BioShock Infinite: A Full Story Analysis (With Spoilers)

Sorry guys, but to go in depth spoilers are simply a necessity. I think reading about them in advance might actually spare you a bit of disappointment, to be honest.

BioShock Infinite was spectacular. I mean that in the most literal way possible. It is a game that abounds in spectacle. Battles take place over huge open areas, and you can swing from hook to hook to skyline dodging bullets and landing on enemies. Columbia is enormous and absolutely jam-packed with detail, and it is a blast to just look around.

The story itself is equally spectacular. It is complex, convoluted, moving at times, and utterly over the top. And this is its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. Infinite has plot holes – big ones. They lead the story forward in interesting and entertaining ways so I overlooked them, but they remained plot holes. And for the story to go the way it did, it needed them.

The biggest plot hole involved a portion of the game where you and the girl, Elizabeth, need to find weapons to arm a revolution, then realize you don’t have the means to transport them.

Well, we could have:

. Used the skylines, which we’ve seen do nothing but transport people and cargo ALL GAME.

. Just used vigors (your superpowers). They’re smaller, more powerful than guns, and you always have them with you. Sure you need salts, but then you’d need ammo anyway.

. Forgotten the whole thing. The reason we’re doing this is that the revolutionary group that needed the weapons has promised you use of their airship. You could just steal another airship. It wouldn’t be hard; throughout the game you’re fighting and killing people on airships. When you’re done, just take it.

But nope. Instead, Elizabeth opens a tear into an alternate reality where the revolutionary group (Vox Populi) had the weapons, and things have gone to Hell. And you have no means to get back.

No, seriously. As one review I read put it, you set off an atom bomb to clear a cobweb.

Aside from that though, anybody who has seen the trailers knows the point of the game: “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt”. You’re PI Booker Dewitt, traveling to the flying city of Columbia in order to find a mysterious girl named Elizabeth and bring her to NYC to pay off gambling debts. The villain is Comstock, known as “The Prophet”, a racist, totalitarian dictator who has everybody brainwashed into worshiping him.

One thing I liked a lot about the game is what they did with the revolutionaries, the Vox Populi. They were lead by a black woman named Daisy Fitzroy. The game had it set up for the noble revolutionaries lead by a black woman rose up against the evil white men, but instead Daisy ended up being just as bad as Comstock. It was a good twist, and it added a lot to the game’s themes about shades of gray.

Booker and Elizabeth develop a great relationship. The most moving moment of the game is when Elizabeth sacrifices herself to the Songbird (a giant, mechanical bird that served as her guard when she was imprisoned) to save Booker, even though she previously said that she’d rather be dead than captured again; that’s how much Booker means to her now.

The ending…was extremely convoluted, and a bit disappointing. The gist: Comstock, the villain, is you from an alternate timeline. After the battle of wounded knee, where you massacred Indians, you are offered a choice of whether or not to take a baptism and “wash away your sins”. Accept, and you become Comstock, a man who believes that he no longer bears any responsibility for the sins of his past (of course, this is a perversion of the Sacrament, but that’s neither here nor there). Deny it, and you become Booker, our protagonist.

Booker and his lover (it’s never said if they were married) have a daughter, Anna DeWitt. The woman dies in childbirth. Booker owed gambling debts at the time, and a man, alternate universe Booker-as-Comstock, offers to wipe away the debt if Booker gives him Anna, who would be his biological heir – something he wanted so he would have somebody to rule over Columbia when he died.

Booker gives him Anna but immediately regrets it, desperately trying to win her back. Comstock-Booker opens a tear (portal) to take Anna back to his multiverse. Booker wrestles with him for her but is overpowered; her pinky is severed on his side of the the tear. This presence in two worlds is why Elizabeth has her powers – because, yes, Anna becomes Elizabeth. Booker is hired by two people, the Lutece siblings, to find Elizabeth and save her, but to do so he needs to be transported to the alternate universe with Comstock. This muddles his memory, and to rationalize things he combines the old memory of having to bring baby Anna to Comstock to wipe away his debts with the Lutece siblings hiring him and bringing him to the new universe with Comstock – and we have the premise of the game.

Got all of that?

The disappointment comes in the resolution. The conclusion they come to is that to prevent Comstock, in any universe, from existing, Booker must go back to the baptism and die BEFORE he can make the choice of whether or not to become Booker or Comstock. Choice eliminated, Comstock can never exist.

This disappointed me greatly for several reasons. For one, I liked our Booker. Sure he gave up Anna, but he tried to get her back and felt tremendous guilt his entire life for giving her up, and then went to Columbia and went through Hell and back to rescue her. By the end of the game the two had a real, deep bond, and I feel like the whole idea that he was 100% responsible, even as Comstock, for everything that happened to her cheapened that.

I also just didn’t want him to die. I played as him for over 20 hours. I did a LOT of shit. I wanted, if not a good ending, at least a not-bad ending.

The ending was saved partially by a post-credits scene where it’s revealed that Booker is alive. He wakes up in his PI office, and goes and runs to a crib to see if Anna is lying down inside, and before we see if she is it fades to black. But happily, our Booker (I think) is alive and has survived, Comstock is gone, and hey, maybe he has Anna. I felt a lot better.

But for the reasons I mentioned, I’m still not totally satisfied. Here is what I think should have happened:

The Comstock reveal could have occurred. But that just sets up another core idea: There IS a difference between our Booker and Comstock: Choice. That’s why Booker is Booker. It’s why he went to save Elizabeth, and Comstock kidnapped her and tortured her. They became different people when Booker decided he couldn’t run away from his past, and Comstock chose to cast off responsibility.

And so Booker saving Elizabeth could have been a really profound moment if they made it all about Booker’s CHOICE to be different from Comstock and to atone for his sins by rescuing his kidnapped daughter and no longer abandoning her. Booker having changed, and Elizabeth having a bond with him, they could have ended up together in Paris (as Elizabeth wanted) with Comstock dead and buried. But instead they went for a really convoluted, muddled ending that cheapened their relationship and minimized the impact CHOOSING the right thing to do has on our lives.

One objection I heard when I fleshed out this theory to people was that it would be “trite and cliche”. I respond to that by saying that “expected and inevitable” and “trite and cliche” are two very different things. Take the ending to Portal, a brilliant game. The moment where GLaDOS explodes and you land directly outside of the facility is one of the most satisfying moments for me in any game I’ve ever played. It was perfect; just a moment of you, outside, victorious, robot parts raining around you, and then a fade to black. And it wasn’t unexpected or try-too-hard clever; it was actually totally inevitable. It was just wonderfully, perfectly executed.

I’m probably complaining too much. I didn’t HATE the ending, but it definitely could have been a good deal better. And yeah, there were plot holes. But for the most part the game, and yes, the story, was exceptional. The character development was truly exquisite, the issues explored were explored in a very mature, balanced way, and the insanity and convolutedness of the whole thing in some ways added to the charm. And that’s why I keep thinking about the ending; for such a great game and great story, it deserved better.

Thank goodness for the post-credits scene, though. When I thought they killed Booker I was so angry, and finding him alive cheered me up immensely.


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4 Responses to BioShock Infinite: A Full Story Analysis (With Spoilers)

  1. Crude says:

    It was perfect; just a moment of you, outside, victorious, robot parts raining around you, and then a fade to black.

    Did you know they updated the ending when Portal 2 became a certainty?

  2. You guys are such nerds! … It’s magnificent. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Burial at Sea: Episode 2 Comes Out Today! | Malcolm the Cynic

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