A few days ago I posted a series of questions about last years contentious Bioshock sequel. I chose Bioshock 2 because its not only something a lot of people have played, but its also a game that practically begs for discussion. Rapture was built on opinions and ideals so it fitting that I should ask questions about a game that people will already have a strong opinion on.
My thanks as always to those of you who contributed, though this may seem like a dumbed-down forum I think its a great way for people to read a set of questions and answers and get a decent understanding of what seasoned gamers (or at least people who write at length about games) think about a particular subject. Thanks Bamul and stephenage for your lengthy answers, I have also enlisted the help of Bentley from the last VP because he has only ever played the sequel and a friend whom we shall dub "Murray" who I lent Bioshock 2 to a week before because he has never played an FPS outside CoD or Halo.
1. Should Bioshock 2 have been made?
stephenage: At first I would have said no, I had little interest in playing this game at first. I loved the original but so much of that love was due to the discovery of Rapture throughout and Andrew Ryan. He was so linked to the city and the sense of wonder at first seeing rapture was so key to the experience that I didn't fancy the idea of a Ryan-less return to the now familiar Rapture. However the game was excellent, so yes it should have been because I loved it. However when I played Bioshock 2 I loved it. The game didn't need to be made, but I'm glad it was because it turned out really well.
Bamul: That's a difficult question. I really am not sure on this one and I can't answer it properly with all confidence. However, I can say that (in my opinion) making BioShock 2 was definitely not a mistake. The first BioShock was a grand piece of art, but it needed some major (though not huge or drastic) improvements for its gameplay. Besides, although it was obvious that Rapture would never be as mysterious as it once was - it was still a place that everyone who'd enjoyed the first game would've wanted to visit again.
Me: I don't think it should have been made, but then I think the same way about Portal 2. It was so obviously "made for the money", Irrational wanted nothing to do with it, 2k had to draft in a new developer to make it and it was running on the same engine. It screamed "CASH COW" but it such a pleasant surprise, especially when I realised that in the first Bioshock I had only been a tourist in Rapture, in the sequel I was a product of Rapture and as a result it was a more rewarding experience.
Bentley: to me, its all about gameplay and Bioshock 2's gameplay was top-notch. it may not be the best fps out there but when youve a setting and gameplay design this good then make a sequel, who cares about concept. nobody played gears of war for its setting, or republic commando for its accurate portrayal of the star wars universe. its because they were good fun.
2. Was the switch from the focus on objectivism to collectivism effective?
Bamul: The answer depends on what you really mean as effective. If you mean that it was well added and didn't feel like a substitute for Ryan's philosophy, then yes. It didn't feel tacked on, rushed or negative. In other words, it was fairly effective.
Me: It made sense really, the collectivism of Lamb was a direct reaction to the objectivism of Ryan, Like the switch from planned socialist to market capitalist in an economy. It worked because it was a natural evolution of Rapture's philosophy. Either way both versions of the supposed Rapture utopia were flawed from the start.
Murray: i know nothing about either of those but i do know it didn't make much sense to me, how was the whole religious community thing supposed to unite a population who came to rapture because they were driven by a need to escape that kind of thing? they were all self-serving capitalists at heart so why would they suddenly make the shift?
stephenage: It was the obvious choice, one end of the spectrum to the other. However this isn't a bad thing, the Bioshock series so far has been good at showing the dangers of extremism and I feel that 2 enforced that. Without 2 it is easy to look at Bioshock as just a warning against objectivism, whereas 2 shows that the theme is just plain anti political and philosophical extremes. The main message is consistent, the idea of the utopia is a flawed one doomed to fail.
3. What improvements were made to the game as a whole?
Me: I personally think the idea of casting us as the Big Daddy opnened up a lot of gameplay options. Weapons could be oversized and brutal instead of the mushy guns of the original, 2K Marin could realistically throw more splicers at me now that I was the embodiment of Rapture's twisted sense of power. And power is the word, there was a real feeling of empowerment that was muted in the original because you were just "some guy" for 2 thirds of the way. Dual wielding and the drill and so on, they all were made possible by the gimmickery of casting the player as Delta. Level Design also took a leap forward from the original game, it was less new and exciting but Rapture felt more like a place this time.
stephenage: The biggest improvement made, though it sounds very minor, was dual wielding. Being able to fire a weapon and plasmid simultaneously made the gameplay so much better, it made me use plasmids so much more, which is a big bonus because they are one of the best parts of the gameplay. Overall the core gameplay, shooting mechanics and the like, were improved (it still doesn't feel like the best FPS out there, but it was a marked improvement), and this made the game much more fun to play. Other great changes included the video camera over the normal camera of the original, which let you experiment with fun ways to murder. A huge improvement though was the expanded morality system, which came into effect more and was much more effective. However the games view on what it thought was good and bad (according to the trophy/achievement) is definitely up for debate...
