Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Bioshock: Game Design Review

Bioshock is an action RPG developed by Irrational Games and has won many awards. It's an action game taking place in a secret underwater city called Rapture and is a spiritual successor to System Shock 2. Here are my thoughts on the game.

What I enjoyed
Storyline and atmosphere- Great atmosphere and good story and great plot developments One of the highlights of the game.

Penalty free, customisability- I really hate games which force you to replay the game over again if you want to try a different build. I don't have time to replay a 20 hour game much less a 50+ hour RPG. That's why I really liked fact that you can recustomise your character any time you like by returning to a gene bank in the game.

Photo Research- Taking photos is a fun unique take on doing research and gaining special abilities.

Enemy intelligence- Enemies are smart enough to work together, retreat and use healing station.

Environmental damage- You can use water, fire, debris and oil to your advantage in the environment which helps even the odds. I also like how your destroy health stations to get health kits over the long term benefit of being able to heal for money.

What I didn't like

Difficulty curve is all over the place- Due to lots of ammo and health, the normal enemies simply don't pose any real challenge at all. Combined with Vita chambers which basically restore to full health and no cost and the main  game itself is a breeze. The Big Daddys on the other hand are hulking, walking tanks that will decimate you within seconds. They are optional part of the game on every level and there really isn't any real reason to fight them except as an additional challenge of sorts and to make the final boss easier because of all the ADAM you can collect. As a result game swings between mostly easy (normal enemies) to brutally challenging (trying to take down a Big Daddy). It just doesn't work.

Morality system- Very token. You get the choice of saving a Little Sister or killing a Little sister. A and B choices. Very simplistic and just feels silly and pointless.

Slow switching- I don't know about other people but I found that switching between combat and plasmids (physical attacks and magic) a bit too slow and I wished it could be a bit faster. Combat felt 'jerky' rather than fluid at times because of this.

Lack of enemy variety- The world of rapture is very interesting and unique but aside from turrets and cameras, the humans and big daddies are your only enemies. I was hoping for some other variations like mutants as promised in the preview art. A real shame in my opinion since the idea that some humans/splicers have 'evolved' to become even more inhuman could have been really effective and interesting.

Lack of flavour text- Compared to System Shock 2 A lot of the flavour text is missing, there are no descriptions of things in general which I thought was a real shame. That being said, the atmosphere and posters do way more to bring things to life compared to the dull looking corridors of System Shock 2

Lack of mini-games- Aside from the hacking mini-game, there aren't any mini-games in the game. I mean System Shock 2 had a gameboy parody called the gamepig with additional games in it!

AI- AI knows when to take cover and will hunt you down or run away as appropriate. But for some reason they aren't they will still run directly into turrets and cameras in an effort to take it down. They are smart relatively speaking but still fall the same tricks over and over again.

Tactical options soon run out- About 60% way through the game, no new game mechanics or weapons are introduced from then on except for more powerful versions of existing powers. There aren't any new enemies introduced. This means that whatever tactics you develop from the first part of the game such as burning enemies and then shocking them when they cool off in water are just as effective in the second part of the game. It's just something I noticed as neared the end of game as I realised that hadn't really been killing enemies any differently for a long time.

Compared to System Shock 2, Bioshock is a more streamlined evolution rather than revolution. It is enjoyable but almost everything we've seen in this game is seen in System Shock 2 as well. There's plenty to like about the game despite its minor flaws and still worth playing even today.

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