Minerva's Den is the final single player DLC for 2K Marin's amazing follow up sequel, Bioshock 2. Can this add-on make its mark on Rapture, and is it worth the $10 price tag? You bet it is...
I’m not aware of a better example to show that FPS gamers aren’t just slack jawed juveniles running around virtual worlds salivating over the next exploding brain popsicle than the those that play the Bioshock series. While very much a violent experience it never feels like you're on the hunt. Instead there’s an overwhelming sense of foreboding where your preservation instincts kick into high gear and you find yourself weighing the risk and reward of encounters you know are right around the corner. And even when you’re jacked up with every weapon and power you can find you can’t help but feel bad when you realize your enemies aren’t evil, but dilapidated shells of what were once men and women destroyed on their quest for paradise. Most of all, Bioshock is about loneliness. And in that regard - and many others - Minerva’s Den succeeds in adding to the world of Rapture in a way that is both substantial and outstanding.
Faster, Stronger, Tougher, Better
Minerva’s Den is the final single player DLC for Bioshock 2. Similar to the full game you play as a nameless Big Daddy searching for answers, armed with nothing but a drill. While the game is only about three or four hours long the developers do a great job in streamlining the process of acquiring weapons and plasmids. Whereas before you’d find stations and select which weapons received upgrades in the Den you’ll find gear already loaded out to the max. If you think that’s a cop out, don’t, it makes complete sense given the confines of this area in Rapture and it actually goes a long way to making this feel like a totally different adventure that probably wouldn’t play out as well over eight or nine hours.
Though you’ll find the odd Plasmid here and there you’re still going to have to take down a number of Big Daddy’s if you want access to the rest of them. And you will. Minerva’s Den boasts not only a couple new enemy types, including a new Big Daddy model, but swarms of enemies and turrets around every corner. In both games you could go long stretches without running into anyone, but that’s not the case here. Splicer’s are more aggressive and have a wider array of powers at their disposal that can be really overwhelming if you don’t prepare yourself.
Get Ready to Rumble-er
Luckily, you’ll also get the most potent weapon yet in the franchise; a Laser Gun. This Ion Lance, as it’s called, sends out a destructive stream of light that will burn enemies where they stand. Between the weapon, a new plasmid, and a lot of Rocket and Laser Bots the additional arsenal feels fresh, which is quite a feat for DLC. Best of all, as a result of the most redeeming aspect of this package, none of its contrived.
You see, without giving too much away, Minerva’s Den is the technological branch of Rapture where a super-computer, called The Thinker, manages the territory’s systems and security. Charles Milton Porter, the creator of this AI, guides you in the fight to free The Thinker from Reed Wahl, an evil little man that pushed Porter out of the area and stole his work.
Again, I don’t want to say anything more on story specifics because it needs to be experienced firsthand. Just know that through a few dozen new audio diaries and various story beats you discover that Charles Porter is one of the most realized and intriguing inhabitants of this world to date. The writing is sublime and the voice work is on par with series standout Andrew Ryan. Wahl is no slouch either and his presence eventually manifests during one of the best endings in the series, at least pertaining to in-game player interaction.
Minerva’s Den is an area that feels much closer to that of Rapture the first time you encountered it. Closed off from the rest of Rapture it progressed and evolved in ways that we haven’t quite seen yet, but remain mostly familiar where it matters. You’ll rely on a different skill set this time, likely one that includes heavy hacking and continuous bot repairing. But that’s a good thing; any time new content gets players to change their style of play, a style that's remained consistent for two games, without being contrived or heavy handed is doing something right.
A Fitting End to Rapture
Minerva’s Den is a dangerous place. On the inside you’ll be swarmed by packs of dangerous and unrelenting foes that are better equipped. You’ll traverse an area teeming with technological advancements that will challenge your skill set and reward your ingenuity. But step back and Minerva’s Den is so much more. It’s a look at racism, loss, abandonment, revenge, longing and love. So whether you just wish to play as a powerful creature with lots of new toys, or reflect on a sad, personal and touching journey that's masterfully told, Minerva’s Den is a beautiful example of what developers can do in the medium of video games.
FINAL SCORE: 97%