Is anybody tired of Bioshock yet? If so, you’re probably at the wrong blog—any day now I’ll be installing a giant flickering header that reads Bioshock Thoughts, let me show you them.
With Burial at Sea: Part 1 two weeks since released (and shocking, horrifying, and confusing players all the while), it seems like the new Bioshock installment is creating more questions than it’s answering, and sometimes we’re not sure which is which. In light of that, I’m going to do something a bit different here and throw down a nitty-gritty analysis of this DLC—what we know, what we think we might know, and what we definitely don’t. As a bonus, let’s take a look at how assertions previously made on Oracle Turret regarding Bioshock Infinite stand up to this new addition to the story, and what should terrify us going into Part 2.
For those of you who have yet to play Burial at Sea: Part 1 (and are intent on spoiling yourselves for reasons yet a mystery of science), the plot is as follows: Booker DeWitt is a private detective in Rapture and is commissioned by the femme fatale Elizabeth to find a missing girl named Sally. Booker claims that the girl is dead, and that it was his doing: Sally was an orphan whom he had taken in, but he lost her while gambling in Fort Frolic and she was later found dead. Elizabeth reveals that rumors of Sally’s death were greatly exaggerated and that she was actually sold to buyers unknown. As they travel through the city looking for her, Booker reveals the story of Sally’s disappearance and Elizabeth shows an odd lack of familiarity with Rapture—she is, however, well-versed in aspects of the city that resemble Columbia, a fact which bypasses Booker.
At the end of their journey, the two force Sally to retreat from the Rapture vent system, and Booker discovers that she has been turned into a Little Sister. This revelation is followed by one ten times as explosive: Elizabeth came from another universe to find him, because this Booker is actually Comstock—one from a reality where his attempt to abduct Anna led to the girl’s death. Crushed by guilt, he asked the Lutece twins to send him somewhere where he could forget what he had done, and they settled on Rapture. There he remained until Elizabeth found him and led him to this moment of realization, immediately before he is gored by a Big Daddy and the screen cuts to black.
As one can guess, this DLC gets a little intense and a lot confusing, so some grounding is in order:
What We Know
- Elizabeth and the Luteces continue to exist in multiple universes.
- Comstock is alive in at least one universe.
- Even Comstock has limits.
What We Probably Know
- This is “our” Elizabeth, who was present during the events of Bioshock Infinite. While developers remained tight-lipped when asked this question directly, Ken Levine claimed in an interview with IGN that “you are picking up after the events of Infinite, and this is a person who has seen all the things you’ve seen in Infinite, and that’s had an effect on her.” (Though it’s also possible that we’re just feeding into a greater Elizabeth consciousness, like a much sexier Nilanth or Geth).
- These events take place after the killing of Booker and the collapse of the timeline. Elizabeth could not travel freely outside of Columbia prior to these events, and while it’s possible she makes this trip in the brief interceding time before drowning Booker, I think the quote above dashes that.
- Elizabeth and the Luteces are working together to specifically seek out Comstock.
- Comstock is probably alive in more than one universe—just having one seems a touch unlikely.
What We Don’t Know
- Why Comstock is still alive. Based on Levine’s statement that this takes place after the events of Infinite and therefore after Elizabeth killed Booker to rid the universe of Comstock’s presence, he should no longer exist—yet here he is.
- Why Elizabeth and the Luteces are after Comstock. While the fact that he is alive may seem like answer enough, the question may go deeper than that. Why are they pursuing him in this fashion? Are they pursuing more than just this one? Are Elizabeth and the Luteces multidimensional time cops? Can we please have that spinoff right now?
- Why Irrational wants to hurt us.
You may have noticed a pattern with the last list, in that the meat of the matter presented in Part 1 looks like it will have to be answered in Part 2. Developers have revealed that Elizabeth will be the player character of Part 2, finally putting the player in control of the person around whom the story of Infinite has revolved—a fitting figure to end its whirlwind tale.
In terms of how Burial at Sea changes or plays into concepts mentioned in Oracle Turret‘s previous posts regarding Infinite, it falls in line with much of what was discussed, but not all. The notion of redemption doesn’t feature as prominently in Burial at Sea as it does in Infinite, but we do see Comstock’s attempts to escape the results of his choices without reparative action, this time abandoning Columbia entirely to flee the murder which he facilitated (a fact that Rosalind Lutece points out, noting that Comstock “was never one to own up to his errors”). Also, as suggested in this post, Elizabeth and the Luteces continued to exist following the death of Booker at the baptism, showing that they are not constrained by time and space the way everyone else is.
However, I have to eat some crow and admit that one of the central assertions of that post is incorrect: it appears that Comstock is not gone for good. This fact presents one of the biggest questions Burial at Sea: Part 2 has to answer: if Elizabeth was so sure that killing Booker would eliminate Comstock, why does he still exist? Does Elizabeth not actually know as much as she appears to at the end of Infinite? Is the possibility of Comstock’s “birth,” too complex to eliminate in a single blow, as suggested by critics of Infinite‘s ending? Was killing Booker, someone Elizabeth dearly cared about, not worth it after all?
Finally, the place of children in the Bioshock series—as discussed here—plays an even more intense and horrifying role in Burial at Sea than previously imagined. Not only does the search for Sally prompt great paternal anxiety in Comstock, but her fate also shows the result of his feared failings—and his villainy when it feeds into the grim tale of Anna, whose death is prompted by his greed.
But then, it certainly doesn’t feel like that, does it? As the player watches the final scene unfold, Comstock’s fear for Sally’s safety seems palpable, and his wish to save her heartfelt. We’ve seen similar behavior before, in the main body of the game when Booker tears his way through Comstock House to save Elizabeth. As Booker tries to pull Sally out of the vent, he pleads with her to let him bring her home and out of this perilous situation; based on the interplay of this event and his memories, it seems that he envisioned the retrieval of Anna similarly. (After all, what kind of father was Booker, a deadbeat alcoholic willing to sell his daughter to a complete stranger?) We realize soon enough that this man isn’t the Booker we know at all, but the villainous kidnapper Comstock, and yet that emotion doesn’t feel any less genuine.
A look at Comstock’s tattoo seals the deal, and leaves players with a chilling realization as we wait for Part 2: just as Booker chose to brand himself for the unforgivable crime he committed against Anna, Comstock decided to do the same in his own fashion. Perhaps the horror of Burial at Sea isn’t the splicers and the Little Sisters, or Anna’s gruesome fate, though that’s certainly a huge part of it. Maybe it’s the thought that Booker and Comstock may not be so different after all.
We’ve got Burial at Sea: Part 2 to see how this story closes, how the questions raised in both Infinite and Burial at Sea: Part 1 are answered, and how Elizabeth will repair the damage caused by Booker DeWitt in all his forms—or if she even can.
Oracle Turret‘s first prediction? Time cops. Because you know that would rule.