It has been over a decade since we were shown the beautiful and horrific corpse of the dystopian metropolis Rapture in Bioshock. Three years later, we returned to Rapture in BioShock 2, to once again turn the sea red with the blood of splicers. In 2013, we went on to explore the gorgeous and xenophobic city of Columbia in BioShock Infinite, six years after the first game was released. Then with the Burial at Sea expansions, we got to explore Rapture once more in a sort of prequel to the first game. So, what’s next for the series?
Through the years, the BioShock series has built a sizable fanbase. Players explored amazing stories with interesting characters and a simultaneously strong-handed and well-written commentary on things like morality, socialism, religion, and xenophobia. In 2014, Ken Levine retired from the BioShock series for his personal health and handed the rights to 2K Games. In the same month, 2K Games announced that they would be continuing the series. Then, in a 2018 Kotaku article, developers from 2K Marin had confirmed that the next BioShock title was being worked on under the name ‘Parkside.’
While part of me loves the idea of being able to play more BioShock, there is still the question of if there even should be another entry into the series. Just because 2K is able to make another addition to the series does not mean that they should. After an intellectual property has been explored as many times (and in as many ways) as BioShock has, you have to ask what is left for us to see? What other stories can 2K Games tell that is worth a whole new BioShock game?
If they’re planning on taking us back to Rapture, I worry that all of the interesting periods have been already explored. The player has experienced the time periods before and after the 1959 New Years Revolt. We’ve gotten to see what these settings have to offer and have gotten all our time out of them. The only possible way to go back to Rapture would be to go back to one of the periods we have already visited.
Suppose we went back to before the revolt, then there wouldn’t really be anything interesting to do. BioShock is interesting because we get to see what should be idyllic societies fall and what comes after their fall. If we got a game in Rapture that came before the revolt, it most likely wouldn’t feel like a proper BioShock.
While there may have been some sort of different struggle before, I don’t know if it would be what people want. Even if the themes matched up with the general concepts of the series, there might still be the issue of gameplay being drastically different. We may see something far more story based and less focused on gunplay and powers, but a switch in gameplay like that could split the fanbase. I think it would be fair to say that a decent portion of people are attracted to BioShock because of the interesting powers we get to use. If we moved to a gameplay style that was more focused on telling a story, people may not be interested in Parkside.
If we went back in a period before or after BioShock 2, then I don’t know what kind of story that would tell. Rapture before the revolt was a bastardized version of Andrew Ryan’s dream for a utopian society that saw major divides between social and economic classes. After the revolt was an example of why utopia is a flawed idea that can’t work because humans are garbage. Columbia before the events of BioShock Infinite was just a floating city of racism and xenophobia where a group of minorities ineffectually fought against the reigning power. There isn’t an after to Columbia’s story because, at the end of BioShock Infinite, the city has been destroyed by the Vox Populi.
The most important rule of storytelling is to show the most interesting part of a character’s life, and if the storyteller isn’t showing us that part, then why should we be interested in this less interesting story? BioShock had great stories because we got to see the most interesting parts. We weren’t given a less interesting period while something that we would be actually interested in experiencing was sitting out of our reach.
There wasn’t really an interesting antagonist between Andrew Ryan, Frank Fontaine, and Sofia Lamb. Maybe 2K could do something taking place after BioShock 2, but since it would be more than 10 years after the revolt, I think Rapture would be in a state where there is nothing left to explore.
If they’re going to take us back to Columbia, there won’t really have much material to work with. In BioShock Infinite, we got to see a lot of the city in our universe and across multiple universes. We’ve gone through time and jumped through different realities, so there aren’t other stories to experience in the sky.
If they don’t visit either Rapture or Columbia, then where else are we going to go? They can’t make another underwater city or floating metropolis, so I don’t know if they can do any other setting. Settings show us a world that operates on a different set of rules than our own and allows us to experience what this other world is like. For example, if BioShock was set in a 1980s version of New York then the game’s messages about why the perfect society is impossible or how capitalism is a terrible system wouldn’t come across as effectively as they did. The setting is a crucial aspect of the story because it is essential in strengthening the message that the storyteller is trying to put across.
The point I’m trying to make is that there is no good possible setting for Parkside. A good setting plays in a large role in making a story worthwhile and the BioShock series has a track record of telling good stories. No one forgets moments like the mind-bending ending of BioShock Infinite or the events that transpired when we met Andrew Ryan in BioShock. These moments are pieces of fantastic storytelling that most of the gaming community knows or has experienced in one way or another.
If 2K does finish Parkside and releases it, it won’t take away the old ones, it won’t ruin the games we’ve already been given, but it will sully the name of a franchise that many people love.
BioShock is such an important part of video game history. It’s a game that everyone should experience, so the last thing that fans want is for the name to be sullied. In my opinion, there shouldn’t be another BioShock game, and I think it would be best if the series was left alone. Although, in the end, I would be happy to be proven wrong. I would enjoy 2K showing me that there is another story that can be told and new things to see in a world that has had many people’s interest for over a decade.