Well, I know it should be called Bioshock: Infinite, but from what we’ve seen of the next successor to the Bioshock series, it could almost be called Steamshock: Infinite…
I’ve always appreciated steampunk, growing out of the Victorian and Jules Vernesque aesthetic where bronzed doo-dads and technological impossibilities abound. Some may argue that this isn’t specifically Steampunk, taking place in America, and slightly after the Victorian era, the fact remains that we’ve never had many games like this, and so I’ll be more than happy to consider this Steampunk. Arcanum would be one of the other games that come to mind, and maybe Deadlands and Shadowrun if we extend past computer games (and a bit into the cyberpunk with the latter), but as you can see the genre isn’t as popular as we’d hope.
Which is why I’m so hopeful that a pedigree like Irrational and the Bioshock series is willing to take on a game that has so much steam in its veins. If you’re familiar with Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite seems to have similar elements; a first person shooter with story-driven elements and some simple character customization (in the form of the potions/upgrades you quaff, which lend you all your special bioshock-y powers).
What’s entirely different is the story itself. While the teaser trailer starts off letting you think you’re still in the undersea city of Rapture, everything gets turned on its ear as you are rocketed out through an open window and find yourself flying above the sky. Specifically, in a city/warship known as Columbia, flying over god-knows-where in America, circa 1912.
Other things that are different include the fact that the character, Booker DeWitt, is a lot more vocal than the main characters in previous games (who are about as stoic and laconic as Gordon Freeman). It also seems like most of the game with be played with Elizabeth, a person Booker was sent in to rescue but who turns out to be more of an asset than traditional damsel in distress (I approve). Elizabeth seems to be an interesting game mechanic, allowing for tactical exploits when needed, but at the cost of her deteriorating health. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.
We’ll also have to wait and see how the tonics and powers work without ADAM (although it might still be around, this is an alternative past after all) but when you’re located in a flying city whizzing between the buildings via a rollercoaster cargo system I can’t see how one needs to worry about niggling details like that.
The world looks breathtaking, and breathtakingly steamy, and if Bioshock Infinite can follow in the footsteps of the original Bioshock, I have high hopes that we will be able to see a fully nuanced world and story with a clash of ideologies, where characters and plots are just as detailed and textured as the brushed copper and seething hot air blimps that their city is built on.
If you’re interested in more Bioshock Infinite (tentatively out 2012), check out the longer gameplay video here.