Burial at Sea is a weird piece of downloadable content. It’s as much fan service as it is Levine telling a different kind of story than Bioshock or Infinite that bridges two games. And now it is seen as a swan song to Irrational Games as a full-team studio. It’s weird. But there’s still something incredibly compelling about it that kept drawing me inward, closer and closer to my screen. My arms were tired and my back was sore, but I just had to know what was coming next.
Episode 1 was a blur. It started and ended seemingly before I could blink, and the little story there was confusing and back-loaded so heavily that it took me by surprise when the credits rolled just when everything was picking up steam. The longer and much more well-defined narrative of Episode 2 begins not long after the events of the first, but the immediate linking events seems at odds with each other. I won’t spoil what happens, but I felt a bit of a disconnect between the two, mainly in one character’s motivation.
Burial at Sea Episode 2 brings new variables to the vast fiction of the Bioshock universe. It keeps with the noir overtones of the first episode, with maybe a few more overt nods to the genre, and also bridges gaps between Bioshock and Infinite, closing up a few plot holes and inconsistencies along the way. It’s weird. Whether or not any of these story beats were pre-planned or made in hindsight, I can’t say, but Burial at Sea does a pretty good job wrapping both games into a neat little bow. Essentially Elizabeth is on a mission to help save the Little Sister Sally introduced the first episode. Multiple characters from both games make appearances and it’s really intriguing to see more interaction and development from beloved — and hated — characters. It’s pretty damn weird, too.
Burial at Sea Episode 2 puts you in the shoes of Elizabeth, and with that comes an incredibly different set of mechanics. Running headlong into battles firing off loud guns every which way is no longer the viable option, Elizabeth is much more prone to damage — which is weird considering how she couldn’t get hurt in Infinite, but it works given the changes to the core mechanics of the original game. Episode 2 plays more like a stealth game than anything else. You only have a crossbow with tranquilizer darts and a few plasmids to your name, one of which allows Elizabeth to go invisible and see enemies through walls, which really helps for figuring out how to avoid enemies or get the drop on them for a one-hit melee takedown. Later on in the DLC you get access to a few other weapons, but I used those pretty sparingly since they felt relatively underpowered next to the immediacy of the tranquilizers. It’s not the most feature complete stealth game, but it is an incredibly competent one considering the shooter-centric lineage of Bioshock.
I don’t know what to fully make of Burial at Sea‘s story just yet. Like Infinite or Bioshock before it, I need time to think about everything that happened and whether or not it all makes sense, or if I’m just crazy for liking it as much as I do. The dream-like opening is beautiful, striking a balance between light and dark, and is one of my favorite parts of any of the Bioshock games. Burial at Sea tells a compelling narrative both encapsulated in itself and how it relates to the other fiction. It’s a bittersweet ending to the Ken Levine Bioshock saga. I have a few minor problems, especially in how Episode 2 relates to the first, but Burial at Sea is a fantastic send off for a wonderful studio that has made two of my favorite games. If you’ve got Bioshock Infinite and want another well-written story in that universe, you should most certainly play Burial at Sea. But be warned: it’s kind of weird.