I love the BioShock series and that is why Burial at Sea is amazing to me. Irrational Games has almost perfectly mashed up the first BioShock and Infinite to create something that I won’t soon forget. BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 2 is their swan song but it isn’t as revolutionary as what came before it.
What surprised me most about Burial At Sea Episode 2 is that it is a stealth game. I had intentionally not watched any trailers before release so this was a little bit of a shock. Granted, you’re still handed a few guns and can engage everyone if you so choose. However, it clearly seems designed for people to be stealthy through its new weapon: the crossbow. It fires bolts that instantly incapacitate anyone it hits but has a long reload time and you can only carry a handful of bolts at a time. You also get noisemaker bolts that can be used to distract guards and knockout gas bolts that, well, are pretty self-explanatory and affect an area.
This stealth focused gameplay felt very much like Dishonored and brought something new and interesting into the universe (even if I was a big fan of the more traditional gameplay seen in episode 1). The reason for the stealth is that Elizabeth is a bit of a weakling, especially after minor early game spoiler happens. This places a large emphasis on staying quiet. Being crouched is almost always required when exploring, except for the occasional strip of carpet. I can’t recall playing a stealth game where I had to be so aware of what I was stepping on. It’s a novelty but it did change how I played. For example, stepping in water or broken glass would instantly alert nearby enemies and, when Elizabeth will die in roughly two hits, this is something I’d rather avoid.
Sneaking up and melee attacking a splicer will instantly knock them out and is the preferred method of combat. The crossbow is naturally very useful for far away enemies or when things go awry. You can oftentimes even pick up used bolts back from their bodies. Combat is just as great as it has always been, it’s just more strategical this time around.
Episode 2 takes place in the same type of wide, semi-open areas that you’ve come to expect from BioShock. However it, just like before, does not reward exploration very well. For example, if the guide arrow tells me to go one way, I will explore all other available directions. The way BioShock is set up though makes it so that, once I do finally go in the ‘correct’ direction, I will be going straight back to the other areas that I already explored.
This is frustrating but it comes with a strange benefit. When returning to areas, the enemies will have respawned and there may even be more of them. Since I had already explored these sections I could sneak my way to where I needed to go and leave it at that.
Also, each area generally contains a secret locked door or safe that would contain a plasmid mod. Some of these I was able to gain very early by exploring and it made the game much more fun. One in particular made the new plasmid, Peeping Tom, which lets you see through walls so long as you remain stationary, cost nothing to use. While I did have extra enhancements earlier, retreading the areas was not as exciting.
Naturally, story is a large part of Episode 2 so I won’t spoil anything but instead talk vaguely about it.
The plot does its very best to tie BioShock 1 and Infinite together, largely by answering questions that were never really that pressing about the universe. It turns into a bit of revisionist history for both games. And while connecting everything together is very interesting, I think I would have rather had Burial At Sea be more loosely attached to the plot of the previous games.
The final revelation is certainly interesting, very much so, but it also doesn’t matter at all and is almost a way to shoehorn the two games together and make the plots more related. Not to mention that some of the changes designed to answer previously unanswered questions end up making more questions.
Still, it was a fun ride and is very much worth experiencing. The final hour or so is fantastic. Even if the ending did leave me a tad underwhelmed.
Burial at Sea Episode 2 is a very fun stealth game that stays nicely within the universe. The plasmid and weapon selection is sparse but great to use. The new see through walls/invisibility plasmid is pretty nifty and I’d love to see more of it. The encounters are varied and interesting and I always wanted to see what was around the next corner; especially during that previously mentioned final hour.
It puts a nice little bow on the series and, as the last BioShock experience Irrational will every make, is a must play for fans.