Hello my fellow gamers and welcome to the first in a series of articles I would like to call 'What Could Have Been.' In this series I will be taking a look at games that failed to live up to their potential and try to paint a picture of what the game could have been.
Please keep in mind that these are the opinions of someone who has not worked in the industry but has been playing video games for well over twenty years. To kick this series off, I can think of no better game than #Bioshock 2. So, Let's dive in and take a look at what our second journey to Rapture might have been.
So, our player character, known as Subject Delta, was part of a prototype line of Big Daddies as well as the very first Big Daddy to successfully bond with a Little Sister. That is kind of an interesting idea...if they hadn't ended it right there. The biggest complaint about Delta is that there is no characterization for players to connect and relate to. Sure, we later learn that Delta was once a man known in Rapture as Johnny Topside and how he ended up becoming a Big Daddy. However, this part of Delta's backstory is only shared with us halfway through the game via audio logs. Players never get to see Delta when he was human, nor do we ever get a sense of the sort of person he was pre-transformation. Who was Johnny Topside? What sort of person was he? What did he do once he found his way into this strange underwater city?
I think the best way to answer these questions would be through the use of playable flashbacks. As you make your way to Eleanor, she could use her telepathy to try and jog Delta's memory. Then we could get a flashback sequence where we could control Johnny Topside as he embarks on his journey to Rapture. Through his eyes, we could get a look into the life he might have been living before finding rapture. It would also be an opportunity to let players see Rapture in its prime as Johnny explores the city in the days before the civil war. Heck, maybe he even met Eleanor and got to know her a little bit before meeting their unfortunate fates. It would have added a much needed human element to Delta as well as giving the moral choices and the endings a little more weight.
The Underwater World of Bioshock
The first Bioshock did a superb job of painting a picture of an underwater world that was raised up as a utopia and then tragically torn down by humanity's flaws. Bioshock 2 painted the exact same picture again with few changes. This was another common complaint toward the game; that while we as the players were back in Rapture, it's still the same Rapture. Granted, there were some very interesting locations like Fontaine Futuristics and Ryan's Amusements, but other places like Pauper's Drop and Siren Ally came off as looking more like an expansion of the first game.
So, how does one recreate the dark wonders of Rapture without creating more of the same? Well, I have two possible solutions to this. The first one is easy: the ocean. You're a Big Daddy, surgically grafted into a diving suit. You can traverse the sea floor with no problems. Having said that, why do we spend so little time in the ocean? The opening segment of the first game showed us how integrated Rapture was with the sea surrounding it, with whales and other sea creatures navigating between the buildings and other sea creatures swimming about. So why are the few underwater segments we get so short and so devoid of life? Why can't we just stop and look at all the pretty little fishes? Why can't we get attacked by sharks or get an octopus stuck to our helmets? Why are those little ADAM-giving sea slugs the only animals we encounter? It would have added so much more depth to the game if the ocean segments were longer, more lively, and had more significance to the overall story. I'm going to stop and put a pin on that ocean bit because I plan to go back to it later.
The second solution would be a bit more plot driven. Enter Utopia, a Rapture knockoff that Sophia Lamb could have been spending the ten years between the first and second game building. Think about it, Rapture is in shambles. Why would she spend time trying to salvage that leaky mess when she has the resources to just build another one? It would be a project to coincide with Lamb trying to mold her daughter Eleanor into the 'perfect utopian.' She had plenty of Splicers and Big Daddies doing her bidding and she had the architect Simon Whales to design this new Utopia for her. In the game, Sophia would have Eleanor moved to Utopia after the Fontaine Futaristics section. This would prompt the player into leaving Rapture behind and the rest of the game would play out in Utopia.
Utopia would be a twisted reflection of Rapture built in Lamb's image rather than Ryan's. Rapture was once a vibrant and colourful city with lots of glowing neon signs and grand architecture to put emphasis on individuality. Utopia, as a representation of Lamb's extreme altruistic views, would be devoid of anything that didn't promote group ideology. First, the design of Utopia would be very uniform, with each building looking identical to the others. The entire city could have the same colour scheme, with lots of white and blue. The walls would be lined with propaganda posters and pictures of Eleanor, Any statues or artwork allowed would probably depict Eleanor as the perfect utopian Sophia wanted to mold her into. The blue butterfly that symbolizes Sophia Lamb would also be prevalent. The enemies you would encounter in Utopia would wear similar clothing and would look much cleaner (but no less malformed). The game would have been more than just another adventure in Rapture if it had details like these in it.
I don't know about anyone else but the weapons you get in Bioshock 2 were a bit underwhelming to me. Granted, they look big enough to only be effectively wielded by a Big Daddy but aside from that there isn't much to say. The only other weapon you can have that isn't lifted right from the first game is the Ion Laser, which can't be found in the main game. To be fair, none of the weapons you get are bad. However, I don't really feel like a Big Daddy unless I'm using the drill or the machine gun.
There is an easy fix to this and it comes back to what I was saying about with the underwater segments. The game's arsenal includes a spear gun, so why shouldn't you be able to use it underwater? You could also give other weapons ammo types that you can use underwater. For example, you could use the grenade launcher to fire torpedoes. Being able to fight underwater would really help to build the feeling that you are a Big Daddy. Of course, you need enemies to fight in the ocean. This brings me to my next point.
To make up the roster of enemies in Bioshock 2, the developers took the enemies from the first Bioshock and tweaked them a little bit. This resulted in players fighting much of the same fodder that they faced in the previous game. The new enemies we did get were a mixed bag. The Brute Splicers do provide an adequate challenge and can be tough to take down, but they are the only new addition to the Splicer family. The Big Sister steals the show with her agility, hard hitting attacks, and her signature screech that lets you KNOW you're screwed. The Rumbler is touted as the latest and greatest of the Big Daddies (I'm not including the Lancer because it only appears in a DLC story line). However, you can turn him into a complete pushover by using the Telekinesis plasmid to turn his rockets back on him. As for the Alpha Series, well, they're basically just Big Daddies with less reward for killing them and no Little Sister to save/harvest.
Rapture had been steadily been declining for ten years by the time Bioshock 2 starts. With more and more sections of the city leaking or just straight up flooding, wouldn't it make sense for the Splicers to evolve with all that ADAM they inject into themselves? Wouldn’t it be feasible for some of them to become more...aquatic? Yeah, we're going into the ocean again. The unlimited potential of ADAM combined with the sheer mass of variety in the ocean's wildlife could have opened the door for all kinds of interesting and disgusting designs for swimming Splicers. They could aimlessly roam the area around Rapture, eating those ADAM producing slugs to feed their addiction.
Other threats could be lurking in the depths. One such threat would be a new Big Daddy type called the Builder. These brutes would be tasked with building Utopia. They would be equipped with a propulsion device to help them move through the water and would attack you with harpoon guns on sight. Of course there are also the Big Sisters, who can swim just fine on their own.
So, Those were some things that I think would have made Bioshock 2 a much more successful game. What do you think? Share your thoughts with me in the comments down below. Also, please check out my Facebook and Twitter pages. If you liked this article, you can read some of my other works below!