Ken Levine helmed much of the creative direction of two of the original Bioshock games: Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite. Whilst Bioshock 2 served as an excellent sequel to the original Bioshock, the one thing that it did lack was an epic plot twist. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite included memorable characters, original environments, and magnificent philosophical conceptual exploration.
Leaving behind such an impactful legacy, considering that Bioshock was years ahead of its time when it released in 2007, and that both Columbia and Rapture contain not only eye-catching environments, but impressionable political commentary not found in many other video games period, begs the question as to how 2K games will move forward with this series in particular.
Bioshock is adored by many. Even more so considering that the series only contains three games: Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite. It’s not just the fact that the shooting mechanics are far better than they deserve to be, but it’s the combination of the FPS gameplay along with the incredible worlds you’re exploring within a thriller/horror setting. The levels are linear but allow and emphasise exploration at every turn, and the enemies are so originally designed that they effectively intimidate you even when you face them for the fiftieth time.
Of course, the story and plot twists co-inside now with what we consider a Bioshock game to be. These parts help consist what is a Bioshock game. What makes a Bioshock game. A game with frightening but relatable ideas and philosophies. A game which explores the depths of the oceans and the space in the sky, analogous to how deep the game dives into our own psyche, and the self-deception we’re capable of when we want to forget the truly terrible moments of our lives.
With rumours of a new Bioshock game in development, it is time my friends to question and ask, ponder and imagine, what sort of story, environment, and gameplay will this new ‘entry’, for lack of a better term, will feature, in what could easily be one of the best game franchises ever created.
Without Ken Levine writing and directing, there could be much to worry about when it comes to the creative direction of a new Bioshock game. That being said, we must first consider what makes a Bioshock game, and what doesn’t.
By identifying not the specifics of the game mechanics etc., but by identifying the spirit and culture that drove those who created the first and last game in the series and what they wanted to achieve, we can then not detail what should go into the next Bioshock, but what its driving force should be behind its creation. Allowing the outcome of those intentions and thoughts being left to manifest is the only way, I believe, a new studio (in terms of a studio which hasn’t made a Bioshock game before) can help realise a new vision for the series.
In simpler terms, allowing as much creative freedom as possible to find the origins of what a Bioshock game means, and what should be included to justify the legacy of the franchise, if that indeed is on the agenda, and what should be excluded to help it become more than it ever achieved before. The studio, in my opinion, should discover what philosophical ideas and environments they would like to explore, and use the Bioshock universe to help bring those ideas to life.
Divulging into the driving force which helped bring the first three games to life should in my mind help the new studio know what should be in the next Bioshock game, whether it feels right or wrong for them as a creative force. Not worrying too much about honouring the legacy and performing within the shadow of what has come before, but by shining their own new light. Whether that light is shunned by the many or the few.
There are many moments of safety within entertainment. More so than ever with so many sequels and franchises. But Bioshock, while it has the necessary ingredients required, needs a spark of originality. A concept painting which has you thinking about the scenario it portrays for days on end. A world which tells its own story and portrays its own philosophical ideas.
I’m not looking for more of the same in terms of the ideas which we have already explored; those of slavery, an extreme liberal society. Of emotional torture and personal tragedy. I would want a new Bioshock game to explore ideas within the same depth, or perhaps go even deeper, but venture within ideas we haven’t seen in the series before.
Ideas of what constitutes a human being perhaps – their decisions or thoughts? Whether we stay the same person over time as the evilness of the world has its inevitable toll on our souls? It’s deep, there’s no question. But Bioshock is deep.
It’s a serious game with serious themes. Seriously hard enemies and seriously gorgeous locations. I know that there are things which will be included ‘because it wouldn’t be a Bioshock game without it’ (FPS mechanics, collectibles, outstanding voice-acting, powers and mechanical monsters to name a few), but I also believe in the power of reinvention. Look at God of War. A reboot which changed the name of the game forever.
I’m not sure that Bioshock needs such a dramatic reinvention, but I wouldn’t be against one either. I’m looking for a game studio to express their deepest thoughts and darkest fears through the universe of Bioshock, and to have the player come out on the other side with a memorable experience.
How they choose to fulfil this task is up to them. And obviously, it’s up to them whether they think this is a task they should fulfil. Who am I to lecture on game development having never developed a single game in my life?
I can however lecture on playing games. And playing through another Bioshock experience which leaves it mark on me for years to come would a great adventure indeed.