Thursday, August 30, 2007

BioShock gameplay tidbits

We'll close out the BioShock coverage with a short discussion of some gameplay moments and quirks. I'll try to go easy on the spoilers, but it'll be impossible to avoid them. You may want to tread lightly if you're still waiting to play it yourself. In fact, most of this probably won't even make sense if you haven't played the game.
  • I wish I had realized early on just how versatile the research camera is. The game tells you to photograph your enemies in order to unlock damage multipliers and even new powers, but you can also photograph security systems and vending machines. Apparently if you fully research a camera or turret, you can then hack it without having to do the hacking mini-game. As it happens, I liked the mini-game. But still, fully researching the machines would allow you to dedicate all your gene tonics to something other than hacking -- like wrench combat.

  • You have three distinct tracks along which you can upgrade with gene tonics: combat, engineering (hacking), and physical. What's neatest is that you can find complementary tonics in each track for whichever your primary path is. So when I decided I wanted to focus on hacking, I was able to use a physical tonic called "Medical Expert," which gave me a boost of health and EVE every time I successfully hacked a machine. It's a great incentive to open up all your tracks even if you're single-minded in the way you want to play. There is one thing I don't get, though. You purchase new slots at a machine called a Gatherer's Garden. Each GG only allows you to buy one of each slot, and then you have to find a new place to buy another one. Wouldn't it grant you greater control over your destiny if you could choose to spend all your ADAM on one track? I'm sure they had a reason for this decision, but I'm not sure I know what it is.

  • The "natural camouflage" tonic seemed silly when I first got it, but it turned out to be indispensable. It turns you invisible if you stand still for about a full second. This was great when I tripped security alarms, as I could just run around a corner and stand still, and then none of the security drones could see me (alas, it doesn't work if you turn invisible while you're still in their line of sight). Plus, I saved money on activating the bot shutdown. While invisible, you can still turn and aim your weapon, so natural camo plus the crossbow made for an elegant sniping arrangement.

  • I was reading a discussion on a message board about how to kill the Big Daddies. The strategies were endless, most involving some combination of trap bolts, the Electro Bolt plasmid, and fire. People had devised some Rube Goldberg-like ways of taking them down. And it all sounds cool. I just shot grenades at them until they keeled over. After about my second encounter with them, I'd nailed the technique and they no longer gave me much trouble at all. In fact, one of the ways you can upgrade your grenade launcher is to make it so that you take no splash damage from it. Then you can just plug away at close range like it was nothing.

  • After I beat the game, I read the list of achievements to see what I had missed. Strangely, I'm sure I did what one of them asked, but never got credit for it (and it's a big spoiler, so I can't get more specific than that). There's also an achievement for fully upgrading all your weapons. I missed that by one measly upgrade. But with 730 total achievement points from BioShock, it's easily the most I've ever gotten. I hope to play again someday, and if I do I think I could pick up some more.

  • BioShock is a great game, but like any game it's not perfect. Its problems are mostly with the interface at the various machines. For example, you can invent new items at the U-Invent station, which is great, but the station won't let you know how many of an item you already have in your inventory. You can waste resources making something of which you're already carrying the max. And you can't see what gene tonics you have equipped unless you're at the machine that allows you to swap them. The lack of access to important information can be frustrating at times, but the good part is that you're usually not so far away from a relevant machine that it ends up hurting you.

  • BioShock is awesome.

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