In which we visit nice Paris, gloomy Paris and a toy store in a strictly linear fashion.
Ahhh, Paris. Finally.
The place Elisabeth wanted to visit since we first met her, and now we’re there. About time, one might say. We – now as Elisabeth – get a portrait from a random artist and con now go on exploring. And boy, this town looks gorgeous. I half expected to smell the flowers. The music, playing on a gramophone at the café where we started out, follows us through the city, and Elisabeth accompanies it by humming. The musical theme follows us around, held by several street musicians and a songbird. No, not THAT songbird, a real bird which is not trying to hunt us down. All the civilians we pass greet us, most by name – Elisabeth is well known in this part of town, it seems. The whole things feels like a living place, in a way Columbia didn’t. Maybe a bit too alive, even.
But beauty and feeling aside, this is a linear tunnel. We can sometimes stray away from the path, but never far. One of these places is a bookstore, where Elisabeth asks for The Age of Innocence, but according to the vendor it isn’t written yet. I have no idea what year it currently is, but it has to be before 1920. But back to the linear level: we can’t walk or jump down to the promenade until the game wants us to, and the way’s boundaries are “a bit ham-fisted”, to put it lightly.
Yes, they just put stalls over the road, so we have to move around them, walk down the stairs where most of the way is blocked by more stalls, guiding us towards a little girl with a balloon.
We talk to her, mainly because we have to. There is no other way, we can’t walk around a little girl and we get the talk-to-prompt when we get close enough. Oh well…
We talk to her, and surprise, it’s Sally. The Little Sister from Ep. 1, for those who forgot. We talk to her, she lets go of he balloon and starts chasing it. The vibrant city changes to a dark, gloomy place without colour, in ruins, on fire. We chase Sally without catching up. A deck of cards crosses our path, with a very prominent Ace of Spades. In the background is a psychiatric clinic, advertising our all time favourite clinical horror classic, the transorbital lobotomy.We also pass an angel statue which reminds me a bit of Elisabeth’s statues in Columbia. Another interesting detail were wind chimes made from wrenches. We continue to follow Sally around another corner and down a flight of stairs, where we end up in front of a door we know: the door to Booker DeWitt’s office.
The whole prologue up to this point is a bit weak from a gameplay perspective (extremely linear), but it’s great storywise.
I don’t want to spoil Everything here is foreshadowing the rest of the game, resulting in a textbook example of fridge brilliance.
We’re in front of the aforementioned door, and we enter. In front of us is a certain thermostat which played a major role in the ending of Ep. 1. The heat goes up, the thermostat shatters and we enter another room. A closed vent lights up, with Sally behind the bars, crying over the heat. Another one lights up, and another, and another… we’re surrounded in this manifestation of guilt that seems to eat Elisabeth. We never should have left Sally in there. We sacrificed a child to get our revenge over Comstock.
We wake up.
Someone is prying Sally out of the vent in the toy store, grabbing her and taking her away. A guy named Lonnie is playing russian roulette, using his gun and our head. And another guy named Atlas proves to be a rather impatient fellow and wants us dead sooner rather than later.
Lucky for us that Booker is here, sitting in a chair in front of vent, holding a guitar and telling us to… wait, what? Yep. DeWitt is sitting right there, and he’s telling us we should tell Atlas that we can get him back to Rapture (Fontaine’s empire was sent to the bottom of the sea, as you might remember). We can get him back to Rapture, because we’re Dr. Suchong’s lab assistant. All we want for it is the girl. Atlas isn’t convinced, as a Little Sister is worth her weight in gold down here. Alas, no Sally, no return to the city, and besides all this, Little Sisters are made by the dozen up there these days. Thankfully, Atlas decides to let us go and give it a try.
We’re given a radio in case we need to contact Atlas (or he needs to contact us) and punched out, as this is the thing to do with people trying to do business with you. When we’re back among the conscious, Booker starts talking to us via the radio. How is he doing this? Shouldn’t he be dead, or something like this? And what are we doing here? Elisabeth didn’t come back here, at least she doesn’t know about coming back.
During their talk, Elisabeth tells us that she felt everything every version of her felt, and this one (the one beheaded) lost everything – she just couldn’t let this last Comstock hide in Rapture. But why did she come back? She way happy in Paris, according to herself, and now she (and we) have to deal with Atlas and Suchong – a psychopath and someone she has no idea who it is. But she does, according to Booker. Suchong is the key. Following the twisty but linear path through the remains of the toy store, we turn back to the question who or what is talking to us. We get a question in return: are we feeling like ourself? No, of course we don’t: Elisabeth can no longer see the doors, see the future, not even any tears. We reach the end of the lane, where another piece of rubble blocks our way.
And there we will continue.