Burial at Sea begins with Elizabeth entering Booker’s office and requesting his help to locate a missing young girl, Sally. Girls are missing all over town, in fact, and Booker recognizes this one in particular. He says that surely she must be dead. Elizabeth disagrees.
Your first hour in Rapture is then spent hunting down clues to try to find Sally, and that entire search contains no combat whatsoever. Instead, you’re simply exploring a Rapture that’s alive and well, with people milling around and enjoying life in the city. There are a few notable landmarks (Little Wonders from BioShock’s Point Prometheus, for one) and you’ll hear passing references to spots like Arcadia and Apollo Square.
Still, despite filling in some gaps in Rapture’s mythology (and the return of some familiar faces), Burial at Sea is still very much an extension of BioShock Infinite. This is the actual Rapture from BioShock 1 and the same Elizabeth you saw in BioShock Infinite -- “we don’t want people to feel like they’re playing some B-story,” Irrational told us -- and you’re still using the same mechanics you did in the core game.
In fitting with the shift from Columbia to Rapture, Vigors are once again called Plasmids, Salts are Eve and Silver Eagles are simply money. Voxophones have returned to being audio logs and Infinite’s Kinetoscopes are now Need-to-Know machines. You buy supplies from BioShock’s famous Circus of Values and El Ammo Bandito, plus upgrades are available at Gene Banks. The Sky-Hook also makes a return -- now known as the Air Grabber -- and later in Burial at Sea you ride Pneumo Tube rails as a replacement for Skylines. Everything has been renamed for a reason, though some explanations are more satisfying than others.
Burial at Sea introduces a few new weapons as well. The Tommy Gun is (unsurprisingly) a new machine gun, while the Radar Range is a concentrated laser that can chain between targets. Booker will also pick up a new Plasmid, Old Man Winter, which is interestingly based on a design by a fan and -- as you might have guessed -- allows you to shoot out ice, even creating new platforms out of water flowing from burst pipes.
Following our demo, we spoke with creative director Ken Levine, animation director Shawn Robertson and Burial at Sea lead level designer Andres Gonzales for more on what went into recreating Rapture and fine-tuning combat in Burial at Sea.
“We rebalanced everything to be more toward resource management and stealth,” Gonzales told JuJu2Cast, “which changes the way that the encounters play. It’s more player-initiated. You hear enemies off in the distance. Because these are BioShock Infinite systems, tweaked to create the experience of the original BioShock, it’s sort of a hybrid of the two. We had to create the environments to support that gameplay.”
“We substantially changed the awareness system from Infinite to this, so it felt more like BioShock 1,” Levine explained. “It took a fair amount of work. There were things about the AI that just worked so differently. We just bit the bullet and said, ‘if we want it to feel like BioShock 1 we’re going to have to make all these things happen.’ If it didn’t feel like Rapture, it would just feel like a coat of paint. We knew we didn’t want to do that.”
“Bringing back the environmental hazards and a lot of the stuff that allowed you to interact with the environment that was present in the original game, but that didn’t really play a huge role in BioShock Infinite, was important to us as well,” Gonzales noted. “Taking from both worlds and putting them together and creating a unique experience that drew from both of them in a way that players had never seen before. In creating the environments, the opportunities we had because we were doing this in the BioShock Infinite engine, we had to look at everything differently. We had to base it on the original one, but also just look at what we could do and how we could leverage all these things to their full potential.”
“The vending machines are a really good example,” Levine said. “We were at a point where nobody was using the vending machines [in Infinite]. We said, ‘why is that?’ It’s economics, right? You have tons of money, and if you have tons of money and tons of ammo, you have a problem. Money has to have meaning. You have to cut down the resources in the space. But to tune that and go through that cycle, that scale of Infinite was one of the things that got away from us. We really wanted to focus more on that in this one.”
Burial at Sea Episode One will launch for $14.99, or is included in BioShock Infinite’s Season Pass. Episode One doesn’t have a concrete release date yet, but Irrational promises it will arrive before the holidays this year. When it does release, Burial at Sea Episode One will mark the second DLC pack for BioShock Infinite, following the Clash in the Clouds combat DLC that came out in August. Later, we can also expect Episode Two, which will have you playing as Elizabeth for the first time.
BioShock Infinite is available on Amazon and its Season Pass can still be purchased for $19.99 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or PC.