David and I have wanted to discuss Bioshock Infinite for a while, but all of the things that we want to discuss were very much in spoiler territory. We loved the game so much that we did not want to spoil it for anyone else. Even if you are not into a first person shooter type of game the story is phenomenal for itself. We highly recommend this game for anyone who has not played it yet. The basic premise is that Booker DeWitt is sent by these mysterious people to grab some girl in order to erase a debt. He gets sent up to a place called Columbia, a floating city in the sky. Booker makes his way through the city to find the girl and bring her back. This appears simple enough at first, but slowly Booker figures out that there is more going on then he really understands. (Spoilers for Bioshock Infinite after the jump)
Subtle Musical Hints
Early on in Bioshock Infinite they use music to hint at the fact that something is off. I think one of the early moments that I remember is that you are wandering around the square, before all hell starts breaking loose, and there is a barbershop quartet that is singing the Beach Boys song “God Only Knows”. Now this game is taking place, seemingly, in our historical world of 1912 and the Beach Boys is not from that era. The song “God Only Knows” was released in 1966, so what is a song like that doing in 1912. This is only one of many songs that appear out of their time. Throughout the game various radios and other devices will be playing songs. At first it sounds like a typical 1912’s sort of ditty, but as you listen you will find that you know the songs, but they are not from that era. Modern songs somehow appearing in this past time.
Now some of these could have come across just being referential, but as you continue down the game more and more things bring you to a different conclusion.
When Booker finally meets up with Elizabeth we begin to learn about the tears. These are actually tears in space and time. Each of these tears opens up to a different space and time, but not just along the current timeline. At first we see Elizabeth open a tear to Paris, but there is a move theatre showing Revenge of the Jedi (the original and international name for Return of the Jedi). Making that moment in Paris in the future. This begins to explain the strange music that you have been hearing so far and continue to hear throughout the game. It also makes for a cool mechanic where Elizabeth can make items appear from a different time and place for Booker to utilize. Making it not only a part of the story, but a part of the game mechanics as well.
Now if the tears just went to a different space and time that would be one thing, but the tears can also lead to different versions of the current reality. Booker and Elizabeth are trapped at one point so they go through the tear into Columbia, but a Columbia of a different reality. In this reality Booker failed to get Elizabeth and joined up with the Vox Populi, dying in the process. Booker even feels somewhat effected by moving into a reality where he died. He gets dizzy at times and initially he gets a nosebleed. So not only are the tears leading to different locations and times, but various paths of realities of those locations.
All of the tears that Booker and Elizabeth experience and go through lead up to a culminating moment at the end of the game, where we go to the space between realities or universes. Part of what happened is experiments were done on Elizabeth to give her the ability to manipulate the tears, but a Siphon in the tower where they kept her suppressed her abilities. In the end of the game the siphon gets destroyed meaning that now she can go anywhere. With this ability she takes them to the space between the various realities because she points out they only killed the Comstock in one universe, but he is still alive in others. Booker tries to get her to go to Paris, but she is determined to show Booker the truth.
This is where it is revealed that not only is Booker Elizabeths dad, but he sold her to the Lutteces on behalf of Comstock. The reason she is missing part of a finger is because Booker struggled with Comstock to keep her from being taken through a tear that they had created. How is Booker Comstock, well there is a defining moment in Booker’s past where he either stays as Booker DeWitt or becomes Zachary Hale Comstock. After his action at Wounded Knee Booker is depressed and attends a baptism ceremony. In one universe he rejects the baptism and in another he accepts it and arise out of the water as Comstock. In order to kill Comstock Booker has to die before he can either reject or accept the baptism. This leads to such an amazing conclusion for the player, especially with an earlier scene where you almost drowned getting baptized trying to sneak in to Columbia.
The time travel in Bioshock Infinite is fascinating. As pointed out by some others there are probably a lot of places that it does not quite make sense, but from a story perspective they pulled it off. What is great about it is that we think of Booker as the good guy, partly because we are playing him, but also because he is rescuing the girl. At the same time Elizabeth is kind of the one who has to save him from himself because Comstock is what he becomes in other realities. In the continuation of Burial at Sea we find out that one of the Comstock’s escaped somehow and is hiding in another reality so Elizabeth chases him down because she wants to make him pay. When they killed Booker before the baptism they must have killed all instances of Booker that would have gotten to the decision of accepting or rejecting the baptism. At the same time since we have seen people go through tears into realities where they are dead it makes sense that they might exist outside of their normal time at that point.
In this game they really have explored a variety of aspects of time travel. One of the great aspects is that if time is leaking through the tears it explains why certain songs and potentially technology could be different. Suddenly you are not limited by what you have at your hands, but what can be reached. Bioshock Infinite does a great job of teasing out the time travel and then revealing that you have been smack dab in the middle of it the entire time.