[SPOILERS] This post contains spoilers on the story for Bioshock Infinite. Reading on is not recommended if you have not completed the game.
Bioshock Infinite may have had a good ending, but it was a terrible ending to fit the rest of the game. Just as it would be out of place for Schindler’s List to finish with a comedic musical, there was a sudden, off-putting shift in tone at the end of Bioshock.
Elizabeth’s story is a beautiful one. We get to watch the transition of a child into adulthood, and it’s a brutally accelerated process at that. She’s forced out into a harsh world, prompting a natural development through childish excitement, naivety, curiosity, anger, doubt, fear, resentment, introspection, and finally a very adult determination. It’s genius writing. Through it she endears herself to the player, and Booker, who is cast in the role of protector, and guide on this journey. Subtly, throughout the game, you play the role of a father struggling to find a balance between protecting your daughter, and giving her the freedom she needs to grow.
Now, while her trek to adulthood may be accelerated, it just flies off the rails at the end. Perhaps my own maturity is a bit stunted, but I haven’t reached the emotionless, interdimensional oracle stage of life yet. The story broke the instant you entered Comstock’s room. Leading up to this Elizabeth was imprisoned, used, and tortured because of this man. Freed, angry, and vengeful, this once-innocent girl even kills some scientists in a moment of wrath. She hates Comstock. It’s obvious her mind is set when she threatens you with a similar fate if you try stop her from killing the man herself. Yet the moment she enters his presence, she’s overcome by a lethargic curiosity to hear him out. I didn’t expect the cold efficiency of a killer from the young girl, but there wasn’t even a hint of angst at her reviled tormentor.
All the empathy I’d built for Elizabeth was lost as she broke character. To this point, the story had invested what interest I had in Booker into Elizabeth as well. I really didn’t care about him as an individual. The disconnect only became worse as Elizabeth became less of a person and more some generic, omniscient entity. I found myself walking through the game’s final moments with an idle curiosity, but complete lack of investment in any of the characters involved.
It’s a great demonstration of the importance of a cohesive tone. When it was all done I felt less like I had concluded the story, and more like I stopped short, and had a friend tell me how it ended.