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Bioshock: The Condensed Version

the story

The year is 1960.

You are traveling in an airplane over the north Atlantic Ocean. Suddenly the airplane crashes into the sea in front of a mysterious lighthouse. Inside there is a bathysphere that takes you to an underwater metropolis called Rapture. The city is a ruin: Everywhere there is leaking sea water; everywhere is the evidence of war; everywhere splicers — the crazed remnants of Rapture's citizenry — attack you. Your guide, Atlas, leads you by radio through the city; in return you help him reach his family, hiding in a bathysphere once used for smuggling operations. But the city's founder and master, Andrew Ryan, resists you at every turn; in the end, he blows up the bathysphere right before your eyes.

An aggrieved Atlas then sends you to hunt down and kill Ryan. First, Ryan kills the trees of Arcadia, Rapture's forest and oxygen source, to suffocate you and Atlas. But you restore the forests to life with a formula given to you by Arcadia's botanist at the cost of hers. Then Ryan diverts you to Fort Frolic, Rapture's entertainment quarter, so that its master Sander Cohen can dispose of you. But Cohen regrets ever letting Ryan talk him into coming to Rapture; so, after you do his bidding in creating a grisly masterpiece, Cohen lets you go. Then, in industrial Hephæstus, you construct an electromagnetic bomb to break the maglocks on the doors to Ryan's office.

Finally you confront and kill Andrew Ryan — but not before learning from him that your presence in Rapture was not an accident. You are a slave, preprogrammed by Frank Fontaine, a ruthless rival of Andrew Ryan. You waited on the surface while a civil war between Ryan and Fontaine for control of Rapture was fought to a draw. Then Fontaine summoned you to hijack the airplane and crash it next to the lighthouse to gain access to the city. And Atlas? He is Frank Fontaine himself!

Fontaine tries to kill you with the city's security system; but you are saved by Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum, a former employee of Fontaine. She helps you first to undo a preprogrammed trigger, which Fontaine had set to stop your heart, with a formula for which you must scavenge the residential quarters of Rapture. Then she guides your pursuit of Fontaine through the Big Daddy factory and the Little Sister training area to Fontain's lair. There Fontaine transforms himself into a monster; but you defeat Fontaine in battle.

adam and little sisters

Early in the history of Rapture, Dr. Tenenbaum discovered sea slugs that secrete a stem-cell slurry called Adam. From Adam her fellow scientists Dr. Yi Suchong and others have made the active (plasmids) and passive (tonics) drugs that splice into one's genome health, superpowers and other abilities. She also found that embedding the slugs into the stomachs of little girls make the slugs generate up to thirty times the Adam that the slugs would naturally produce. The girls thus became the Little Sisters.

Appalled by what she had done, Dr. Tenenbaum went into hiding before the civil war broke out. Then she quietly worked to create a plasmid to remove the slugs safely: For just pulling out the slugs would kill the girls. She had also been protecting what Little Sisters she had saved in an old maintenance room beneath the sewers of the residential quarters.

Meanwhile war broke out, with most citizens of Rapture consuming plasmids to fight or to protect themselves. The plasmids, in turn, destroyed their minds and bodies, changing them into splicers. To maintain the supply of Adam, Ryan had Dr. Suchong, whom he hired after Fontaine's "demise", condition the Little Sisters to extract the blood of splicer dead and drink it, so that the slugs within can reprocess the Adam. Dr. Suchong, with the assistance of Dr. Gil Alexander, also created the hulking, armored Big Daddies to protect the Little Sisters during their gathering rounds.

the heart of the crisis

This is where you come in. You need Adam to buy plasmids to give you the powers and abilities to survive. The Little Sisters are the only source of Adam. You need to defeat the Big Daddies protecting them; but the right combination of weapons, plasmids and tactics can make short work of them. The decision is what to do with the Little Sisters.

And that is the heart of the crisis: Your decision. You can save all the Little Sisters, and lead them to the surface to live normal lives. Or, you can harvest them, and become the cruel master of Rapture and, in time, a threat to the surface world.

the 1960's

Either way, Dr. Tenenbaum will have escaped the city with some Little Sisters to start new lives. Others, unreachable to either you or Dr. Tenenbaum, remained in Rapture. As they grew up and reached puberty, they became aggressive and vicious. Dr. Alexander reconditioned them and gave them armor like Big Daddies, but suitable for their slender frames. He also gave them needles hooked up directly into their bodies, to allow direct extraction of Adam into their bloodstreams. These became the Big Sisters.

Early in Big Daddy development, shortly after Dr. Suchong's death, Dr. Alexander created a radically new series of Big Daddy, bonded to a single Little Sister such that, if the child is away from her Big Daddy for too long, the Big Daddy will collapse and die or go mad. This is the Alpha Series, with each Big Daddy branded with a Greek letter. It worked too well: Between Dr. Tenenbaum and the splicers, all the Little Sisters were broken from their Alpha Daddies, killing or maddening them. The few survivors were used as soldiers guarding Fontaine Futuristics.

