What difference does a year make? Well: BioShock Infinite’s classic difficult mode was dubbed ‘1999’. That’s the year when Irrational released their very first game - System Shock 2. But for their last ever project, Burial at Sea Part 2, they’re delving beyond that into a past their gameography wasn’t a part of: 1998. The year of Pokemon Red and Blue; the year of Baldur’s Gate; the year of Fallout 2; the year of Half-Life; the year of Thief.
Irrational’s mode will learn toward the latter end of that spectrum - accommodating and challenging players who’ve embraced Burial at Sea’s hybrid stealth system wholesale.
1998 mode will ask fans to play through Burial at Sea Part 2’s narrative - viewed from Elizabeth’s perspective - using non-lethal tools only. Intriguingly, it won’t replace 1999 mode but exist alongside it as a distinct difficulty option.
“In Burial at Sea - Episode Two we put a focus on balance and stealth mechanics,” said Ken Levine of the mode. “As we were developing this new style of gameplay, we started to see people self-impose non-lethal playthroughs.
“Given the fan reception of 1999 Mode, we thought it would be cool to give them another way to play Burial at Sea that challenged their mastery of stealth tools.”
We can suppose 1999 mode was well-received, then? I never got around to a second Infinite playthrough myself - but early reports suggested the classic mode placed the onus on player attrition and ammo conservation, at the possible expense of sanity. Which, like it or not, is absolutely true to System Shock 2.
Will 1998 mode be true to Thief? BioShock has traditionally supported stealth, after a fashion, and Irrational are no strangers to the padfooted approach - they made SWAT 4 back in the day, after all. Let’s hope they remember a little of what went into that.
Soon, it’ll be our duty to remember Irrational as the studio “winds down”, either to better fit Levine’s ambitions or 2K’s financial statements, depending on who’s speculating.
Do you think Burial at Sea Part 2 will be a fitting place to part? It'll be out March 25 on PC for $14.99/£11.99, or $19.99/£15.99 with its predecessor.
Thanks, Xbox Achievements.