BioShock Infinite: Story Secrets, Twists & Meaning Explored
BioShock Infinite, in true series tradition, is full of hints at the wider meaning and the context of its story.
You can’t spend four hours in Columbia without uncovering a few secrets and if you’re interested in playing through the game without any forewarning to any of its twists and turns we suggest you stop reading and take a look at NowGamer’s spoiler-free hands-on preview.
For everyone else interested in dissecting BioShock Infinite and all it’s secrets, read on…
The more things change
Just as in the original BioShock, Infinite opens on a stormy sea as our lead character, the ex-Pinkerton Booker DeWitt, approaches a lighthouse. It’s hard not to read the significance of that reappearance. What it means however, is open for debate.
The year is 1912 and this particular lighthouse is just off the coast of Maine. Unlike the plane crash and frantic swim to safety of the first BioShock, though, Booker is calmly rowed to the dock by a man and a woman wearing raincoats.
This couple, a young man and woman, will appear randomly throughout Booker’s time in Columbia providing him with useful items and even light comic relief as they bicker about the choices and decisions you’ve been making.
We didn’t recognise that these were even recurring characters until the third time they appeared, but their cryptic talk about your actions is surely connected to the wider fiction.
They seem to be guiding Booker and pushing him in certain directions, or at the very least, ensuring he is in the right place at the right time to make a decision, and they seem very aware of a wider world and an external context that Booker and the player is not.
When we failed to move off the boat and head to the lighthouse (we were too buy just looking around at the scenery) the lady prompted our movement saying ‘he’s not moving’ and the man responded, rather knowingly, ‘he will’.
What exactly this couple represent could be key to understanding Booker and his motivations to save Elizabeth. After exploring the lighthouse and discovering messages regarding his mission to ‘save the girl’ BioShock Infinite makes it very clear that Booker has been forced into this rescue operation after acquiring a hefty amount of debt, but there does seem to be more powering his actions than just that.
The false Shepard
To make matters even more cryptic, when Booker eventually arrives in Columbia his arrival seems to have been foretold. It’s hinted that Elizabeth is described on the world’s propaganda as the ‘seed of the Prophet’ or the ‘lamb’, someone that will eventually lead the city to greatness. But they also warn of the ‘false Shepard’.
He will be known by his mark, an AD written on the back of his hand, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what Booker has. The Prophet Comstock, the creator of Columbia, is supposed to be able to read the future and so far it seems everything he has said is correct, but what does that mean?
It could be just a job for Booker, but there’s a niggling sense that it means more. When travelling up to the city from the lighthouse, Booker is treated to a vision of New York under siege from Columbia – is this what Booker is supposed to stop? Seen from his office and in black and white, Columbia dwarfs the city’s skyscrapers.
One piece of Columbia propaganda reads:
“The seed of the Prophet shall sit the throne and drown in flame the mountains of man”
Is Elizabeth the lamb? Is this Elizabeth’s fate, to destroy the mountains of man, New York? It’s a vision that’s hinted at again when Booker is killed. There are no Vita Chambers in Columbia so when Elizabeth isn’t around to save him you’re treated to a recurring vision. On death Booker emerges back in his office and voices can be heard shouting to get the job done and this just adds to the intrigue.
At one point Booker is also stopped in the street and handed a telegram, presumably from his employers (or the mysterious couple?). He’s warned to avoid the number 77 and to be discreet. He does neither and quickly finds himself drawing the number 77 ball from a raffle, which quickly gets him in trouble.
There seems to be an indication that someone already knows how these events play out. It would be easy to say that this character is the Prophet, he is after all the one who claims to see the future, but could there be someone else behind the scenes manipulating the strings?
We could, of course, be prematurely thinking that BioShock Infinite is about Booker at all, it could just as easily be Elizabeth’s story. And in many ways that’s very much how Irrational establishes her character.
Elizabeth has been locked up her whole life because of the special abilities she posses and perhaps also because she has a greater connection to the Prophet. Able to ‘tear’ open portals into what appear to be other dimensions, it provides a useful tool during gunfights but it means more than just a nifty gameplay application.
Whenever Elizabeth opens a large tear it always seems to revert to scenes from an alternate 1983. We saw the same neon-lit cinema that’s become famous, with ‘Revenge Of The Jedi’ plastered across its sign, only this time it was in French.
There seems to be a tangible connection to the Eighties whenever Elizabeth is concerned. Finding themselves wandering a picturesque beach scene (yes, on Columbia, in the sky), Elizabeth is fascinated by the things around her. You can indulge her and follow her about and you’ll see her experience the world for the first time.
What’s interesting is that all of this is set to a jaunty song that’s being played. Would you beleive us if we told you it was Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just want To Have Fun’? Both Return (or, Revenge) Of The Jedi and Lauper’s song was released in 1983, but what significance this date has for Elizabeth is a total mystery.
It’s hard to escape the feeling that Comstock, the Prophet, is at the heart of BioShock Infinite’s mystery. We’ve yet to really see if the game’s events are leading up to a ‘would you kindly’ style of reveal later into its story, but there’s no escaping that there’s something more going on in Columbia.
Perhaps part of the problem is that we’re expecting a twist. BioShock’s original reveal was one of its greatest assets and changed the way players thought about its characters and world, but will BioShock Infinite be looking to repeat the same gag, or is it aiming for something more sophisticated?
What the greater mystery behind BioShock Infinite eventually turns out to be, if it turns out to be anything at all, will say more about Irrational’s confidence when telling a story like this than anything else. BioShock’s melding of political ideology, mystery, character and guttural action is creating one of the most interesting games of 2013.
But, we can’t help but feel that Elizabeth is key to the answer and really, this is all about her.
Do you have any ideas what’s going on in BioShock Infinite? Let us know what you think below.