With three games and two episodes of DLC behind us, I’m convinced Ken Levine’s primary goal with the Bioshock series has been to get us talking. Why would he make this elaborate epic steeped in philosophy, politics, and the nature of freewill and predestination if not to get us to ask questions? If that’s the case, I’ll indulge him.
Here’s my first question: What does everyone have against Edith Piaf? I like Edith Piaf! I associate her voice with warmth and love. Between this and Inception, everyone keeps trying to get me to tie it to unsettling things. The game opens with a beautiful but spooky dream sequence on the streets of Paris to the sound of La Vie En Rose. The sequence quickly devolves into a nightmare that has protagonist Elizabeth screaming and crying. I’m right there with you, girl.
In case you’re just joining us, SPOILER ALERT. At the end of the last episode, we discovered player character ‘Booker’ was just another version of villain Comstock in a KotORian twist. Now timeline-jumping damsel Elizabeth is our playable protagonist, and she’s trying to save Sally, the little girl she reluctantly exploited to lead Comstock to his death.
Unlike the last episode, which was set in Rapture without really being so much about Rapture, Episode 2 gets things going right away by introducing us to characters we met all the way back in the original Bioshock. This story is about Rapture to a degree, as Elizabeth must navigate the swiftly-decaying utopia. It’s falling apart in much the same way Columbia of Infinite did when confronted with its own conflicting ideals.
But make no mistake, this episode is primarily about Elizabeth, easily the most likable and compelling character in the entire series, and wrapping up her story. We hear a bit about Rapture’s destructive decadence, the twisted concept of the Little Sisters and Big Daddies, and the schism which will ultimately topple the whole flimsy façade. However, we mostly hear about this through the lens of Elizabeth’s involvement.
Despite the fact that this game will twist you up in an emotional pretzel, it’s strangely peaceful. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Irrational Games is gone and Ken Levine has moved on, but this game feels like a goodbye to us as much as it does the end of a story. I felt very calm, especially towards the end, when the game surprises by leading almost seamlessly into the events of the first game.
So if this is goodbye, then it’s a beautiful goodbye, Irrational. As much as I like Bioshock, I hope its new custodians respect this firm and definitive end and allow the series to enter the respected annals of gaming history where it most deserves to be.