Murray: it was really well paced, i've played so many games were it chucks you in and you hit the ground running and it sags towards the end, i like slow burn movie and with games its the same. I liked the morality system more than i have with other games, i really wanted to kill stanley which shows how well the game sold me on its world.
Bamul: The biggest and most important improvement made is the addition of the ability to dual-wield and use both weapons and plasmids at the same time for interesting combos. It was something that was missing from BioShock 2's predecessor. Also, another one that comes to mind is the strong relationship between the protagonist and an important character that is mixed up in the main plot. This not only made the narrative a little stronger, but also gave Delta more personality than Jack had in the first game, even though neither of them says anything (apart from Jack's few words at the beginning of the first game).
4. Did the story live up the grand heights of the original? Did it need to be told?
Bamul: Did the story live up the grand heights of the original? Yes and no. The story of BioShock 2 is much more predictable, less mysterious and more to-the-point than that of BioShock. It also utilizes less unexpected plot twists. However, the addition of a strong relationship between the protagonist and an important character, as well as a nemesis who is desperately trying to separate the two, added a much stronger narrative and the need to go on. Did it need to be told? Yes, playing as a Big Daddy is a very interesting concept and so is the new story that utilizes other techniques than the first one did. The game needed something fresh in its sequel, and thankfully that's exactly what it got.
stephenage: It wasn't as good as the original but it was still a very well told powerful narrative. So simply yes, it needed to be told. It expanded well on a known universe and made me want to return to Rapture despite my initial scepticism.
Bentley: i found sofia lamb one-note, a truly evil antagonist should have layers and she was flat all the way. i never even got the feeling that she truly desired my end and thats no good in a game built on conflict. the personal story itself was simple and well-told and there were a few twists that kept me interested but it wasn't as grandiose as Kotor or one of the MGS games which is how i've heard the first one referred to as.
Me: I'll admit to never connecting with the first game's story, it was nebulous and it was built the assumption that I would care about exacting revenge for act against another man's family. As such I really enjoyed Bioshock 2's narrative, yes Sofia Lamb was nowhere near as engaging as Ryan but the story of the Big Daddy as a metaphor for fatherhood may not have been needed, but I certainly welcomed it.
5. What did 2K Marin do wrong in the sequel?
stephenage: Giving a Big Daddy the same health as a human ruined the illusion straight away, if you are going to make me a Big Daddy make me feel like one. Also I didn't like how they handled harvesting Adam with the little sisters, it was overly gamey that only certain splicer corpses would do when in reality they all would, and the actual protecting the Little Sister was a chore.
Me: I enjoyed the little sister defence sequences early on, but by the time I got to Dionysus Park I was sick to the teeth of collecting ADAM with those evil little creatures who were frankly asking for a drill to the face. The morality system was still as binary as the last game, only the choices of who to kill were exceptional. The game also took a step back graphically, the lighting wasn't as good as the first game and there was only 2 levels that were truly memorable, I get that they had to tone down the graphics to allow for the increased number of enemies (this was the Unreal 2.5 after all) but the lack of "wow this looks absolutely stunning" sensation of the first game was lost.
Bamul: 2K Marin failed to recreate an antagonist for the sequel that was as powerful and influential as Andrew Ryan was. Ryan was the sort of person who you start to doubt fighting against on the way and in some aspects admire. Sofia Lamb didn't do anything in order to create those emotions towards me. They also didn't manage to recreate the sense and feeling of mystery that the first game had, but that was understandable.
6. Did Sofia Lamb present as strong a antagonist as Andrew Ryan?
Me: Well there was no way she could have been, Ryan was a one-off character that no amount of good ideas and strong writing could best. The problem was that Lamb was overused, she was constantly blaring out warnings and cryptic religious whatnots and that destroyed any mystery that she could have created. One of my favourite villains of modern gaming has always been Dr Breen specifically because we saw so little of him, he created a air of mystery that made him all the more believeable, 2K made the mistake of thinking more = better.
Bamul: No, but she wasn't that bad either. However, it was probably her fight to keep Delta and Eleanor apart from each other that made her a strong character.
Bentley: just from the voice recordings i could tell Ryan was a better character, it seems strange that they chose to make Lamb so one-note when Ryan was such multi-faceted character, i learnt more about Ryan in Bioshock 2 than i did about Lamb.
stephenage: Not at all, the city of Rapture and Andrew Ryan are almost synonymous, so placing Lamb in Ryan's playground didn't have the same effect... Maybe a giant golden statue of Lamb welcoming you at the beginning of the sequel would have done the trick...
