Bioshock Infinite has already been praised by numerous critics as one of the best games of this generation. Our own review of the game (which I suggest you check out here) praised the deep story, characters, and gameplay mechanics as key components that will be looked back at in gaming history. However, there is one piece of the game that some critics and fans have found frustrating and complex, and that is the fact that Infinite’s last half hour has an overwhelming amount of information in it. Fortunately for you, that’s why we’re here today. To explain the ending of Bioshock Infinite in a (hopefully) simple manner.
That being said, if you have yet to play the ending and experience it firsthand, do so before reading this. I know you may not care, but it is an experience unlike any I’ve had before and I would hate to rob you of the same. I cannot stress that enough. Don’t even scroll down. There are pictures and you really wouldn’t want to do that to yourself.
Now on to the ending. Obviously you learn that Booker Dewitt and Zachary Comstock are the same person, Elizabeth is Booker’s daughter Anna, and the two Lutece twins are the same person. This is all possible due to the theory that there are an infinite number of universes, all with the same constants, (A man, a Lighthouse, A city) but with different variables, (Booker’s baptism, The Vox Rebelling, Lutece being born a man). This is the first thing you must understand before trying to grasp anything else in the ending.
One of the constants is Booker’s baptism after the Battle of Wounded Knee. In one universe Booker was baptized and given the name Zachary Comstock. From there he went on to build the city of Columbia with the help of Rosalind Lutece, who most brilliantly found a way to suspend atoms in air. While in the city, Rosalind also built a machine that allowed for trans-dimensional travel. This allowed Comstock to peek into the future, as well as other dimensions, to create his prophecies. In these visions he saw that his child would rain down fire on the city of New York, so he attempted to have a child.
Unfortunately for Comstock, he was sterile, and his aging had been dramatically sped up due to prolonged exposure to Rosalind’s device. So peeking into another dimension, he saw the Booker we know and love had refused the baptism and gone on to have a wife and child. His wife had passed away at this point and now he was deep in debt. Comstock took advantage of this by asking Lutece (who was a male in Booker’s universe) to pay his debt in exchange for the child. Booker reluctantly agreed, and the male Lutece took the child into Comstock’s universe. At the last moment though Booker changed his mind and tried to get Anna back. The portal closed however, severing Anna’s pinky from her tiny hand as she was lost to Comstock.
Comstock locked her away on the event of her menarche (first menstrual cycle), and named her the lamb of his city. He murdered his wife when she threatened to tell the people of Columbia the girl wasn’t their child, and he thought to have murdered both Luteces, by sabotaging the device that allowed for gateways into other dimensions. Fortunately, they survived in trans-dimensional space, and had already decided to fix the mess their inventions have created. They cannot control where they go completely, only able to change the variables in whatever universe they land in. Since they have seen their plan fail over and over, they’ve found ways to find fun in what they are doing.Comstock went on to use Anna, whom he had given the name Elizabeth, for his prophecies. Because a part of her (her pinky finger) was left behind in another dimension, she was able to open tears into these other worlds. Using these, Comstock saw that the Luteces were still mucking about time and space, and he saw them move to Booker Dewitt. He knew that he would be coming, and had the mark AD branded onto his hand. So he labeled him as the “false shepherd” and plotted for his arrival.
Booker spent the next 17 years in deep depression and a slow spiral towards insanity. He carved the initials AD into his hand to remember Anna and his [unforgivable] mistake. Robert and Rosalind Lutece took him from his world to Comstock’s dimension, where he lost his memory (Comstock’s memories conflicting with his own) and created the illusion that he was supposed to bring Elizabeth to New York in order to wipe away his gambling debt. From there we go through the events of Bioshock Infinite.
Booker realizes all of this at the end, and that there is an infinite loop created in which Booker would try to stop Comstock, fail and New York would be burnt to the ground. While it may not have happened in this one universe, it would happen in all the rest. In order to prevent this from occurring, Booker has Elizabeth drown him during the pivotal baptism, so that he could not make the choice to go on and become Comstock. For every time that Booker decides to go on with the baptism, he then becomes Comstock.
This creates a paradox in the universe, in which Elizabeth canot be alive to drown Comstock if he never exists to take her in the first place. After this paradox is created, the universe will not allow the impossible situation to happen, meaning that Booker will always walk away from the baptism. That variable is now a constant.
After the credits, it seems to have worked as you wake up as Booker in his office, looking for Anna, the screen going black just before he opens her door. We may never know if it did work, but with games like this, half the fun is in speculation.
That my friends, is the general idea behind Bioshock Infinite’s ending. There are many more treasures to find throughout the game though. While you may understand the gist of the ending, I can assure you that there is so much more to learn and details to pick apart. From the creation of Songbird to the reasoning behind a barbershop quartet singing the Beach Boys in 1912. Everything in Columbia has meaning, purpose and a logical reason for being there. You just have to find it.
If you would like some extra analysis, check out our video article on the ending of the game below, where Paul Izod and I discuss it in depth.
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