Burial at Sea is the latest DLC for Bioshock Infinite and continues the story of Elizabeth, though how it connects with the main story isn’t revealed until the final moments of Part 1. It was kind of refreshing to return to Rapture after all these years and the DLC shows us something we never got to see in the original Bioshock: Rapture at its prime. One of the things I liked about Infinite is that it showed Columbia might actually be a nice place to live (if your white, protestant and non-Irish anyway) whereas we only ever got to see Rapture as the dark, rotting corpse of a dead society. This time we get to see Rapture at its prime as we wake up as Booker DeWitt and begin a journey through Rapture on the eve of its utter destruction…
Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea
A Storyteller’s Review
The first thing I want to say is that I don’t think this DLC is worth the $15 they’re charging for it unless you really wanted to get back to Rapture. I completed it within about four hours I think and most of the time it just felt like busy work, half the time you’re just looking for a way to open a door or get across a chasm. I realize this is just how games work, looking back at Infinite most of the game consisted of the same thing, but here it just feels like a time sink and I think it’s because nothing you do has any real impact on the story. With the original game there was a lot of dialogue between Elizabeth and Booker as they visited various locations, and every mission had a tangible effect on the story. Maybe it’s just me, but a lot of the combat and missions in Burial at Sea just felt like padding. Honestly this whole chapter would have been better if it’d been an hour long, that would have been the perfect length for it, enough to fit in plenty of shooting and violence while allowing the story to maintain its pacing. Enough about that though, I’m here to talk about the story and what there is of it is top notch.
One of the things you’ll immediately notice upon playing Burial at Sea is that Elizabeth is extremely cold and hostile. That alone will probably tip you off that this is the Elizabeth that took Booker through time and drowned him at the end of the game. Again this isn’t the Elizabeth we saved, as I pointed out in this review she disappears the moment the Siphon is destroyed, but even the Elizabeth at the end of Infinite wasn’t this hostile. Every attempt to befriend her fails and every time she says “Mr. DeWitt” it has this venomous, almost sarcastic quality to it. Most telling of all is that when Booker DeWitt tells her to call him Booker instead of Mr. Dewitt, she responds “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll stay with Mr. DeWitt…” and it’s the way she says it that really clues you in that something is wrong. You don’t know what it is yet, but this Elizabeth hates you, and yet for some reason she’s trying to help you. I spent most of the game trying to figure out why she seemed to hate me so much and what was so important about this girl Sally, whom Rapture Booker managed to lose while gambling. Hey, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Sally’s trail leads through prosperous and lively Rapture, where we get some genuinely interesting glimpses of Rapture’s societal structure and the benefits of Plasmids when used properly. Of course we also get to see the cause of their downfall: their utter indifference. Elizabeth is the only one who shows any shock at a parade of Little Sisters standing in the street, Booker callously calls them “Adam Factories,” and the rest of the population is just so used to seeing this horrific atrocity it no longer even registers. Then of course there’s the constant chatter about Fontaine’s death (or rather his alleged death) and the seizure of his assets. Of course only stay in Rapture proper long enough to watch Elizabeth beat the ever-loving shit out a store clerk before ending up in Fontaine’s old building, which has been detached from Rapture and sunk. Now its a prison housing the splicers and unfortunately the story’s pacing gets locked up in here too. There’s very little to talk about in the Fontaine Department Store, there is some great dialogue in places, but overall the story just comes to a halt while you figure out how to progress to the next area. The one part I did like was a piece of excellent foreshadowing when Booker asks what Elizabeth’s true motives are.
“There’s a debt that needs repaying.” I’m paraphrasing cause I stupidly didn’t write it down, but the way she says it sent a chill down my spine. And I found out why when we finally find Sally.
After forcing Sally out of the vents she’s hidden in we discover that the girl is now a Little Sister and, like all Little Sisters, has a big brother to look after her. A brother with a big ass drill for a hand.
And now Booker remembers, as he tries pulling Sally from the vent like he tried to pull Anna from an alternate dimension, Booker remembers who he truly is: Comstock. For those of you who pointed out that the ending of Bioshock Infinite didn’t make sense because you can’t fix an infinite amount of different universes, you’ll like this twist. Comstock is from yet another universe where he attempted to steal Anna, only this time instead of severing her pinky, it was the top of her head that didn’t make it through. Guilt ridden over his crime, Comstock has the Lutece twins use their Tear generator to send him far away to a new place and time where he can forget who is he is. Once again, constants and variables. Elizabeth found him though, like an inter-dimensional predator she’s stalked him through time and now she’s made the kill.
“Child, I’m sorry.” – Comstock
“No…but you will be…you will be!” -Elizabeth
Those are Elizabeth’s final words as the Big Daddy impales Comstock through the chest, and I have to admit that I grinned when the drill came on and Comstock screamed. As soon as I found out he was Comstock, and witnessed his crimes through his own eyes, I lost all sympathy for him. I was rooting for Elizabeth to kill him painfully, and she didn’t disappoint. Yet I felt sad for Elizabeth.
This DLC reveals something tragic: Booker’s death was ultimately meaningless. It was futile attempt to fix what Comstock broke. To fix something that might not even be fixable. It seems Elizabeth isn’t as omniscient as I first thought, and that her drowning Booker at the moment in time at the river was an act of desperation. She obviously hoped it would be a cure-all for the infinite universes spawned by Comstock’s hubris. A hope that was obviously never realized.
As I watched the credits roll I remember the Elizabeth from the beginning of Infinite, the one who just wanted to go to Paris and to dance. The Elizabeth we lost when the Siphon was destroyed. Now this is all that’s left to her: an infinite cycle of rage and vengeance as she hunts each individual Comstock down in whatever universe they choose to hide in. If there truly are unlimited universes, then Elizabeth’s crusade will never be complete and she’ll spend countless lifetimes hunting down Comstocks. Unless there’s a better way…
As I pointed out in my first analysis of Bioshock Infinite, one of the underlying themes of the game can be interpreted as the importance of forgiveness. Holding onto hate and anger lead to each character’s destruction in the game, and now Elizabeth risks being consumed by her own hatred for Comstock. If she wants to break this infinite loop of pain and death, she’s going to have to let go. I have hope that she might well do just that, because the promotional art for Part 2 shows Elizabeth with a Little Sister. Maybe by saving this little girl from her fate, Elizabeth will find a better way of dealing with Comstock.
Maybe she’ll finally learn to forgive.
Maybe she’ll finally go to Paris.
Four hours? How on hell did you do? I finished Burial at Sea in two hours, and I did all I could to visit everywhere.
For analyzing the story… Well, I’ll wait the second part.
Well the complete story analysis is now ready, you can check it out here: https://johnswritersblock.com/2014/04/17/burial-at-sea-chapter2/
As much as I love video games, I’m also kind of terrible at them. Especially Infinite which has a pretty sluggish feeling with shooting, plus I wanted to get all the audio logs in case they revealed more about the story like they did in Infinite (they don’t though). I also stop and take notes on interesting things that occur to me during playthroughs.
Anyway thanks for commenting! I agree that all the parts will need to be out before I can really sink my teeth into a story review, but this one was requested so I did it. And there’s something to be said for analyzing a story as it unfolds.