Bioshock Infinite – An analysis of the story and ending
Bioshock Infinite is a vast game. Not only in the sheer scale of the world Irrational and Ken Levine have created, but also in narrative concepts too. The following is a HUGELY SPOILERIFIC culmination of my thoughts on the ending to Bioshock Infinite and what it meant to me personally.
*********** I’m going to be talking exact details of Bioshock Infinite’s story from now on. The game will be SPOILT for anyone who has not finished the game. Please do yourself a favour and read this after completion – this game’s story has to be experienced to gain any idea of context ***********[/box_warning]
Once again Irrational have given us a Bioshock title that is something akin to a rorschach inkblot test. The many elements broached on racism and religion in the game are in many ways just challenging your own beliefs and moral values. Choosing whether to throw the baseball at the mixed race couple or at the leering master of ceremonies in the earliest parts of the game was uncomfortable – no judging of people choices but I wonder how many chose their response based on personal beliefs or just selected it because it seemed the socially acceptable thing to do?
Religious elements and race relations aside the biggest mind-bender comes in the form of Bioshock Infinite’s ending. You start thinking that this is a game about getting Elizabeth back to New York and claiming your money. It seems obvious that Booker and Elizabeth have a strong bond that starts to develop at the first section progresses… “Aha!” you cry, this is going to be a romance thing. DeWitt won’t be able to face handing Elizabeth over so will fight the people trying to take her. Right?
That theory soon turns to crud when you start jumping through tears and the world around you falls apart as the Vox Populi rise to power. OK so now this is about just getting Elizabeth out of Columbia, taking down Comstock finally and trying to stop the place being torn apart? Nope, sorry wrong again. As that third and final part kicks in and you take down Comstock you know something just isn’t right. Weird occurances, glimpses through tears all start to build in to the ending crescendo. But what did that crescendo mean? I’ve played the ending about a half dozen times or more now but that first time my brain almost broken!
What does Elizabeth mean when she says “There is always a man, there is always a lighthouse!”? Why does Booker end up being drowned by multiple Elizabeths? What is the baptism all about and why, dear god WHY, is the character both Booker AND Comstock?
So let’s take this chunk by chunk and then try forming a whole.
Elizabeth – Bookers stalwart side kick for the majority of the game is none other than his daughter Anna. Booker, after gambling debts spiral out of control, sells his daughter to Comstock so that he could clear his debts. The cash was paid by the Robert Lutece, who also took Anna from DeWitt. As we see in the later stages DeWitt tries to get Anna back, at this point her pinky finger is severed – this appears to be the start of her power to open tears.
Jeremiah Fink – Fink is the tinkerer of the bunch. Using the tears into other realities he starts to borrow ideas for inventions from varying locations – his brother Albert used the technology to create successful songs, this is why songs like God Only Knows are turning up years before they’re written. It’s implied that Jeremiah Fink uses these tears to look at technology throughout the multiple timelines – possibly twisting the Dig Daddy technology into the Songbird creature or using the plasmid technology to create Vigors. In one audio lof Fink mentions he is watching a wonderfully talented female scientist – could this be Dr Brigid Tenenbaum from Bioshock?
Booker DeWitt – The one known as the False Prophet it becomes evident that he scratched the initials AD (Anna DeWitt) into his hands around 20 years prior to coming to Columbia. Booker comes to be in Columbia because the male of the Letecus twins becomes overcome by the guilt of taking the young Anna. He convinces his female double – the one from Comstock reality who invented the technology to levitate Columbia – to aid him set event back as they should be. You’ll also notice that Booker and Comstock are of the same age, yet Comstock is noticeably older (there is evidence of Comstocks age littered around the various exhibitions in Columbia). Comstock obviously sees the coming of Booker hence the proliferation of posters showing Bookers right hand with “AD” scratched in it.
Comstock – as mentioned he is actually DeWitt. When DeWitt decided to prove himself at the battle of wounded knee (by slaughtering tents full of indians to prove he wasn’t a sympathiser!) he was racked with guilt. After the war he took a baptism to cleanse him of his atrocities and become a new man – that new man was Zachary Comstock. Rather than right the wrongs he caused he took the sign that he has been born again as affirmation his action were righteous hence why he continued to become such a bigoted powermonger. Using the tears from Lutece’s creation Comstock could “see” the future in other realities. He then used this to secure his position as The Prophet.
