Keeping it in the Family
The Big Daddy and Little Sister dynamic is one of the most iconinic aspects of the Bioshock franchise. Big Daddy's are not fought on a whim. Heck, I can recall the first time I was actually forced to fight one, feeling extremely apprehensive after having witnessed one take down a half dozen Splicers earlier. Bioshock 2 introduced another enemy: the Big Sister. These grown up Little Sisters have been modified to protect Little Sisters whose Big Daddy had died in combat. The idea of the Big Sister was intriguing and, in the marketing leading up to the release of the game, it was described as the ultimate challenge in the Bioshock universe. If only this were the case.
Contrary to what we were shown in trailers and in previews, a Big Sister encounter was not random. Instead, a Big Sister would only arrive after you have rescued or harvested all the Little Sisters in a given area. While the battle was indeed intense and the lead up to your first battle with a Big Sister was equally frightening, discovering the pattern took away from the horrific atmosphere around them. Afterall, something you can quietly prepare for is hardly terrifying.
The Big Sister encounters will need to be changed in order to maintain a horror atmosphere. While Bid Daddy and Little Sister encounters can remain as they are, Big Sisters should be a random encounter that can happen at any time during the game. While this would cause an imbalance with the gameplay, a solution could be to allow the player to hide. Imagine wandering through a large mall-esque area when suddenly you hear the scream of a Big Sister. She’s on her way and she’s pretty pissed but doesn’t know exactly where you are. The player might hide in say a locker or a closet should he wish to not engage in combat. The Big Sister might search the environment, looking for you and would leave after a short while, satisfied that you are not there. This could provide a sense of fear that players would enjoy and would actually make each person’s experiences a little unique from everyone else’s. It’s not a tremendous change from the standard formula but it is definitely something that would make a world of difference in gameplay.
For the Love of Others
To conclude the Bioshock story, I feel that there is one character that absolutely has to return for one last go: Dr. Tenenbaum. Tenenbaum is probably one of the most tragic characters of the series as she is responsible for the downfall of Rapture but also seeks redemption for her sins by rescuing the Little Sisters from their enslavement. Aiding you in the rescue of the Little Sisters and helping you to complete objectives, she was a critical character in both games.
While her fate in Bioshock 2 is unknown (Minerva’s Den may answer this question) I can only assume that she left Rapture again after Subject Delta and Eleanor Lamb escaped Persephone. The ideal scenario for her return for the storyline I proposed above would be that she had been found and entrapped to help the Soviet or American forces as an 'advisor' to the invaders.
I also believe that this would be a prime opportunity to give a voice to former Little Sisters rescued by either Jack or Subject Delta. While we have had very little experience with these women other than the endings to Bioshock and the marketing for Bioshock 2, I feel that this would be a perfect chance to explore their side of the story in a way that Bioshock 2’s Little Sister sequence hinted at. Imagine being given advice through the radio by one of Eleanor Lamb’s rescued girls, explaining aspects of areas you are exploring and giving you advice about how to proceed from there. This could be an excellent prospect to take advantage of and breathe even more life into this already vibrant universe.
One final aspect of I think should be explored is having an occasional companion to fight alongside you. In almost every instance in the Bioshock series you are either alone or in the presence of a non-combative NPC. What if you have to protect and fight alongside a friendly Splicer or perhaps a teammate? Such a sequence would allow for players to actually feel that they are not the only good soul in Rapture, especially more so than a voice on the radio talking to you. While I do not propose a full-on cooperative mode for the game I do suggest that players would want to feel a little bit safer, if only for a short while.
Somewhere, Beyond the Sea
Bioshock as a franchise is one of very strong possibilities. With 2K exploring new directions there is no guarantee that the prestige that the franchise deserves will stay with it. I fear that the Bioshock remake that has been rumored would lead to a completely different style of gameplay - or worse - a more family friendly experience. I can only hope that this doesn’t happen. While Irrational Games is set to reveal Project Icarus later today I feel that whatever that project will eventually be will not indeed be a new Bioshock title.
Whatever comes, one thing remains certain: Bioshock is not a series that deserves to be sent out to sea without at least a proper final title. 2K, do the series proud.