Published on March 28th, 2013 | by Kyle England13
Breaking Down the Story of BioShock Infinite
WARNING! MASSIVE BIOSHOCK INFINITE SPOILERS AHEAD!
WARNING! MASSIVE BIOSHOCK INFINITE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Okay, if you’re reading this, I hope you’ve already beaten BioShock Infinite, or you just want to know what happens. If you’ve recently beaten the game, you might be a little confused. I was too, at first. But, the more I thought about the game, the more things started to fall into place.
To start off this write-up, I’m going to recount the events of BioShock Infinite as best I can. I’m solely pulling all of this information from the game and the official strategy guide, which has transcripts of every voxophone in the game. I’m going to be connecting points together that weren’t explicitly made during the game, but I think are implied. Hopefully, this will help you better understand exactly what happened, as the story of Infinite was a heck of a ride. It’s going to be difficult to recount the key events, as much of the information in the game is presented in a fragmented or non-linear fashion, so I’ll do my best. Hopefully, everything I have is accurate! I’m going to recount the information in a somewhat chronological manner, and not necessarily the order you discover the information in the game.
Before we begin, I hope everyone understands the concept of alternate realities. One misconception people may have is the tears in Infinite were just time portals. Basically, they were holes in time-space, leading to alternate timelines/realities and to various points in time. Alternate realities exist simultaneously and independent from one another. Basically, it comes from the idea that every choice you make creates a branching alternate reality.
Anyways, get ready, because this story is long and intense. Here we go!
First, you have Booker DeWitt. He was a soldier in the 7th cavalry of the US Army during the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. During this event, soldiers fired on members of the Lakota Native American tribe, and in the end over 150 men, women, and children were killed. Booker was one the soldiers who took many innocent lives, and for this he felt great guilt. So, shortly after Wounded Knee, Booker turned to religion. He went to get baptized in the river we see at the very last scene in BioShock Infinite. This is a key moment that will set the stage for many events to come.
When Booker accepted the baptism, he cast away his old identity and took on the name Zachary Comstock. For clarity’s sake we are referring to this incarnation of Booker as Comstock. It’s not clear what Comstock did exactly between this time and 1893, when Columbia launched. He claims to have been visited by an archangel and told to build Columbia.
In an alternate reality, Booker DeWitt refuses the baptism, and never becomes Comstock. Instead, he drowns his sorrows in drinking and gambling. At some point, he marries, but his wife dies in childbirth. The child is a daughter named Anna, and she is born around the year 1892. We’ll get back to this reality shortly.
Meanwhile, in the other reality, Comstock starts to build Columbia. He enlists the help of quantum physicist Rosalind Lutece to do so. Lutece figured out a way to make atoms levitate, and applied the principle to an entire city. This is how Columbia is able to float! While conducting her research, Lutece ended up coming in contact with a version of herself in an alternate reality, Robert Lutece, her “twin” as we see in the game. Eventually Rosalind built a machine that could harness the power of quantum physics to open tears in space-time. The effects of this machine cause tears to suddenly appear at random in Columbia.
Comstock realized that the lineage of Columbia needed to be led by his bloodline, so he tried to have a child with his wife, Lady Comstock, to no avail. Exposure to Lutece’s machine had given Comstock cancer and made him sterile. As a result of his disease, Comstock also aged at a much faster rate. This explains why his appearance is so different from his other self, Booker DeWitt.
Comstock needed an heir, so he enlisted the help of Robert Lutece from the other reality. He hired Robert to visit Booker and offer him a deal: hand over Anna to wipe away his gambling debt. Booker agrees and hands over Anna to Robert, who in turn takes the child to Comstock via a space-time tear. Booker immediately regrets his decision and tries to stop Comstock, but he is too late. Anna reaches out for her real father as the tear closes, cutting off her pinky. As this is happening, Robert Lutece enters Comstock’s reality to join Rosalind.
Comstock now had Anna in his reality, and he renames her Elizabeth and proclaims her as the lamb of Columbia. To avoid suspicion about suddenly acquiring a daughter, Comstock manufactures the story that Lady Comstock spontaneously gave birth to a miracle child. However, Lady Comstock knew that she did not give birth to Elizabeth. She suspected that Rosalind Lutece and Comstock had an affair, producing the child.
It’s not clear exactly how Elizabeth developed her powers to control tears. It’s implied she developed this anomaly because there are two pieces of her separated in multiple realities. Whatever the case, Elizabeth was locked away on Monument Island because Comstock feared her power. The guardian Songbird became her protector, and it ensured that Elizabeth would never leave. Elizabeth’s powers were gradually suppressed by a device in her tower called the siphon. The siphon kept Elizabeth from destroying or trying to escape Columbia, and over time she was able to control tears less and less.
Comstock was becoming increasingly paranoid by his wife’s suspicions, and the truth of Elizabeth’s origins. As such, he killed Lady Comstock, and put the blame on Daisy Fitzroy, who would go on to lead the Vox Populi. Comstock also arranged the deaths of the Luteces. He had Jeremiah Fink, Columbia entrepreneur and factory mogul, sabotage the quantum machine. The machine backfired, and the Luteces were seemingly killed. However, the reaction actually caused the Luteces to exist across all of space-time. They were now able to exist in all realities in any place.
