BioShock Infinite's Story: Explained
Updated: May 7, 2020
Our new video essay is all about the wonderful in-game storytelling of BioShock Infinite. Although the game has exceptional ways of telling you its story, it's also notoriously confusing. Whether you played the game years ago and need a refresher, or you've just finished your first playthrough because it's free this month, here is as brief and as simple a story summary as we can give you.
SPOILERS FOR BIOSHOCK INFINITE!!!
There once lived a man named Booker Dewitt. At a young age, Booker went off to war, killing many, and becoming known as "the white injun" due to his Native American heritage and the fact that he scalped those he killed. He survived the war and went home, but never truly recovered from the guilt of how he had lived during the war.
*insert what I've done by linkin park*
So, he turns to religion and washes himself of sin. After being baptised, he’s born again as a new man called Zachary Hale Comstock. He meets an incredibly intelligent young woman called Rosalind Lutece who, somehow, works out how to make a city fly. Comstock founds the city of Columbia and flies off into the sky with a population of racist, nationalist, religious fanatics who buy into the idea that Comstock is a new Christian prophet. Comstock gets married and is hailed as a divine religious leader.
Lutece then discovers trans-dimensional travel, allowing her to create portals or "tears" to other places in the multiverse with the use of a machine in Columbia. She shares this information with Comstock, but at the same time, she travels to a parallel universe where she has been born as a man. She shares her secrets with Robert Lutece, and the two become multiverse-traveling "twins".
Comstock uses the Luteces' tears to make religious prophecies and cement his reputation as an all-seeing prophet. His prolonged use of the machine ages him rapidly, and makes him infertile, meaning he and Lady Comstock cant have a baby. Certain that Columbia will only prosper if his heir inherits the city, Comstock asks the Luteces for help.
The Luteces develop a plan, and this is where things begin to get really complicated.
They suggest that they create a tear to a parallel universe where Booker Dewitt rejected the baptism and never became Zachary Comstock. In these versions of the timeline, Booker has a daughter named Anna and has built up gambling debts, most likely due to that post-war guilt that he never washed away. Lutece offers Booker a chance to "wipe away" that debt by giving Comstock his baby girl.
Booker eventually agrees, hands over his baby, and accepts that his debts are paid. Then, at the last moment, he tries to get Anna back, but Comstock pulls her through the tear back to his world, and in the struggle, Anna’s finger gets cut off as the portal closes.
Comstock raises Anna, now named Elizabeth, as a miracle child of the city. Meanwhile, due to her finger being cut off by a multiverse portal, Elizabeth gains trans-dimensional abilities, allowing her to create tears of her own. Comstock, trying to protect her from the dangers of her powers, locks Elizabeth in a tower that completely nerfs her powers. He also builds a giant robot bird to watch over her, but that's neither here nor there.
The Luteces then discover that through the use of her powers, Elizabeth will complete Comstock's prophecy of "drowning in flame the mountains of man". In visions, they see Elizabeth destroying New York City, or "Sodom", as Comstock refers to it. After making this discovery, the Luteces realise the only way to stop the prophecy from unfolding is to return Elizabeth back to her home universe. Unfortunately, Comstock learns of their plan and sabotages the machine that allows them to travel through the multiverse. An accident with this machine leads to Comstock believing they're dead, but in actuality, the two become scattered through time and space, allowing them to travel the multiverse freely of their own accord.
Determined to stop Comstock, they open a portal to Booker’s world and offer him a chance to save his little girl. Their plan is to insert Booker into Columbia and get him to free Elizabeth.
For Booker, it has been twenty years since he gave away Anna, and his guilt led him to brand her initials on his hand. Knowing that this is his last chance, he walks through the tear to Comstock’s world, once again accepting a chance to "bring them the girl and wipe away the debt". Upon traveling through the tear, he suffers memory distortion, making him confuse his current deal with the Luteces of redemption with the original deal he had made twenty years earlier. The Luteces theorize that this is due to him trying to make sense of everything by using old memories as new ones.
Comstock foresees that all of this will happen, so he tries to prepare things to ensure Booker's failure. Booker, however, goes to Columbia, frees Elizabeth, fights for the Vox Populi, destroys the tower that weakens Elizabeth's powers, and kills Father Comstock.
Elizabeth, now omnipresent in the multiverse, learns who Booker really is. She discovers other universes in which Elizabeth does end up fulfilling Comstock's prophecy, and the only way to ensure that never happens is to end Comstock’s reign of tyranny before it begins. She and Booker agree that this has to happen, so the pair goes back to where Booker accepted the baptism, and drowns him, canceling out Comstock’s timelines, and neutralising the whole story.
Boy, oh boy. We told you it was complicated. To catch our upcoming video on how the game manages to tell such a deep story, subscribe here.
Image Credit: 2K, Irrational Games