I remember when Bioshock came out. People kept raving about how it was such a good role-playing game. After realizing that in a month I would never be able to use a mall gift card, I had money to burn. Having come off of an RPG that I rather liked, I figured I might check Bioshock out. What happened made Bioshock the most disappointing game of all time for me.

Screenshot of Andrew Ryan, standing in a dark office playing mini-golf.

The reason for the disapointment? Bioshock isn't an RPG. My definition of an RPG is a game that visible numbers govern gameplay, they increase as the game goes on, and those numbers determine how good you are at certain activities. Everything else, like skill trees, inventory, "magic", and story, is a pure bonus. Because of that, I consider games like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Mass Effect, and even Borderlands as RPGs. Bioshock doesn't have numbers like those, and therefore, is not an RPG. Anyone who tells me otherwise is dead to me.

If it's not an RPG, what is it? It's an FPS in a unique apocalyptic environment. Rapture, the setting of Bioshock, is a city built at the bottom of the ocean, because it was impossible to build it anywhere else. It has a distinct art deco theme to it, but it's leaking everywhere. I'm surprised that wood structures haven't rotted away long ago. The boss of the place, Andrew Ryan, wanted a place without government or constraint. What happened is that someone ethically went too far. Anyone could buy a genetic drug that makes one stronger and shoot fire, among other things.

Little girls gather this substance from dead bodies, who are guarded by large brutes in underwater pressure suits. The moral choice of the game is whether you save the girls from their fate, giving you some of that drug, or straight up kill them for more. To get the happy ending, you have to save, not most, but all of them. Killing just one makes you Hitler.

The secondary moral dilemma of the game is whether the player character is a man or a slave. Sort of hitting on a point from The Stanley Parable, you are bound by game design to follow the directions of other characters. There's no option in it.

That said, perhaps my most memorable gaming experience has come from Bioshock. It occurs about a quarter of the way through the game when some theater director detours you. The big fight at the end has enemies coming out of nowhere, while the Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker plays. Dance with me, suckers!

I can't really recommend Bioshock. Even back when I first played it, the gameplay or graphics didn't impress me, and I was epically failed by genre expectations.

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