Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Now Playing: Burial at Sea (DLC)

Despite my many issues with the game, I rather enjoyed Bioshock Infinite. It was a game I felt had a lot of unfulfilled potential. Does Burial at Sea, a two part DLC expansion address any of those issues? Does it unlock the potential that Infinite hinted at but never quite achieved? Nope!

I quite liked the Rapture interlude at the end of BI. It was a nice little touch, a nod to the original Bioshock. When it was announced that BaS would see the return of Rapture I was wary but intrigued. Would this story tie into the original Bioshock? If so – how? How would it be connected to Infinite? Perhaps it was simply a ‘side’ story, unconnected to either. Oh, how I wish that were true. But BaS, for whatever reason, was designed to not only tie into the world and story of Infinite, but also tie into the core story of Bioshock, attempting to wrap everything up with a neat little bow. Except it doesn’t and it’s f**king stupid.

Yes, I’m rather annoyed at BaS. So let’s start with the gameplay. This is, if anything, even less engaging than the solid, if by the numbers shooting of Infinite. Part 1 is rather slow, opening with an extended period of walk and talk through Rapture pre-revolution. Interesting to see, but not particularly to play. When the action finally kicks in it’s all a little boring, with a limited selection of weapons and powers, once again neither satisfying nor creative. And just when things start to get a little more exciting, it all ends rather abruptly, leaving you wondering just where the hell this story is supposed to be going. Disappointing stuff.

Which leads us onto Part 2. When it was announced we’d be playing as Elizabeth I was once again intrigued. This could be interesting, right? With the dimension ripping powers at her disposal there was a chance for a whole new, imaginative style of play which would – NOPE! For reasons which are stupid, Elizabeth begins Part 2 without any powers. I guess that was easier. So now she has to rely on stealth to survive. Well…that’s something different at least, right? True. But they also completely half-assed it.

Stealth in BaS amounts to crouching and using a power to make Elizabeth invisible. That’s pretty much it. You can climb in air ducts too, I guess, not that you really need to. Let’s say you need to get from A to B. Forget slow, careful movement and planning, you may as well just run through, attracting every enemy in the area. Once you hit B, simply go invisible. The bad guys will gather around you, stare you at, bump into you, but they can’t see you and will eventually get bored and wander off. STEALTH! So yeah, it’s a terrible system, limited with options, broken with a single power and with an AI that simply wasn’t designed for it. Like Part 1, BaS Part 2 is simply dull to play, and you’re only really slogging through it for the story.

Oh dear. As I said, BaS, for some silly reason, tries to tie everything together. Was this at all necessary? No. And there’s so many things, primarily in Part 2, which are just dumb or completely contrived in order to tie Infinite and Bioshock together, that you wonder how they ever could have thought it would be a good idea to try. It’s forced, it doesn’t make sense, and it only serves to weaken both core experiences.

So yeah, I’m not happy. Part 2 gets pretty rushed towards the end. It starts getting increasingly linear, with little player control and it feels like corners were cut to ship the thing out on time. It ends with a stupid attempt to tie it into the opening of Bioshock and come full circle. I don’t know why. On top of that, it provides no real closure for Elizabeth or her story, and the more you think about it, the less sense it all makes. I mean hell, Infinite had its plot issues, but they were nothing compared to this.

Overall, Burial at Sea, even if you’re a fan, like me, of the core game, is simply best avoided. It adds nothing to the experience or to the characters. If anything it ruins aspects of both Infinite and the original Bioshock. I’ll concede it has a few nice moments (the torture scene was very well done) but not enough to save it. With a poorly paced and ill-conceived plot, combined with badly executed and dull gameplay, Burial at Sea is simply not worth your time. Let it sink to the bottom.


Friday, 18 April 2014

Work in Progress: TSOTS

I was hoping my last update would be, well, my last before I finished this thing. But I'm not quite there yet. I'm currently working on Chapter 28 of a planned 34. My goal is to have these remaining chapters drafted by the end of April. So I'm still on target for my original goal. I have 12 more days to get this done.

As nice as it would be to lock myself in a tiny hole with zero distractions, there are always things popping up that need my attention, dragging me away from my desk. But hopefully I can keep those things to a minimum, at least for the next couple of weeks. I feel like I'm on a roll at the moment and I don't want to stop and lose this momentum. I hammered out over 6 pages this morning alone. Of course, when keeping up this kind of pace there's always the danger of burnout and (increased) insanity. But this is how I work. And as I'm sure I've said before, I wouldn't recommend it.

So this is it, the final stretch. In 12 days I will emerge from my hole with a completed manuscript. And that's when the fun really begins.