Let’s get something out of the way- the original Bioshock game was incredible.
The game released at a time when FPS games were becoming run of the mill “go here and blow this up” shooters. Bioshock set itself apart by taking the most exciting elements of FPS gameplay and refocusing the format into an immense, masterfully created universe- while simultaneously creating what has been argued to be one of the best story lines in modern video-gaming history.
Irrational Games has an uncanny ability to produce their Bioshock series with a fluid connection between art, gameplay, and character creation. Because of this, many gamers are incredibly excited about the upcoming third installment in the series- Bioshock Infinite. Even more, however, are questioning whether or not the innovations of the gameplay, specifically the ability to “fragment reality” will be an improvement to the game, or its downfall.
First, a bit of background for newcomers (feel free to skip a few paragraphs if you've played previous titles):
Moving away from the confines of Rapture's dystopia, Infinite takes place in the expansive city of Columbia; a city built in the sky. The city started as a place of wealth and prosperity, but has become one of anarchy after an attack by the citizens on a group of bystanders down below. After this attack the city was exiled, leaving the citizens (and the city itself) isolated, floating around the upper reaches of the atmosphere. This, of course, leads to civil unrest and a city at war.
Infinite's story begins with your character being tasked by mysterious individuals to infiltrate this lost city and rescue a girl named Elizabeth. This girl, in particular her abilities, have become the source of much attention by the two opposing forces in Columbia (those who have become engaged in this civil war).
Elizabeth has the ability to control fragments of an alternate reality- she can use those fragments to fabricate materials and conjure various entities which are incredibly helpful to both herself and your in-game character. She can for instance, create makeshift cover in front of your character, saving you from a barrage of bullets or conjure a storm of electricity to dispose of enemies blocking your path.
According to what has been released about the game so far, Elizabeth is not directly controlled, but rather reacts naturally to the environment and provides gamers with the choice to use her abilities in times of need. However, as with all things Irrational Games related, there is a twist- using these powers come at a cost.
Fragmenting reality will hurt and damage Elizabeth when you choose to use her abilities.
Thus, utilizing Elizabeth’s abilities becomes a matter of morality- do you make your journey through the game easier at her expense, or trudge through without her help, albeit with a feeling of heroism and good-will?
Bioshock Infinite is a very interesting concept. The game will obviously retain a lot of the natural Bioshock charm, but at this stage of pre-release does cause long-time fans to pause and speculate as to whether or not this “fragmenting of reality” will be a benefit or hindrance to the series. In a game that has proven itself to be solid on all previous occasions, some are calling this mechanic an unnecessary element of change, while others praise Irrational Games for their creativity.
Hopefully the option to use this ability will be just that- an option. I sincerely expect Irrational Games to put the choice in the hands of the gamer; and, if this is the case it shouldn’t change any of the elements which have made the series such a success. If, however, there are moments in the gameplay where using this ability is not optional, but rather forced, I can see this being a very large problem for long-time fans of the game.
As always, thanks for reading and feel free to comment with your own thoughts and opinions.