When I find myself enjoying too many games in a row, I start to hunt down games that I hear bad things about in an attempt to strike a balance between “I love this game” reviews and those of the “I hate this worthless waste of time” variety. That’s actually how I came across Bioshock Infinite’s Burial at Sea DLC, a two-part DLC story that I would have likely ignored the existence of otherwise; not only was Episode 1 widely panned, but I heard many of the same things about Episode 2 and decided to give both episodes a try. Episode 1 was enjoyable, admittedly, but it was also undeniably flawed in how short (and ultimately meaningless) it is. Episode 2, on the other hand, switches up the gameplay to a Dishonored-esque brand of stealth, fills in many of the base game’s plot holes, and brings the Bioshock series full circle while ending on a much more fulfilling note than Infinite did. It’s as simple as this: I’ve played through the DLC for many games, but all of it pales in comparison to Burial at Sea: Episode 2.
Play Episode 1 and the original Bioshock first
Playing Burial at Sea: Episode 1 (or at least watching someone else play it on Youtube) is necessary to understand the second piece of DLC because it obviously takes places right after the end of the first episode. Also required is general knowledge of the events of the first Bioshock, though this DLC actually includes a short refresher with all of the relevant details packed into a short video. It’s still advisable to play through the first game yourself, but the video covers the important details, allowing even newcomers to understand the DLC’s ending.
It’s still confusing, though
Of course, “understand” might not be the right word, because you’ll spend 70-80% of the DLC having no idea what’s happening. Who are you? Who are you talking to? Why have you come to such an awful place? Most of this is tied up in a nice little bow by the end, but the plot is brain-bending in the best of ways to the point where you’re likely to have one or two questions left after the ending that even quantum physicists would likely have a difficult time answering.
This paragraph is going to look terrifying
They’d be the most qualified individuals to answer those questions, too, because the game’s brain-bending element comes from its focus on the principle of quantum superposition. Basically, quantum superposition is the idea that something can exist in all of its possible states simultaneously until witnessed by an outside observer, at which point all of those possibilities collapse into the single result that you witness. Have you ever heard of Schrödinger’s cat? Yeah, that’s basically what we’re dealing with, and it can be frustrating to wrap your head around it all. Still, the game’s focus on multiple worlds with multiple variants of the same people seems to deal with the cat problem by subscribing to the many-worlds interpretation where those possibilities collapse into all potential states (which were previously all existing at once as per quantum superposition), with the non-observed states then existing in what amounts to parallel universes. Now, I didn’t know much about any of that stuff before the Burial at Sea DLC (and to a lesser extent, the base game), but it actually makes quite a bit of sense once it’s broken down and put into the context of the game, so don’t let the craziness of this paragraph turn you off of trying Burial at Sea.
This is a stealth game
Bioshock Infinite is a fairly straightforward first-person shooter, never really allowing for an approach that doesn’t involve running in guns-blazing, but Burial at Sea: Episode 2 is a stealth game at heart. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that you play as Elizabeth rather than war-hero Booker. To give you an idea of what the actual gameplay is like, Episode 2 plays almost identically to Dishonored, from the tranquilizer darts (shot from a small crossbow almost identical to the one in Dishonored) to the indications above enemies’ heads to indicate their awareness of your presence (as seen in the above video). The relative scarcity of ammo is similar to stealth-oriented games, as well, and while you’ll frequently stumble across vending machines that allow you to restock if you have the money, the amount of ammunition you can carry around with you is limited enough that you’ll often find yourself sparing it for when you desperately need it.
As in most stealth games, there’s also a method of taking down enemies without having to use any ammo. Basically, any enemy who isn’t wearing a helmet can be sneaked up on and knocked unconscious. Since detection happens in multiple stages and isn’t instantaneous like in a straight FPS, this allows for some creative approaches to rooms full of enemies. However, in situations where sneaking up behind your enemies isn’t an option because of broken glass or water on the ground that would make noise and alert them to your presence (how much sound you make plays a big role in stealth), both lethal and non-lethal means are available to Elizabeth. The choice doesn’t have any effect on how the story plays out, but players with preexisting ideas of Elizabeth’s morality will likely find themselves leaning in one direction or the other while playing.
Some women are totally transparent
While Booker has been the only one to end up with plasmids up to this point in Burial at Sea’s story, Elizabeth soon dives into that world and ends up with a few powers of her own. From the “Old Man Winter” plasmid that returns from Episode 1 to the “Peeping Tom” plasmid that turns Elizabeth invisible (and shows enemies through walls, making non-lethal much more feasible during later sections), each power seems to lend itself to a different kind of play style. What this means is that you’re likely to find that one plasmid that you like and stick with it throughout most of the game rather than switching back and forth constantly.
Return to Columbia
While Rapture is a great setting, Episode 2 also includes a section that takes place back in Columbia, so you really get the best of both worlds in this DLC. Columbia is as visually stunning as ever, of course, and some of the most touching and revelatory moments of Burial at Sea take place once you’re back. This addition may be a small, unappreciated detail for some, but seeing floating buildings again felt like a bittersweet homecoming in the best of ways.
This DLC’s got some length
Burial at Sea: Episode 1 was short. Like, brush-your-teeth-and-it’s-already-over short. Episode 2, on the other hand, feels surprisingly long. It’s difficult to gauge the length of two DLCs that exist in completely different genres, but I’d guess that Episode 2 is somewhere in the ballpark of 4 times larger than the first episode, and the addition of stealth means that progress is inevitably a bit slower than simply gunning one’s way through enemies. Four to five times longer than Episode 1 sounds about right—it’s not a Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal-esque expansion by any means, and its length obviously can’t compete with the base game, but it’s likely to last a few days for most people.
Finally some Songbird information
One of my biggest problems with Bioshock Infinite was how little information it had to offer regarding Daisy Fitzroy and Songbird, both of whom were left virtually bereft of characterization. While Episode 2 may not flesh them out quite as much as I’d hoped, they receive enough attention to make you think differently about them than you did at the end of Infinite, and this DLC is a huge success in that regard.
And it’s pretty, as always
One of the things I love about Bioshock Infinite and its DLC is how unbelievably pretty everything is. It’s artistic and the character models aren’t striving to be photorealistic by any means, but the usage of light and shadow work to create atmosphere (and great screenshots) like few other games can.
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