Sunday, August 23, 2015

BioShock Infinite

I finally got to the third installation of the BioShock series, BioShock Infinite, of which Dan Bull has also made an excellent rap. I recall the reception for the game being hugely positive, but later on I have seen dislike for it as well. My own impression was pretty mixed as a whole, too.

Great visuals

Graphics-wise, I have absolutely no complaints about the game. It uses the Unreal Engine 3, again modified by the developers to look a bit better than the out-of-the-box version. The new location probably helped a bit with creating more impressive scenery, too, although Rapture looked quite a bit better as well when I got to shortly visit it (and longer in the Burial at Sea DLC).

I was slightly surprised that Booker did not cast a shadow, though. Jack in the first game did not have a shadow have either but the Big Daddies in the second one did. The lack of reflection was not that surprising, though – very few games have actual reflections since it is so taxing to compute. (But shadows – not quite so.) Regardless, it was a bit off-putting when arriving to Colombia to see the people in the water to have reflections while Booker had not.

The year in the game is 1912 but technology seems even more advanced than in the first two. I mean, raising a city to the sky is no small feat. It was explained with some sort of space magic but I do not recall encountering an explanation how people are able to breathe so high up. The way you simply reappear back on solid surface after falling off the edge without penalty – even in combat – was also quite immersion breaking.

Entertaining combat

Infinite plays much like the previous BioShock – weapon in one hand and spell (vigor) in the other. It was definitely better, though. The sky-lines and the Charge vigor add verticality, and gunplay is much smoother. However, there are way too many similar fully automatic guns, in my opinion. BioShocks 1 and 2 had much more variation in the weaponry.

The second problem with Infinite's weapons are how you can carry only two of them with you, which is way too limiting. They removed the limit in Burial at Sea but I had disabled the hint system and only at the end of part 1 discovered I actually had all the picked-up weapons with me. I thought the DLC had seemed oddly sparse on weapons and ammo.

Otherwise the gameplay felt superb. The vigors are really cool, though I did not get to really experiment with all of them as after I discovered the Bucking Bronco + Devil's Kiss combo, I kind of stuck with it. I completed it with Storm and Overkill gear pieces I found. (Gear is mostly random in style of Dishonored's bonecharms.) Storm made the vigors to chain to nearby enemies and Overkill added lightning to the combo. I basically cleared whole packs of enemies with two button presses.

I do not know if playing on harder than Medium difficulty would have made the combo less effective. TotalBiscuit, among others, criticized the combat (he completed the game on Hard) but on Medium at least I found it quite enjoyable. I was thinking of replaying the game on the 1999 mode but then I got to the final fight, which was not fun at all. It took me way too long to realize the enemies were attacking the ship and not me. And then it took ages for me to finish it with the Songbird not being very responsive to the attack command and there being so many enemies to kill.

Later on I read that using Return to Sender trap in front of the ship's power core allows you to freely go up blowing up the airships yourself with the Songbird taking care of the boarding enemies. I also died quite a few times in the last fight while previously I had done so only once when I first discovered the Handymen can electrocute the sky-lines. So I guess the Medium difficulty was mostly too easy for me.

Poor pacing

While the combat was great, it often felt like it was interrupting the story, becoming an unnecessary obstacle between you and the next bit. The pacing felt off quite often. Especially at the end, Infinite becomes a walking simulator while throwing shovel-loads of story at you. In the beginning I was eager to find out who is the girl that Booker needs to find and what kind of place Colombia is, but the too slowly progressing story got less and less interesting as it went on.

Elizabeth was of course cute and all in her innocence and banter with Booker at first. But as she quickly matured, having her around became less entertaining. And her lockpicking chirps sometimes did not fit her sad or upset mood at all, completely throwing me off.

I think the game lacked a strong central theme. Sure there were all kinds of stuff in the background, but they stayed there, and the main plot is just about Booker and Elizabeth. A story that is very careful about giving you important information and has no point. It just has so weak a base on how it relies on time and dimension traveling. Those always leave so much room for plot holes.

Wonderful voice-acting

Voice-acting in the game is top-notch, though. And I liked the music video they put in the credits with Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper – it made the long credits more interesting. Although then whenever Booker and Elizabeth spoke in Burial at Sea, I could very easily imagine the voice actors saying the lines.

I was also amazed upon seeing Jennifer Hale credited as Rosalind Lutece. I cannot understand how I did not recognize her. I guess it was so unexpected or something. Kimberly Brooks gave her voice to Daisy Fitzroy but she sounded so different than in her role as Mass Effect's Ashley that I could not have ever told it was her.

No 100% completion for me

I would have liked to go for all achievements with BioShock Infinite but after founding out it has a similar deal with a challenge map pack DLC like Dishonored has, I decided to forget about it. I completed the first map and it already had very tedious-seeming optional challenges to beat that are needed for the achievements. It was annoying to restart Booker's progression from zero, too. I would have liked to continue from where I ended the main game.

Also, could developers please stop with the lack of manual saving. All I want is to be able to continue where I left instead of having to play until the game decides to save, or to needlessly replay parts of the game.

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