A prominent figure of Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of a master craftsman named Daedalus living in the ancient city of Crete. Desperate to escape — and unbound to the laws of aerodynamics — Daedalus constructs two of elaborate wing sets for Icarus and himself out of feathers and wax, and the two take flight. Disregarding his father’s warning Icarus, enthralled with joy, soars high towards the sun where his wingsuit melts, sending him plummeting towards the sea and an ignominious death.
What does the famous fable have to do with BioShock: Infinite? What started as a tale of wonder and innovation ended as a warning about audacity mixed with hubris — and it may well reference the destiny of the city of Columbia. A new trailer released today by Irrational Games — aptly titled “Columbia: A Modern Day Icarus?” — explores the (fictional) history behind the floating metropolis’s inception and wonders, in eerie, 16mm-documentary-with-creepy-old-narrator fashion, just what became of the place after a riotous early existence.
Primarily, the trailer serves to build on BioShock Infinite’s rich backstory; Irrational has already discussed many of its central themes throughout the game’s several-year development process — American Exceptionalism of the early 20th Century, religious idolization of the Founding Fathers (not to be confused with weaponization of the Founding Fathers) — and has already announced a BioShock Infinite E-book prequel.
In its brief two minutes the clip, similar to the prequel, chronicles Columbia’s founding at the hand of Zachary Comstock, an idealistic leader who champions himself as “The Prophet.” Initially, the story goes, Comstock’s Columbia was heralded by the United States as technological marvel and a powerful asset. But as the city floated further away, so, too, did its American identity. After interfering with U.S. foreign policy during the 1901 Boxer Rebellion (the world’s first airstrike? — unfortunately we’re not given the details), Comstock cut the final string: Columbia seceded and disappeared, literally, into thin air.
Which is about where players will find themselves when they take on the role of Booker Dewitt this March. A disgraced ex-Pinkerton agent, Booker is sent to Columbia by a highly mysterious outfit of individuals, somehow cognizant of its current location, who ask him to rescue the supernaturally talented Elizabeth. Similar to Andrew Ryan’s ill-fated Rapture, the city was unable to support the quixotic ambitions of its birth and now finds itself fractured by a violent civil war. The parallels to Icarus are clear (Infinite itself began as Project Icarus, after all); we can only hope our anticipation for BioShock Infinite, high as it is, doesn’t share his fate.
How intrigued are you by BioShock Infinite’s backstory? Do you think Irrational Games can weave the same captivating fiction around Columbia that it did around BioShock’s Rapture?
BioShock Infinite will drop onto the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on March 26th.
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