BioShock 4 is currently in development at a new studio, Cloud Chamber. The studio includes many developers who worked on previous BioShock games, but the absence of BioShock creator Ken Levine has left many fans wondering about the future of the series.
Based on several job postings for positions at Cloud Chamber, BioShock 4 may be going in a very different direction than the previous games in the dystopian sci-fi franchise. In fact, the path BioShock appears to be going down bears a resemblance to recent Assassin's Creed games, which might mean a lot for the future of BioShock.
The last three Assassin's Creed games - Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla - marked a distinct turn in the series' design. Ubisoft began adding new features like an RPG-style dialogue system and the ability to choose the protagonist's gender. While the series has technically had open worlds for a long time, from Origins on Assassin's Creed began to resemble an open-world RPG series more than its action-adventure roots.
The divide between Assassin's Creed's historical-fiction plotlines and its modern-day story allowed players to unlock different endings in the historical plot without derailing the series' overarching narrative. In Assassin's Creed Valhalla, for example, the player's choices will affect Eivor's relationship with their brother Sigurd. While this changes the tone of the historical-fiction plot's ending, the pair still defeat Basim and trap him in the Grey with the same implications for the modern-day storyline.
There is evidence that BioShock will also be adding RPG-style dialogue options in the next game. A Cloud Chamber job listing for the position of Senior Voice Designer requested experience designing similar dialogue systems. More divergence based on player decisions and dialogue options could certainly help distinguish BioShock 4 from BioShock Infinite, which made a point of demonstrating that the choices Booker made throughout the story were ultimately arbitrary.
There's also evidence that Cloud Chamber could be aiming for a more open-world experience, though the location of BioShock 4 has yet to be revealed. A job listing for a Systems Designer position requested "an innate sense of how game systems connect and enhance one another in an emergent sand-box world." While neither of these job listings definitively prove which features will be added or changed in BioShock 4, it seems likely that the series, like Assassin's Creed, will increasingly resemble an open-world RPG.
It is possible for BioShock to incorporate open-world RPG features without compromising its strong central storylines. While series like The Elder Scrolls are known for prioritizing the breadth of their open worlds above character-driven storytelling, Assassin's Creed's evolution has demonstrated that BioShock can become more an open-world RPG while still maintaining a focus on its main plot.
Maintaining that focus will be particularly vital for BioShock, a series known for its shocking twists, exploration of philosophical themes, and memorable characters in a way that few open-world RPGs can boast. It is also possible that BioShock 4 will have an open-world without having an RPG style dialogue system, or vice versa. While the direction BioShock 4 will go is unclear for now, fans can take solace knowing that series like Assassin's Creed have increasingly integrated open-world RPG features without undermining their core conceits or narrative focus.
In an ideal world, the addition of open-world RPG features to BioShock won't transform the series into an Elder Scrolls or Fallout-style game. Though BioShock 4 can follow Ubisoft's example, that likely won't turn the game into Assassin's Creed either. What Assassin's Creed has demonstrated is the potential for BioShock to change significantly while retaining its unique identity and capacity for ambitious storytelling. Whether or not Cloud Chamber will be able to stick the landing remains to be seen.
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