As far as BioShock creator Ken Levine and Irrational Games are concerned, the BioShock series is over, but one writer thinks now is the time for a new entry into the franchise.
In 2013, BioShock Infinite was released to critical and commercial acclaim, something that didn’t seem like a foregone conclusion after a troubled development period spanning five years. Given Infinite‘s success, it seemed like the next logical step for BioShock creator Ken Levine and his studio, Irrational Games, would be to continue the franchise. Instead, Levine dropped an unexpected bombshell on everyone by shutting Irrational Games’ doors and moving onto something new that’s completely unrelated to Rapture and Columbia.
Despite 2K’s assertions that the BioShock franchise would continue without Irrational Games, the general feeling was that without Levine’s vision, any follow-up to Infinite would be nothing less than a disappointment. I may be in the minority in what I’m about to say next, but I think that a new creative shake-up such as this one is a good thing, and having a new development team work on an Infinite follow-up will keep the franchise from feeling stale. Based on what’s gone on in the video game landscape in the past few years, I’m inclined to think that the pieces are in place for a new BioShock game, one that could still succeed without Ken Levine at the helm.
Looking at a hypothetical situation where Levine didn’t close up Irrational and the team went on to develop a new BioShock game, there arguably would’ve been a greater chance of failure than success. A fact that gets overlooked is that Irrational worked on nothing but the first BioShock and Infinite from roughly 2002 to 2013, and spending over a decade in a single universe would be exhausting for anyone. The early concepts of Infinite actually involved returning to Rapture, but the development team found themselves struggling to do something new and interesting with the setting, hence why Columbia was used. Given that the team struggled to get Infinite off the ground, and taking into account the time it took just to create those two BioShock games, it stands to reason that a follow-up would not only take several years to develop, but there’s a risk that Levine and Irrational would be burnt out on the franchise and all we’re left with is a sub-par BioShock game.
This brings us to the current situation: having a different creative team continue on the BioShock franchise. While having a new creative team may not work out every time, history has already proven that BioShock can live on without Levine. 2010’s BioShock 2 was developed by a 2K Marin rather than Irrational, yet it turned out to be a fantastic game. Given that 2K Marin have now been tasked to develop more BioShock sequels, who’s to say that the lightning won’t strike twice, and that another non-Irrational BioShock game would be something brilliant?
While it remains to be seen whether 2K Marin can indeed recapture the magic, there’s a good chance that it just might, especially when we take a look at the recent pattern of new video game releases.
From the top of my head, three new games in long-running franchises were released over the past few years – Fallout 3, XCOM 2, and DOOM – all three of which proved that having a new creative team at the helm doesn’t necessarily mean that a beloved franchise is doomed. Bethesda imbued its signature open-world gameplay into the series while still keeping that quintessential Fallout “feel”; Firaxis Games essentially gave UFO: Enemy Unknown a shiny new layer of paint and graphics, and yet it felt like something new; and finally, while the id Software that worked on the DOOM reboot was essentially a new team in all but name, the developer delivered one of 2016’s best shooters and somehow managed to make a two decade old franchise relevant again.
Bethesda, Firaxis, and the revamped id Software team have shown that a new pair of eyes could be what a long-running video game franchise such as BioShock needs, especially when the creative team comes into a franchise as knowledgeable fans. Of course, those aforementioned games could be the exceptions to the rule, and there’s a obviously a chance that 2K Marin’s next BioShock game could be an utter catastrophe, but given that the studio has more than enough experience and knowledge about the BioShock universe, I’m inclined to believe that there’s definitely a greater chance for it to be something good.
For now, I (and many others) will have to make do with a HD revisit of Rapture and Columbia through the upcoming BioShock Collection, but who knows what the future may hold? Given that Shenmue 3 somehow got revived out of the ashes, and Final Fantasy XV is actually coming out in a couple of months time, I have faith that a new BioShock game will be released at some point in the future (or very far future), and when it does, it will be nothing short of brilliant.