Book Review: BioShock: Rapture

I’m a huge fan of the BioShock games. I think BioShock, Dead Space, and Halo are the only first person shooters that are really any good in terms of story and presentation. BioShock in particular has a fantastic story and art style.  The other day I was describing the plot behind the game to a co-worker and they seriously thought I was describing the plot to some movie.  There is an incredible depth to the BioShock story that the games alone really don’t do justice.  When I saw that they were releasing a book that told the story leading up to the events in the first game I couldn’t wait to read it.

The story in BioShock: Rapture starts somewhere around the time that Andrew Ryan decides to construct an underwater city to escape the rules and regulations of the government.  Early on you also meet some of the key characters who eventually come to occupy Rapture and learn about their motivations for coming to Ryan’s city under the ocean.  Once Rapture is constructed and people begin living in the city things start to get really interesting.  Ryan’s vision of a Utopian society built on free thinkers, free markets, and free from government control begins to fall apart.  Those who helped construct Rapture find themselves out of work, living in poverty, and forcefully prevented from leaving the city.  Scientists have come to Rapture to conduct experiments that society topside considers unethical.  Plasmids, a sort of highly addictive drug, are invented which give a person supernatural powers like the ability throw lightning or teleport.  These new plasmids combined with the trapped and suffering people ignites a bloody revolt.

As you’re reading all this craziness, the story from the first game starts to make a lot more sense.  Scenes from the game start to reappear in your mind.  I remember killing the crazy surgeon dude who liked to carve women’s faces up to show their “inner beauty”.  I remember Sofia Lamb trapping me in a room trying to mess with my mind with her incessant psychobabble.  I remember seeing all the weird tributes to Lamb with the butterflies and candles.  I remember walking by all the “Who is Atlas?” posters.  All this imagery comes flooding back as you’re reading the book.

All the characters are in the book too, Dr. Suchong, Brigid Tenenbaum, Frank Fontaine, Sander Cohen…I think nearly every character from the games makes an appearance in the book.  You get to know these people and experience all the calamities that brought Rapture to ruin.  You learn about all the evil plots and backstabbing that drove the people of Rapture into madness.

I really enjoyed this book and it has completely renewed my interest in the games.  Most books written around game plots have a lot of story to fill in since most games have a pretty shallow plot, but with this book I got the sense that the author really studied the games and worked with the studio to write a story that stayed true to the original vision.  There was already a lot of story to work with, it just needed to be pulled together into something cohesive and I think the author did a great job.

When I was done with the book I was glad that I had the games to replay and enjoy again, but I was pretty bummed when I started thinking about how the next BioShock game will take place in an entirely new setting with an entirely new cast of characters.  I’m sure the game will be fantastic, but I hope they return to Rapture some day because I feel like there is more story to be told there.  Let’s hope they come out with more books :)

BTW – Amazon has the book “bargain priced” at $6 currently.  I guess they didn’t sell a ton of copies.  Their loss, your gain!

Borderlands 2 Is Lookin’ Good!

A new trailer came out for Borderlands 2 and the game is looking really cool.  I enjoyed the first Borderlands quite a bit.  I bought the game of the year edition which included the 4 map packs and I think I only paid like $20 on sale.  I got tons of mileage out of this game and even the expansions were really well done and interesting.  The game never really gets old since there are so many missions and places to explore.  I really liked the ability to play split screen as well as do 4 player co-op online.  According to the trailer, Borderlands 2 is keeping both split screen and co-op, so that is really nice.  I can also tell that the in-game animation is smoother and the artwork looks better.  I’m really looking forward to this game.

The Double Fine Adventure Game Has Hit $2 Million + in Donations

As previously mentioned, Psychonauts is my all time favorite game.  The studio that created that wonderful game is called Double Fine.  Double Fine makes incredibly creative games that are super fun to play (ok, they’re not all gems, but most of them are really great).  While most new games focus on hyper realistic graphics and better cinematics, Double Fine games are focused on telling a great story.  Their games have heart and when you finish one of them you’re imprinted with that experience for life.  These are the kind of games you get lost in.  If you were on a deserted island (equipped with a game console) and had only one game you’d get to play for eternity, you’d pick one of their games.

One of Double Fine’s latest projects is a new adventure game that they are funding via Kickstarter.  Why Kickstarter?  Because classic adventure games are old school and game publishers aren’t interested in funding them.  There just isn’t any money to be made in making adventure games…right?  Take a look at the Kickstarter project.  They’re at over $2 million as of this writing.  They hit their target of $400,000 within 8 hours and I believe they hit $1 million within 24 hours.  They’ve still got 22 days left for people to donate and the money is still trickling in.

When they hit $1 million, the gaming news sites picked up the story which is how I heard about the project.  I went ahead and pledged $15 just so that I’d have access to the game when it came out.  Honestly, when I read “adventure game”, I thought it was going to be something like Psychonauts which I consider to be an adventure game.  I was wrong, this is going to be a game more like The Secret of Monkey Island or Full Throttle, a game where you click through an interactive story and solve puzzles.  I never actually played any of those old adventure games, but they look like fun to me.  Plus my laptop sucks and I probably couldn’t play anything 3D on it.  Monkey Island was updated with new graphics and is now on XBox Live Arcade, so I’ll be grabbing that soon just so that I can get into the adventure game mood.

It’s totally worth the $15 just to check it out and get access to the behind the scenes documentary they’re making.  If you’re into creative games that tell a good story, I’d encourage you to pitch in your $15 and check it out!