The splicers, as they became more desparate for Adam, became more aggressive as well, hunting in packs and taking out the standard Big Daddies. So Dr. Alexander designed a new series of Big Daddy, the Rumbler. It fires rockets to blow up large groups of splicers and tosses out miniature turrets to mop up the survivors. If, by chance, a Big Daddy does fall and a Little Sister is killed, the Big Sister springs into action, forcibly extracting Adam any number of thieving live splicers.

After the deaths of Ryan and Fontaine, Rapture was taken over by the followers of a psychiatrist named Sofia Lamb. Lamb was invited to Rapture by a reluctant Ryan to relieve the fears of citizens, who have realized that they are stuck inside a sunless, leaky aquarium. When Ryan discovered that Lamb is a collectivist who was gathering a following, he had her imprisoned. With Ryan's and Fontaine's deaths, Lamb took over Rapture and directed it from her former prison.

In time, there were no more Little Sisters. Desparate for more Adam, Lamb sent the Big Sisters to the surface to kidnap little girls from coastal areas around the north Atlantic, bring them to Rapture, and to made them into Little Sisters.

Mark Meltzer, the father of one of those kidnapped girls, survived an attack by the Big Sister who kidnapped his daughter. In searching for his daughter, he began uncovering clues to a similar mass-vanishing in the late 1940's. These clues, and the help of a madman who once visited Rapture, lead Meltzer on a sea journey that would take him to the city of Rapture.

Dr. Tenenbaum, realizing what is happening, returned to Rapture, and was able to save a few of the kidnapped girls. But she would need more help. And she got it — from the Little Sisters themselves. The new Little Sisters had become a hive whose queen was an unusual young woman, a former bonded Little Sister herself — Eleanor Lamb, daughter of Sofia. With the help of Dr. Tenenbaum and the Little Sisters, Eleanor was able to resurrect, in a Vita Chamber, her bonded Big Daddy — Subject Delta.

the new story

You wake up on the floor of what was once a luxurious resort. The reflection in the water shows you to be a Big Daddy; but, unlike a Big Daddy, you have your will and your wits about you. The resort — indeed, the whole city — is a ruin, not at all as you remember it. The citizens are insane monsters, attacking you on sight. There is religious graffiti everywhere, most of it dealing with this Dr. Lamb. But the Little Sisters, at least, are still there. They seem to be guarded by this lithe, tough and violent new breed of Protector: Big Sister? You need answers: And this Dr. Tenenbaum is offering them, so off you go to meet her.

Everywhere you go, you find gifts in the form of plasmids, tonics and weapons from someone named Eleanor. Dr. Tenenbaum explains that you are bonded to Eleanor, who was once your Little Sister. If you are away from her for too long, you will die or go mad, so you must find her. Eleanor herself watches your every act and step through the Little Sisters. Dr. Lamb, realizing that you are alive again, throws every possible obstacle in your way — no problem for her, as she is the mistress of Rapture, most of whose splicers are her worshippers.

Guided by a huckster named Augustus Sinclair, you make your way through the city. In almost every quarter you visit a 'governor' who does the obstacle throwing: A retired jazz singer in Rapture's poorest quarter; a horribly mutated preacher running a church in the city's red-light district; a sleazy reporter in what was once Lamb's own artists colony, eager to hide his betrayal of Lamb to Ryan; and Dr. Alexander himself, now a whale-like giant who controls Fontaine Futuristics with a heavily modified security bot.

the same old crisis with a new twist

You, too, have a crisis. Eleanor's gifts are not enough to survive. You need Adam for plasmids and tonics, the varieties of which are even wider than in 1960, in order to ease handling vendors and security devices, to ease research on enemies, and to expand your capacity for money, first aid and Eve (plasmid serum). To get Adam, as Sinclair explains, you need the Little Sisters, too.

As a free agent, you get to choose what to do with the Little Sisters. You can harvest them for maximum Adam. Or, you can adopt them and become their Big Daddy, protecting them on their gathering rounds. And protect them you must: Every splicer around comes running at the sound of a Little Sister chattering and singing as she extracts Adam. Little Sisters give you Adam when they are done extracting; they give you Adam when you save them at one of their vents; and, if you keep saving them, they give you gifts of their own.

But, above all else, how you treat the Little Sisters, as well as the governors (all of whom having had a part in Eleanor's life in one way or other), determines how Eleanor will turn out in the end. If you spare everyone, she will become a force for good, a blessing upon the world. If you kill everyone to survive, she will become an evil genius ready to take out the world.

Written by Andy West on 22 April 2010.