"My muse is a fickle bitch, with a very short attention span!" – Sander Cohen
Burial at Sea takes place after the events of Bioshock Infinite, or at least it seems that way so far. You start off in the office of Booker Dewitt, except instead of being haunted by a disembodied voice, you're greeted by Elizabeth. She has the allure of a sexy heroine from a noir detective mystery, standing at Booker's office window with a cigarette waiting to be lit. She needs Booker's help to find a girl named Sally who bears a striking resemblance to a little sister, with one catch. She has blonde hair. Booker even makes a remark that there are tons of little girls just like her around Rapture. Cue the Twilight Zone theme song.
This world combines the best of Rapture and Columbia. The result is a breathtaking reinvention of the underwater dystopian city of Rapture, which will make any diehard fan's head implode. Upon my first glance out of the panoramic windows, I was greeted by a lively image of sea mammals swimming amongst a forest of colorful underwater flora. I spent about five minutes marveling at a giant whale swimming by before I remembered I had an actual quest to complete.
The enhanced environments are just a small factor of what makes this expansion impressive. With Burial at Sea we finally get a breadcrumb trail that begins to lead to connections between Columbia and Rapture. This is a connection I've been suspicious about ever since we were briefly reintroduced to Rapture during the end of Bioshock Infinite.
The first half of the DLC involves very little gunplay but plenty of narrative punch. You must seek out the mysterious Sander Cohen in order to find more information on Sally's whereabouts. Remember Mr. Cohen? The maniac artist from the original Bioshock game who ran a gang of equally deranged bunny mask-wearing goons, bent on killing anyone who wasn't a deranged bunny mask-wearing goon? That guy! The vibe created by his character in Burial at Sea reminded me of the dark macabre storytelling that made me fall in love with Bioshock in the first place, a darkness that wasn't entirely present in the primary plot of Bioshock Infinite. The mixture of the two worlds is done incredibly well, and if you've played all the Bioshock games, you're really going to pick up on the subtle ways in which they intertwine.
Combat portions remain relatively unchanged. You start off with a limited arsenal of plasmids and must find more throughout Rapture as you search for Sally. The vending machines from the original Bioshock, the Circus of Values, are present along with a few familar plasmids adding a nice bit of nostalgia. Sky-hooks are also integrated into some of the levels, which is one of the more obvious crossovers from the world of Columbia.
Elizabeth also has the ability to open tears during battle to assist you just like she does in Bioshock Infinite. Although she continues to help throughout the DLC, she never goes out of her way to explain to Booker who she is or how she can alter time and space. Instead she describes herself as a "debt collector" when Booker asks about the kind of work she's in. Gotta love irony. It's unclear why she doesn't want to be more forthcoming, but I'm hoping they expand on that in future episodes.
$14.99 may seem like a bit too much to some people, considering that Burial at Sea isn't extremely long if you rush through the main story and ignore the side quests. I finished it in about three and a half hours and that was after I explored all the nooks and crannies I could find. If you love Bioshock and the price of this expansion is the only thing keeping you from playing Burial At Sea, then I highly suggest you purchase the season pass. Bioshock games have always mastered the art of storytelling and this expansion is proof of that. I've played indie games shorter than this DLC that were priced higher and had less of a world to explore. When I finished it, I found that I was upset about how quickly I had gotten through it, but I wasn't angry because I didn't think I had gotten enough from the story. I was angry because I wanted more. Remember that brat from Willy Wonka who wants a golden goose? That's me right now.
Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea is a delicious cake. The kind of cake you buy from a place you know is too expensive, but you have to have it because you've had it before and it's the best fucking cake you've ever had, and this hipster bakery is the only place that sells it. Then you take your first bite and it's so good your eyes roll into the back of your head. You continue to shove fork-fulls of it into your mouth. Frosting stains your lips and cheeks because you love the cake so much you don't even give a shit about making a mess. Then it's gone. Mid-bite, you notice that someone has picked up your cake and taken it away. Tears collect in your eyes; your bottom lip trembles. Who's the son-of-a-bitch who stole your cake!? It's Ken Levine.
He stands in front of you holding the cake inches away from your face and tells you he'll return at an undetermined time to give you the rest of it. You explain that you've paid for the cake, you've waited almost a year to eat it, and you don't want to wait anymore. There is no explanation. He turns away with your cake in hand and leaves without saying a word. You savor the last bite of cake left on your fork and watch the doorway anxiously. You don't have to wait for Mr. Smug to return but you do it anyway. Why?
Because it's the best fucking cake you've ever had.