7. Was the multiplayer something you would like to see in future Bioshock titles? Was it a worthwhile inclusion?
Bamul: That's hard to say. It was fun and overall good, but can't be compared to the online multiplayer giants out there such as the Call of Duty, Battlefield, Killzone, Resistance and Halo series. If there is to be a multiplayer option in the next instalment, it must be spiced up and much more rewarding to be worthwhile.
Me: I'm a singleplayer guy by and large so when a game has a multiplayer, it has to be the knee of the bee and Bioshock 2's multiplayer was interesting up until the point when I realised it was a crazy CoD spray-fest and the story-driven introduction to the multiplayer component was just a throwaway inclusion. Why couldn't they just have give us the Protector Trials DLC and some leaderboards, go the Arkham Asylum route rather than pollute a quality single-player experience with a merely passable multiplayer.
stephenage: It wasn't particularly worthwhile, it was fun enough but those resources could have been put into improving the bit I actually care about.
Murray: i enjoyed it i suppose, its not something id come back to but it was fun while it lasted. maybe a stronger net code and more interesting game types would have given it legs.
Bentley: I finished the singleplayer and then i jumped right back in to play it again and see what i missed. i didn't even touch the multiplayer until 2 weeks after id finished the game twice and when i did play it i just wanted to play more singleplayer.
8. Was the mystery of the Big Daddy diminished by the decision to cast the player as Delta?
Me: Yes it was, but that was the point. I wanted to delve deeper into the origins of the Big Daddy, such a tragic figure can never be left without a story and 2K gave me what I wanted, they probably knew about the Infinite by then so they thought they could take a risk and flesh out his story without the fear of ruining the mystery if there was going to be another full game set in Rapture.
stephenage: Not at all, Delta's story kept the intrigue going very well, and when things were revealed they were done so excellently. It was a great choice on the part of the developer, just a shame about the horrible health bar.
Bentley: as the whole Big Daddy thing was new to me i still found them just as mysterious and sad as other people did with the first game. it was kinda like a freed slave looking on at his still servile brethren if you get me. i felt a lot of sympathy for them due to that casting decision.
Bamul: Partially, I guess so. However, it was definitely not destroyed completely because not much was explained and since you can control Delta's behaviour, there's not much we know about him. But still, it mostly was for reasons that I won't mention due to possible spoilers.
9. Did Minerva's Den open up new opportunities to flesh out the Bioshock universe in small, focused sections?
Bamul: I can't say to be honest, didn't get any of the DLC because I don't support money-milking customers and wish for retail expansions to come back into gaming.
Bentley: i actually bought Minerva's den on release, i was hungry for more Rapture and the game delivered an amazing story, new toys and better characters in a strong, focused 4-5 hours. it was fun, difficult and enagaging like the full game but honed down to what was best about the sequel.
Me: I'm all for single-player expansions, especially if they give me new toys and a new story. The story of Charles Milton Porter was personal without being overbearing and topical without being pretentious. It actually made me dream of a proper collection of single-player DLC sections acting as prequels to the Rapture civil war. In short, more please.
stephenage: I still need to finish this, the story was ruined for me so it's hard going back to it. I did buy it though because I really support this idea. I really want a 'Tales of Rapture' game, built up of lots of small separate experiences.
10. Is the mystery and intrigue of Rapture over? Should we revisit it again?
Me: Yes, Rapture is over, or at least it is for the moment. We're too hung up on its brilliance that another sequel based in post-ryan/post-civil war Rapture would kill it outright. Maybe wait a few years until the memories become rose-tinted then release that set of small, individual prequel stories that I've been dreaming of.
Murray: i don't want to go back, i can say ive been to Rapture but i'll always prefer helghan and reach. i want more fun and less concept. Rapture was too claustrophobic and dank for me.
Bentley: no it isn't, i want to go back. i'm going to buy the original when it drops to below $15 and i'm still going to want more. after years of dull halo games and predictable military shooters Rapture was every bit the revelation that so many of my friends told me it was. we should make a return journey.
Bamul: Once again - I can't answer this. It seems that we can't get anything new out of Rapture, but if a talented team of developers was given enough money, time, tools, a good engine, with good story writers and art directors, then I'm sure they'd be able to create a great game that would allow us to go back to our beloved, underwater setting of Rapture and be entertained, without having to rely on old gameplay and memories of previous BioShock games.
stephenage: I don't want another full sized game set in Rapture, but more episodic stories would be great. Chuck a bunch of them together and you have my money 2K!
Again thanks guys for your effort, this is significantly larger than the Dead Space 2 VP and if you've got any ideas for the next one then leave in the comments below. If you have any opinions on the questions but didn't read them in time to answer before this post then send me a pm or answer in the comments and I'll add you in like I did with stephenage's opinions with Dead Space 2.
This was adam1808 with his wordy friends