Gaming Backlog: Bioshock 2


Hot off finishing the first Bioshock, I plunged into the second entry. Now instead of voiceless Jack you are voiceless Delta, a Big Daddy. Playing as a Big Daddy was rather fun, although there were times when the combat felt clunky and limiting. However, the combat wasn’t exactly seamless in the original Bioshock either.

Once again I as the player am suppose to trust a voice on the other end of a radio. And once again I find myself not trusting any of them. I suppose I’m just not a huge fan of such a game mechanic, although I acknowledge the usefulness of such a thing.

The gameplay is rather same-y to the first. The maps have improved by leaps and bounds and you can now easily tell which floor you are on and that these stairs lead to this part. A few of the boss encounters seem a touch unbalanced: I played against one boss on easy and he was a pain. I can’t imagine how he was on harder difficulties. Again, you have the option of saving or harvesting Little Sisters, and unlike last time, harvesting seems a lot more morally bankrupt now that you are playing as a Big Daddy.

 

You can also adopt Little Sisters and guard them while they harvest ADAM from the dead. This is the most annoying part of the game for me, especially in the beginning when you don’t have that much health or plasmids and weak weapons. Once you get mini turrets it’s not so bad, but that first harvesting…sheesh! Now onto the story.

Delta is a Big Daddy in search of his Little Sister Eleanor. He lost her when Dr. Lamb used a mind control plasmid on him and forced him to shot himself in the head ten years ago. How Delta manages to be up and running around all these years later is explained in the game towards the end, but in general that didn’t bother me much. Instead I was distracted at trying to figure out if the crazed citizens I was shooting were around in the first game or if they somehow came after the fact.

The timeline was a bit sketchy to me, and this is probably because Rapture seemed to be on its last legs when I last left it ten years prior, and you don’t have to be a scientist to know that an underwater city would need a heck of a lot of maintenance to survive that long. But anyway that’s what google is there to explain, but it would have been nice to have a more cohesive explaination of the situation and how it tied back to the first time around in Rapture in the game itself.

The ending was satisfying but not nearly to the same degree as the first Bioshock. I have heard from other gamers that this didn’t feel as much as a sequel on its own, that the DLC Miranda’s Den felt more along those lines. I haven’t found myself wanting to spend money on DLC myself to test this out, but I can see what they mean. The connection between the two games could have been better, but it was still fun nonetheless.

Gaming Backlog: Bioshock

I prefer to play things in order, so when Bioshock Infinite was released I decided to go ahead and finally play through the first two games in the series.

The first Bioshock started off rather gritty and the dark atmosphere coupled with strange noises gave me pause: I feared this was going to be a survival horror game, a genre I am quite bad at playing. I think I managed maybe an half hour to an hour on Silent Hill. However, aside from a few scares in the beginning, it really isn’t all that bad once you become familiar with the setting. Helping matters greatly is that death isn’t that much of a setback at all: when your health is depleted you are sent to the nearest Vita Chamber with your meters returned to half strength. The enemies you were fighting are not healed at all so, after awhile you no longer fear being beaten by a baddie.

I am also not an aficionado of FPS games. I played Wolfenstien as a child but between that and Borderlands any other FPS games have been lost from memory. Having said that, even I can tell the controls for Bioshock are not that great. Switching between weapons and plasmids is annoying and can be down right tedious if you’re on a console and the plasmid/weapon you want keeps getting scrolled over. Sometimes it was easier to just ignore the radio dial all together and just cycle through them manually.

The maps were a joke, with arrows and lines acting as inadequate signs of passage between stairways and alternate floors. Everything just ends up criss-crossing each other and you just sort of ignore the map and figure it out yourself.

One of the major components of gameplay and story are the Little Sisters. You can save them or you can harvest them for ADAM, the fuel for player upgrades. Saving them grants you ADAM as well just in a lesser quantity. I’d wager most players save the girls; the moral choice just doesn’t lend itself as nicely to being a hard decision as much as the developers probably had hoped.

The story more than makes up for all the faults, I feel. Andrew Ryan was a good bad guy unless you are a fan of the Ayn Rand way of thinking then he wasn’t a bad guy at all. Atlas was interesting although I never trusted him. In truth, it’s hard to trust anyone you only ever meet over a radio.

And unlike Bioshock Infinite, the boss fight for the first Bioshock doesn’t make you want to throw rocks at babies. Once you get the pattern down it isn’t too bad, at least not on normal/medium difficulty. The ending is also pretty darn good.

I wouldn’t be against playing it again, but considering how long it took me to just play it the first time around, chances are I’ll probably won’t get around to a second turn. Then again I’ve played Mass Effect numerous times, so you never know.

J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy”


J.K. Rowling’s first foray into adult literature, The Casual Vacancy, is a palate cleanser. It is as far removed from the magic of Hogwarts as one can imagine. It’s set in the fictional village of Pagford and the sudden death of one of the¬†parish council members sets off some drama. I feel bad even calling it drama considering how slow moving all the various plot points are and how horribly petty the lot of them feel.

Indeed upon reflection of the finished book, the story felt like a giant heap of exposition, a hint of rising action and then…done. What was intended to be the climax felt anti-climatic and short. The characters are all rather flat and two-dimensional and the few that exhibit any short of change by the end of the story do so suddenly enough to make it feel contrived.

This is not a “bad” novel, but it wasn’t that great. Very solidly “meh”. It is perhaps the type of novel Rowling had to write to prepare for a post-Harry future.