I need to take an aside to talk about the Finks and their role in all of this. Jeremiah and Albert Fink played a somewhat small role in BioShock Infinite, but their actions explain the many anachronisms and technologies that are found in Columbia. It is revealed in voxophone recordings that the Finks used knowledge found in the space-time tears for financial benefit. For instance, Albert Fink heard the Beach Boys song “God Only Knows” and hired the barbershop quartet to sing it. It is also implied that Columbian technology like the Handyman, Songbird, and the Vigors came from tears, possibly windows into Rapture.
Anyhow, back to Booker in the other reality. After losing his daughter Anna, Booker branded himself with her initials, AD, as penance for his actions. Comstock feared that someday Booker would come to Columbia and take Elizabeth, so he created the fiction of the the False Shepard and placed propaganda for it all across Columbia. Not much is known about what Booker did between the years of 1893 and 1912 (if he even existed during this time), but he says he was a Pinkerton agent.
The events that eventually brought Booker to Columbia are not entirely clear. The idea was thought up by Robert Lutece, who insisted to Rosalind that Elizabeth be returned to where she came from. Elizabeth was being groomed as Comstock’s new prophet, and she would “drown in flame the mountains of man” or so said the prophecy. The Luteces even referred to their fetching of Booker as a “thought experiment” so they may have just been screwing around with space-time just to see what would happen.
The game opens with the Luteces rowing Booker to Columbia. As Columbia never existed in Booker’s reality, it can be assumed that the Luteces took Booker to Comstock’s reality. Whatever the case, Booker ends up being tasked to get Elizabeth to wipe away his debt, which he claims to be from gambling.
While in Columbia, Booker is constantly visited by the Luteces, who seem to be omniscient about the events in Columbia’s past and future. Of course, this is due to their ability to exist in any time and space. They know what raffle number Booker would pull, and they know the truth of Comstock’s origins it seems.
Booker never admits to Elizabeth or anyone else about his past, and eventually it seems that his memory might have been affected by the traveling through tears. He does seem to remember Anna and the fact he sold her, though. But he can’t remember his encounter with Comstock, or the fact that his daughter’s finger was cut off.
Comstock failed to stop Booker in securing Elizabeth, and through the events we see in the game, Booker ends up getting to Comstock House. On the way, Elizabeth is taken back by Songbird, and events become very muddled. Apparently, one reality exists where Booker never comes back for Elizabeth. She ends up being brainwashed by Comstock and ravages New York City as an old woman in the 1980s. The older Elizabeth gives Booker the clue to controlling Songbird and sends him back to Columbia in a reality right after she was taken.
Booker finds Elizabeth being operated on, because Comstock seeks to quell her powers. Elizabeth ends up being freed and pulls the scientists into a tornado, and she and Booker then set off to capture Comstock in his flagship. Once they reach him, Comstock taunts Booker about his true identity and Booker kills him in a blind rage. Elizabeth uses the note from her alternate older self to summon and control Songbird. The beast helps clear out the attacking Vox Populi so that Booker and Elizabeth can return to Columbia to destroy the siphon, thinking it might be the key to figuring out everything.
When the siphon is destroyed, Elizabeth gains back her full powers, essentially making her into a time lord, a master manipulator of time and space. Elizabeth suddenly gains an infinite realities’ worth of knowledge and transports herself, Booker, and Songbird to Rapture. This is where the whole game got really confusing, and where we found out most of the information regarding Booker’s past and daughter. Elizabeth reveals that Rapture exists in another reality, and shows him the ocean of infinite lighthouses. Each one is another reality, each one a journey that starts with a lighthouse, and each one involving a man who creates a city.
She reveals that Comstock is not dead, in fact he remains alive in infinite realities. Until he is truly erased, the events of Columbia will be repeated forever. Booker wants to kill Comstock at his birth, so Elizabeth takes him to the river at Wounded Knee, the place where Comstock was “born.” In the end, Elizabeths from many realities converge and drown Booker, who willingly dies in the river, thus ending the legacy of Comstock for good.
So, Columbia is wiped out of the multiverse forever it seems. Other worlds like Rapture exists in different realities. The fate of the people who lived on Columbia like the Luteces is unknown after Comstock’s ultimate destruction. We could assume they lived their lives as if Columbia had never been built.
It is unknown if Elizabeth “survived” given her state as a time lord. However, after the credits, we see Booker in a new reality, one where we hear a baby, implying Anna is with him. Could Elizabeth have created a new reality where Comstock never existed and Booker kept Anna? Or is this a hallucination or falsity? That’s a question left up in the air.
So that’s a breakdown of the BioShock Infinite story. This is more of a short version, as there was much more going on. However, I stuck to clarifying events in the main story that might have been unclear. Everything here is accurate to my best knowledge. As I said before, story details were taken from the game, and from voxophone transcripts in the strategy guide. I connected some events together myself, and left out holes that weren’t exactly clear to me.
Next time, I’m going to take a look at the story again to analyze some of the themes and the implications of the Infinite narrative. I hope everyone enjoyed their time in Columbia, because I sure did!