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Bioshock Infinite: A level analysis from a gameplay point of view #4

This fourth part of this analysis will cover enemies and the concept of "difficulty". We'll analyze each enemy's curve that will lead to multiple conclusions and ways to create multiples gameplay scenarios from a fixed set of enemies

Mattia Beffa, Blogger

January 6, 2021

6 Min Read

This is the following of the analysis' third part and, in case you missed it, to the second and first one; Every part is important to see the bigger picture, so I highly suggest to take a look at them as well.

Today we'll talk about enemies and the concept of difficulty. Let's get started!

Enemies and "Difficulty"

There are 3 categories of enemies: Standards, Basic Security Automatons (BSA), and Heavy Hitters.

Figure 8

These are a lot of elements here, let's break them down.

The first noticed thing is that some areas highly or totally lack of enemies: those are strongly story-related locations, both for real-time cutscenes and NPC actions’

Next, standard enemies: Their curve doesn’t follow a categorized trend; As one might expect, the further the player goes in the game, the more enemies he will encounter, but this is not the case.

They are always present when there is a fight, but their main purpose is not to be a challenge to the player, it’s to keep him watchful, ready to fight, and to sustain other enemies’ presence.

Is this all? Of course not!

An enemy might catch the player off-guard and represent a challenge by himself on the first encounter, but fight after fight the player learns how to deal with him and, therefore, doesn’t feel as challenged as before.

This goes for any enemy: since in Bioshock: Infinite there are no unique bosses, the designers needed a way to keep giving the player a sense of challenge despite already knowing all the enemies, and this is done by combining different kinds of enemies in different situations (other than, in a less impactful way, having minor enemies variations(1)).

Conclusion Number Eleven: With the same enemies, in order to avoid loss of challenge to the player, combining them provides a different experience than fighting them individually

This goes for the other kinds of enemies as well: Heavy Hitters might be a problem the first time, therefore are presented without other enemies, but once a strategy has been figured out they would be nothing more than standard enemies, just with a different combat style.

This is why, despite the standard enemies’ curve not exponentially growing over locations, the challenge is provided and increased by the growth and combination of Heavy Hitters’ and BSA’s curves.


“Difficulty” is a concept introduced to simplify the comparison with other game’s elements: showing every enemy’s curve would be confusing and overwhelming, but at the same time summing the number of enemies wouldn’t be fair, since a Handyman isn’t as challenging as a Citizen.

The Difficulty Level (DL) goes from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), and depends on various criteria(2).

Figure 8.5

Now a graph showing the result of the previous operation for each enemy and location:

Figure 9

This graphic now allows to compare the difficulty to other game’s elements per location.

Difficulty VS Infusions & Vigors

Now let's take a look at Vigors’ total distribution in the game.

Figure 10 (3)

All Vigors should be owned by the player a few locations before the last main three (from Downtown Emporia to Hand of the Prophet); Doing so, other than implying that the player has almost reached the end, gives him all the means to fight the toughest battles of the whole game.

Similar rule applies to Infusion: The Infusions’ curve is almost linear, providing sustain to the player dealing with the difficulty of the game and giving him choices to make (which stat to upgrade), allowing him to sustain his playstyle (self-expression via playstyle) ; Getting higher stats(4) through the game helps him with the increasing difficulty of the end-game.

Difficulty VS Items & Ammos

Figure 11

Once again, all these information may be overwhelming, so it’s better to analyze them one at a time.

Food has 3 main fight-related purposes:

  • Healing the player before a battle

  • Healing the player during a battle

  • Allowing the player to recover after a battle

For these reasons food is present in higher quantities (compared to the difficulty) in the early stage of the game: the player might need more sustain, for he has not high experience or to compensate the absence of some Vigors;

What happens next?

Advancing in the game, howether, less food is found, with the exception of the presence of less medikits (in this case, food compensates this absence), so the player needs to be more careful or skillful to avoid death. This is strongly notable in the last areas, where despite the Difficulty fewer food is present.

Salts Bottles’ curve follows the Difficulty’s one, again to prompt the player into using Vigors and to sustain those who use them.

Don't forget the medikits!

Medikits’ one act similarly to Salts, with the main difference that it doesn’t increase as much as Salts’, and is sometimes lower than its own average. This is because of the next article: Tears.
Where “Game’s” Medikits are missing, often tears’ ones are present; if not, those are areas meant to raise the player’s cautiousness and perceived challenge.

Ammo boxes have the purpose to sustain the player’s capability to switch weapons, therefore are often present even for guns never used in the playthrough. They often are less present when Salts Bottles are, for the already mentioned goal of avoiding a gun-only based gameplay.

That's all for today! It was quite interesting, wasn't it?

TL;DR:  Combining the same enemies in different ways provides a wider set of experiences than fighting them one by one. A resource (as food, ammos, salts and medikits), even while providing low sustain, helps setting the pace of each area and keeping the player engaged.

We talked about enemies and how to make the most out of them, we talked about sustaining the player and managing the pace. Is there something Bioshock could have done better? How do you feel about it's enemy structure? Let me know!

I'll see you in three weeks with the next topic: Tears!



1) Enemies are from two “factions”: Comstock’s and Vox Populi’s. The only differences are their equipment color (or smaller details), and their weapons (smaller variation of the main weapons).


3)Values multiplied x5 for visibility purpose.

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