I finished BioShock last night. I won’t spoil the game by revealing its secrets, but the ending was…a let down.
Don’t get me wrong: BioShock still has my strongest recommendation- I really enjoyed the game, and my rating is unchanged. But endings are always hard, and it seems that the better an entertainment is, the harder it is to end well.
This is true with computer games, books, movies…but I’d say that the art of “completion” is the most poorly developed with computer/video games. In BioShock, I think what left me feeling deflated was the fact that, ultimately, the choices I made in the game really boiled down to just one thing having an impact on the ending. Make that singular choice differently, and you get one of (basically) two endings. Either your character becomes an evil SOB, or not, based on that choice.
So, BioShock’s graphics and sound were great, the gameplay fantastically well realized, the narrative stunningly well done for a computer game- this was true right through until the ending credits. What undid the ending for me was being given the sense that the choices I made would make a difference to the story, then discovering that those differences were, in fact, very constrained.
Could a game this tightly written have given more variability in the ending? Made my choices as a character have more meaning? Would that have really made the ending more satisfying? I’m not sure. But it is an interesting challenge for game developers.