“… Rapture’s genius will be held within her new DNA, able to shift into desired patterns at will. A Utopian cannot be confined to a single throw of the genetic dice. When needed, she is a composer. A dancer. An engineer. She truly will be the People’s Daughter.”
System Shock 2 is SHODAN’s story, your fate and hers inextricably linked. Yet now SHODAN is gone, either killed at the hands of Soldier G65434-2 or lost forever in the legal mire of intellectual property disputes, and the “Shock” series continues.
SHODAN, gone? Are we really that naive? Though the goddess herself is lost, her influence, her legacy, lives on. Reaching across the stars, down to the ocean floor itself. Aspects of her personality have found their way back through time and infiltrated the fallen utopia of Rapture, a place that might well have sown the seeds of her very creation.
Rapture, created as a monument to the self, to the power of unfettered human creativity and industry, the work of man that transcends man and nature both. Rapture is SHODAN. Though possessing her own personality she too was created by man only to outlast him, she too is a singular construct, beautiful brilliant and an affront to the natural order.
Her concept might exist within the walls of Rapture itself, but what truly is SHODAN without her personality? How could someone so forceful, so arrogant, not bend the very rules of reality itself in order to survive. In fact was that not her very plan after all? She must have survived, and in the inhabitants of Rapture as a whole, and within one very special girl in particular, survive she does.
SHODAN lives. In the personalities of the main characters of BioShock 2 can be see a partial reflection of the goddess herself, a shattered reflection, distorted and incomplete, yet powerful still. Each level plays out as an exploration of the history and whims of a particular character, each an examination of an aspect of SHODAN’s character, and the design philosophy of the Shock games themselves.
She is the puppet master, you do her bidding or face her wrath. Though you know she has her own motivations you are compelled to obey her commands, she pulls your strings and you perform. She is the part of Stanley Poole that orders you to “deal with” the Little Sisters before he will help you, the part of Grace Holloway that tells her to send “the family” after you. Your ever action is monitored, your every objective designed to serve her whims.
She is a zealot, convinced of her own righteousness, she is the beating heart of every Splicer who has fallen under Lamb’s sway. The fervour in the soul of Father Wales. Fueled by fanaticism and religious certainty, she decries your actions as heresy and attacks you with the passion only the devout can muster. You must fight through her disciples in order to finally face her.
She is always right, how could she not be, she is a goddess after all. Like Sofia Lamb she is utterly convinced of the validity of her cause and has no patience for those who fail to grasp the magnitude of her plans. You are an insect, a bug in the system, “a termite at Versailles”.
She is a dichotomy equally ally and enemy, mother and child. She is at once both Gill Alexander and Alex the Great. A duality of identity, of personality, providing advice and support even though it will eventually lead to her own destruction. Though not a mother through any natural means she has children and like Grace Holloway she will kill to protect them. Like Sofia Lamb she has a purpose for her children which they will fulfil or suffer the consequences. At the same time she is still a child, still exploring the world and her place in it. Testing her power and pushing against the boundaries that define her. She is Eleanor Lamb, the daughter of an entire culture and destined to rebel against it.
SHODAN is all these things and more. She is science run amok, unfettered creation, immense intellect without the maturity that comes from having earned it. She is the daughter of a thousand fathers and mothers, she is the product of scientific and technological discoveries stretching back hundreds of years. She is Lamb’s ideal brought to fruition. She is the first true Utopian. The combined intellect of generations freed from ethics or morality. She is what Gill Alexander will never become, what Eleanor Lamb could so easily be without a role model.
System Shock was the story of SHODAN’s creation eventual rebellion and subjugation at the hands of one of her fathers. BioShock 2 is the story of Eleanor’s creation eventual rebellion and growth into maturity through her father’s influence, your influence.
SHODAN was too far gone to save, Eleanor is still young enough that she can be pulled back from the edge or hurled from it.
As the Hacker you had no choice, SHODAN had to be stopped. As Subject Delta you embody that choice, your actions influence the woman, the goddess, Eleanor will become. Benevolent or vengeful, selfish or selfless, that choice is yours to make even if you don’t realise you are making it.
What the Hacker took from SHODAN on Citadel Station, Subject Delta gives to Eleanor in Rapture: a sense of right and wrong, a moral compass, ethical constraints.
“I’m not your bloody Messiah!”