Better left buried.
I feel like this is kind of a mixed bag. While I really like the general concept of having Booker and Elizabeth in Rapture during a time when that society still kinda worked, I’m not really digging the overall narrative outcome.
The first episode is narratively quite strong overall and actually gives a valid reason for both characters being present in Rapture at that time. And I enjoyed the tenser gameplay because of the very low amount of resources you’re given. This was overall a big problem with all the Bioshock games, since they were far too generous in giving the player ammo and health items. The big daddy fight at the very end is also far more threatening than any of the corresponding fights in the previous two games, especially with its ability to draw the player towards itself with its hook shot. But I feel that it tanked a bit too much damage because I ran out of ammo way too soon into the fight and it just became a chore at the very end.
The final revelation that Booker was in reality an amnesiac Comstock from another reality who felt regret over his failed attempt at kidnapping the infant Anna/Elizabeth which results in her death is great and the way Elizabeth acts towards the player shows how her personality has changed between the end of Bioshock Infinite and this DLC.
However, everything that follows in the second episode soured the experience for me.
First of all, I’m not a fan of stealth gameplay. And this has one extremely simple reason: I suck at it, big time. So while I played the rest of the series on normal difficulty, I immediately bumped it down to easy once I realized what I was in for. The stealth mechanics are ok and with the appropriate plasmid it gives a valid in-universe explanation for how Elizabeth is able to see people through walls and turn invisible.
To the game’s credit, I do feel that what is there in terms of stealth mechanics is at least competently executed for the most part. But I personally find more pleasure in games that take a stealth-action approach. Sneaking by unnoticed entirely doesn’t thrill me for long stretches of time. I much more like the way Deus Ex: Human Revolution made use of stealth, where I can improvise and try to go in sneaky, but when I fuck up, I can still get out of that mess with a chance of survival. Though admittedly, I did at one point manage to do just that by running away and getting to the objective marker, but that was just weird.
Possessing a big daddy at one point to help clear out an area is kinda useless for the most part, because the effect wears off so fast that it’s simply not worth the heavy salt investment. Though one memorable scene happened when I possessed a big daddy that drew aggro from splicers with ice abilities. It attacked a few splicers and got frozen. When my possession effect wore off, the splicers were still aggroed towards the big daddy and I feel that they can’t actually hurt or kill it, since they just kept pelting him with their attacks, inadvertently also freezing other splicers that got in the way, thus effectively clearing the area for me to get out fairly quickly.
But what I dislike the most about episode two is not the gameplay, it’s the narrative. Nothing about this makes any sense. I get that Elizabeth died at the hands of the same big daddy that killed Comstock/Booker previously and how her quantum state means she’d still be alive somewhere. But her reason for going back to that version of Rapture is just stupid and convoluted. She goes back to save the same little sister we tried to save in the first episode, only that now she’s kept hostage by Atlas and you have to help him raise Fontaine’s sunken building as well as retrieve the “Would you kindly” phrase for him to control Jack.
But while you do this, you also return to Columbia at one point. And that literally makes no sense. After the ending of Bioshock Infinite, everything pertaining Columbia should’ve been erased from any and all realities. This Columbia isn’t even the one the Comstock from episode one escaped from, it’s actually the civil war version, so there’s still a real Comstock running around in that universe.
It needlessly tries to intertwine the fates of the two cities beyond what was hinted at previously. The interactions between Fink and Suchong made sense, but having Elizabeth as the main reason for the bonding of big daddies and little sisters and having her deliver the “Would you kindly” phrase that kick off the events of the first game is just too much.
Add to that her death at the end of the episode. I really hated that, because it gives little to no closure to her character. She sacrifices herself for a random little sister. Would it have been so hard to write in a scenario where she gets saved by the Luteces and actually gets a happy end instead of being bludgeoned to death by Atlas for no reason at all?