Multiple uses of the tear technology had unfortunately taken its toll on Comstock. increased aging, poor health and sterility were all side effects of prolonged usage. He needed a “seed” to fulfil his vision of his heir destroying New York. This is why he takes Anna from his other self in an alternate reality.
WTF I hear you cry. OK buckle up because I’m probably going to make my brain explode trying to explain this part.
The key to understanding the game revolves around the Luteces – you might not think that at first but it really does. The two comical and riddle ladened due are actually the ones causing the problems in the first place. Due to the mentioned guilt and the need to right the wrongs they created they continue to go back and search for Bookers in other realities who did NOT undertake the baptism after Wounded Knee. The non-Baptised Booker never became Comstock, but instead married and had a child – Anna (aka Elizabeth). When his wife died he was left with a small baby and a bad bout of depression so he turns to booze and gambling. Comstock comes along and offers to swap his child for a clean slate and Booker takes the deal as mentioned before.
The Luteces then go back and offer Booker the chance to get his daughter back . Booker steps through the tear but travelling this way disorients the individual and their mind is left to try and rebuild a cohesive story to latch on to – “Bring us the girl, wipe the slate clean” is the strongest of Booker’s memories so forms the basis of his reality. He then sets about his quest to free Elizabeth from the tower.
The Lutece twins are actually the same person from alternate time lines – it’s implied via audio logs that Rosalind Lutece needed help so she pulled her counterpart through a tear to her reality – hence their exchange “The mind fills in the blanks”, “Yes indeed. Well I should know!”. The Luteces’ were also both marked for death by Comstock once he got wind of their scheme to right the time lines. He employs Fink to dispose of them but his meddling with their machine doesn’t kill them. No instead they are spread amongst possible timelines – hence their ability to open the tears and suddenly appear to you throughout the game. An audio log in the game says “Comstock has sabotaged our contraption.Yet, we are not dead. A theory: we are scattered amongst the possibility space”.
Each time Booker attempts the rescue certain constants take place. The coin toss is ALWAYS heads regardless of the choice you make it’s almost like a controlled portion of the experiment by the Luteces. They need to see if you’re on the same path as every other Booker before you. Yes that’s right – there have been many others before.
Each Booker that came before failed to break the cycle due to that pesky Song Bird. Luckily Elizabeth from the original Comstock timeline manages to pull you through and give you the C-A-G-E song sheet to control the bird once and for all.
So what do I think went on at the games end? It goes something like this:
Keep in mind that Booker, after Wounded Knee accepts the baptism and becomes Comstock – this MUST happen for both Columbia to exist and for Anna to have been taken and Booker be in the place he is now.
At the end, with the syphon destroyed, Elizabeth draws herself and Booker to a single focal point – a joining of all the possible realities. To stop the course of events taking place it seems she must stop Booker becoming Comstock. They can’t simply go back and kill the original Booker who became Comstock because without him the event of Bioshock Infinite would not have taken place and they wouldn’t have existed to go back and do that.
So taking a different Booker back to the place where the decision was made and drowning him during the Baptism causes a paradox in time and space. How can this reality, the one where Elizabeth destroys New York, exist if Comstock was never created in the first place. The paradox ripples through all realities and natural order will go with the path of least resistance – one where Booker refused baptism. This is why as the final moments roll through the Elizabeths from the other timelines slowly blink out of existence.
The only Elizabeth left is Booker’s daughter Anna who would never have been taken and would have been left to grow up normally – hence the small scene post credits.
A little teaser to close things out then courtesy of NeoGaff forums. Several people have noticed what sounds remarkably like the sound of Song Bird on a recording from Rapture from Bioshock. Check out this youtube video of the Rapture audio log at around 14 seconds.
It appears, based on the audio, that Elizabeth and Booker were upstairs dealing with Songbird at the same time as Jack was dealing with Cohen in Fort Frolic… I’m sure it wasn’t intended this way but it’s a great little conspiracy theory!
That’s it – my thoughts as of now on Bioshock Infinite and it’s incredibly satisfying story. It’s been the first game where I have actually spent as many hours pondering the ending as I probably have done playing the story through. Everyone will probably have a slightly different take on events. I only found about 70′ish audio logs.. maybe I missed something vital that changes everything. As it stands though what is clear is just how much of a conversation piece this ending has become.
Thanks to the Bioshock Infinite Wikia, lovely NeoGaf peeps and a 101 internet forum chats around the globe that helped me formulate my thoughts.