Developer Irrational Games has had the fortune and skill to create such incredible worlds within their BioShock franchise. It was no surprise to anyone when BioShock Infinite topped what we’d seen in the first two games (Rapture) with the floating city of Columbia. The city in the sky was unlike anything we’d seen in games previously. It was massive, while still being constrained to the game’s systems and story, but also incredibly detailed.
Like all BioShock titles, Irrational ensured a grand entrance was possible to the world of BioShock Infinite. We, the players, see ourselves launched into the air in a spherical pod atop a lighthouse. We get our first glimpse of Columbia as we slowly float to the ground and on to our mission. The tops of looming buildings, a statue in the distance, the clouds floating endlessly above. Columbia is a world we want to live in, more so than even Rapture. Rapture had an eerie beauty to it, but beauty nonetheless. Columbia surpasses that level of quality in a bright, vibrant world stuck in the past.
Columbia is unique and vivid. The architecture featuring within the game is very classical, with bright white colors, gardens in the windows and terraces adorning every second floor. Massive windows line each side of the buildings, with a domed top to the panes. Many of the buildings seen within the world also feature plenty of white columns, either hoisting up pieces of the architecture or adorning the sides of the building as aesthetic pieces. It all works so well and compliments the steam punk technology hiding just under the surface of each section.
Ah, the steam punk elements of Columbia. I’m a sucker for steam punk. It takes a masterful stroke to create a steam punk world that isn’t too over-the-top, but also has enough elements of the genre to feel realistic and not overwhelming. Hiding underneath each section of the massive, floating city are turbines and electrical devices powering every inch of the city. It’s going to take some massive juice to keep such widespread architecture floating high in the sky. Just take a look at the in-game screenshot below:
Those city lots are quite large, though they may not feel it in-game. Each one houses numerous buildings, sometimes shops and plenty more within the world. The weight of such architecture has to be within the thousands of tons, if not far more. Rosalind Lutece was definitely a brilliant quantum-physicist.
We’ve had two games set within the confines of Rapture, a city built at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean by an eccentric billionaire, Andrew Ryan. Those two games spawned a world that was both enjoyable and dark at the same time. Players wanted to spend hours there, and most did. Columbia is not the same type of world we’re used to. It’s a little more realistic, with undertones of what life was really like back then. The floating city is also a little brighter, with far more sunshine and clouds than Rapture could ever dream of.
One of the biggest changes to the world of BioShock is its population. Rapture had no “living” population. Everyone still running the sunken halls were off their minds on drugs and ready to kill anyone in their way. The people of BioShock Infinite are a little more domicile. They spend time at the local fair; they sniff flowers, buy items from the local general store and go about their busy day at the docks. Sure, there are enemies firing their guns at you, robotic mechs looking to crush your lungs, and airships soaring overhead, but it’s different. That’s the point, it isn’t the same game, the only thing similar is the name on the cover.
The citizens of Infinite stand out a little more in one way in particular; they all tend to be blaring racists and bigots. The community living aboard the floating cities tolerates no interracial marriage, and people of color are segregated into meaningless jobs and are forced to use different buildings and bathrooms, just like in the olden days. The time period forces this type of thinking, but it’s vastly different from the free society we saw in Rapture.
Developer Irrational Games forced us to think from the very beginning. The first choice you come across is whether to assault an interracial couple with a baseball or not. Granted, the scene doesn’t play out either way, but it’s the idea of the choice that matters. It’s a morality equation.
The world of BioShock Infinite is a wondrous place to spend some time. We highly recommend you visit it the next time your boss lets you out of the cubicle for some vacation. Just be careful of the guns…war…and flying mechanical songbirds.