is the real McCoy to leaving the city, and we also see the first instance of Elizabeth's power being dangerous to herself. I figured for the rest of the game we would then have to be careful when deciding where and how to use Elizabeth's power ( and my friends actually all thought the same and refused to use her abilities in the game until they knew it was safe, final product tossed the whole bloody nose thing out and the marketing actually confused all of us) whether or not Elizabeth was in good health I figured was going to the deciding point in the story. If she's happy and healthy then we move fast, hit hard, see a positive side to her, and watch her fight for us as much as the player would likely want to fight for her all the while we're answering her questions about the outside world, Booker's past, and what she should do with her future. If she was sick we would watch her suffer, she'd turn worse, look worse, move slow, start acting suicidal, and her questions would reflect the darker more horrid tones that can be expected from someone who is not feeling well at the moment. Cynicism, feelings of being a burden on everyone, wonderings of why they were brought into this world or why they have the gifts they have and for what purpose. I was expecting very serious gradual changes in Elizabeth as she spends more time outside of that damn cage and begins to reflect on the world around her. Perhaps she would even think of that cage as a haven if she got sick enough. All of this was based on how they handled the little sisters in the previous titles and unfortunately infinite was a very very linear in its approach so a lot of what I just said never happens. All questions asked did have something to do with the narrative but it was either superficial, appeared to only change a couple scenes with Elizabeth, or had some other purpose that I was not able to ascertain while playing with my friends.

Now, for the ending...

I expected Booker to be tempted by the Antagonist to cling for some great power ( maybe become the owner of the Floating City?) then burn the world by using Elizabeth or at the very least we would be escaping from the city but would need to sacrifice Elizabeth to do so ( if very evil then we force her to, if evil but she sees the goodness in Booker then she chooses to save him). If the endings were positive then maybe Booker becomes so strong he doesn't need Elizabeth? Perhaps he figure out how to command the tears, summon storms, and be such a violent source of power he can get Elizabeth out without any worries, sacrifice himself, maybe trade places with her? Or something else that would I think had been equally acceptable within the confines of a story all about moral choices. Either way I was expecting how the player chose to play the game to have some form of change on how the game actually ends ( just like with the other titles).
As you can see from the game itself.... some of it was correct, a lot of it was not, and the games actual story was very very different from what was first prophesized in the first trailers. I personally didn't like it, some people even go so far as to hate it, while many on twitter are praising it for being half decent ( its art is it's saving grace). In the end however, I'm beginning to think Infinite had some really interesting ideas but for whatever reason did not fully act on them. Either that, or the 200 million dollar supposed budget means the project was stuck in some form of development hell for a little while and some things were cut back in order to make the game actually ship. I don't know what happened, I doubt anyone actually *will* know , But I am a little disappointed at how little of what I drew up based on their previous work actually made it into the game. I wasn't doing anything extreme, I wasn't even working in my own comfort zones. I was looking at their past works, deciding what would be the fastest easiest things to make happen in the sequel, then trying to figure out what would be the new things that they'd spend time perfecting. Does this mean that the game industry has changed and the Bioshock devs decided to change with it? Or somewhere in the last few years perhaps Ken Levine's vision for the game somehow changed? I can't really say.... but the game I played wasn't really what I was looking for, and the things that were left out and never properly explained have left me feeling very disappointed.

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