Bioshock 2: Minerva’s Den Review

I do not normally do reviews for DLC, but I bought and played through some and feel like I should talk about it.  If you couldn’t tell from the header, its Bioshock 2’s single player DLC, Minerva’s Den.  And it is one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve seen in a good while.

Bioshock 2: Minerva’s Den Review
Release Date: 31/8/2010
Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC
Developer: 2K Marin and 2K China
Publisher: 2K Games

This side story that occurs near the end of Bioshock 2 and centers around Sigma, another Big Daddy who is the same model at Delta.  After being knocked back by an explosion, he is introduced to yet another voice that guides him on his journey, which happens to be set in Minerva’s Den, Rapture’s central computer base.  This actually answers the big question as to how the city managed to stay afloat for so long, with an automated base of operations, it would make sense that things can still be bought and security cameras can deploy robots, let alone function.  Oh sure, it is undoubtedly turning everything into a more steampunk/fantasy direction, although that certainly isn’t bad.

So yes, the main goal is the same, listen to a voice in your ear, this time it is a smooth talking black scientist named C. M. Porter, because the series has yet to have a male black character.  I actually like him more than any others, his calming voice makes the fact that you are reduced to a slightly more advanced version of Delta at the start of the game, far more atmospheric.  Yet there must be a psychopath in every game, so we’ve got one as our protagonist, Reed Wahl, who has devoted his life to the prediction abilities of a computer known as The Thinker.  But the supercomputer can assist in the surface world, and Porter wants you to get the blueprints to help humanity as a whole.

It is not very complicated, although I find the characters to be very interesting.  Out of all the voice driven assistants in the series, Porter has the most depth to his character, and is thankfully not someone trying to make a quick buck or save some Little Sisters.  Well, you still can for the protector of the Little Sisters, but their protector, Tenembaum, doesn’t seem to care since most of them got out, and a lot of them will surely not be saved regardless if you get 6 out.  Well, I actually don’t think you are even saving them, since the place is going down and who is going to get them out of the vent system?

When you leave, there’s no good or bad ending, you just go with your guide and presumably leave them to drown, since Lamb still set the city to blow up.  And as much as I love characters who are nutters, Wahl feels like he’s phoning it in.  With a religious devotion to a machine, overconfidence that you’ll die to gradual fear that you might win, and a final battle where he took 4 missile to the face and still stood up.  It isn’t bad, and is better than Lamb, but I think that they could’ve done something more diverse.

The face value of the gameplay is nearly identical to the main game’s.  Well, you gain weapons in a different order, one of which is a laser gun that replaces the forgettable camera, and there is a lot more emphasis on the spear gun by giving it to you as your second weapon.  So it at least has you experiment a bit more.  Yet what makes this game my favorite in the series is just how quickly it hits its marks.  You basically need to get to the point you were at the 50% mark through only two main stages, so you don’t have Adam to spend on every slot, you are just quickly upgrading, and the game is aware that you are.  For example, an enemy that you are introduced as a mini-boss about two hours in Bioshock 2, is now first encountered, as an upgraded version no less, at the 30 minute mark.

There are only a few new additions, the laser gun and new brute variant, but there are new security robots, a very cool gravity well plasmid that is risky if you have turrets.  As for enemies, there’s a new ice-based Houdini Splicers and a new version of a Big Daddy, who always gave me at least a bit of trouble when I fought them, all 6 times.  Actually, going back to the security robots, there is a greater focus on using them.  You see Splicers with them as minions who you can hack after the Splicer falls, before you get the third of your eight weapon.  The invisibility and fail hack trick feels more necessary, and repairing machines is one of the first abilities you get.

The curve rising faster in order to accompany the play time, keeps the accumulative flow of power in check, so you need to focus on the things you need.  Sure, I ended up with tons of passive tonics, even though I only had 4 plasmid slots, with Hypnosis returning to help me with the Adam Gathering sections with the little sisters, which are nearly identical, and there are only 6 sets of two instances.  Or if you want an exact comparison, I ended Bioshock 2 with 925 Adam, and all the slot and health upgrades.  Here, I had about two thirds of that, with only a loose 10 Adam remaining.  But I still had everything I needed to make due in Rapture, even though the odds they throw at you are not too far off from the second to final area of the last game.

As for the look, it is still very high quality, a lot more computers obviously, although they seem plausible for the time period of 1968 as far as I can tell.  And if not, we have laser guns, and the game still looks pretty nifty.  Things can still get a little hectic, but the game is still pleasing to look at, and has atmosphere so thick that you could cut with a knife.  Sure, the two and a half areas look very similar, yet that is only in the sense of it being a theme. You are in what amounts to a server room, and while some things are questionable as to why they’d be there, the levels still have a lovely sense of exploration to them, with the influx of hidden tonics being a nice bonus.

So we have probably the most balanced gameplay of the series, through a massive imbalance, yet still balanced nonetheless.  A very neat looking area, but maybe it is due to how old computers interest me.  Just enough new for the game to still feel fresh, and an ending that has one of my favorite surprises in recent memory.  Not going to spoil anything, yet it is a better twist than the one in the first Bioshock, or at least has a far better payoff.  The game learns from its two predecessors and creates what I find to be the most well structured entry in the series as of yet.

It is a shame it was DLC released over 6 months after the initial release, because the imbalance of the mechanics provides the most enjoyable resource based first person title that I’ve played since Metroid Prime.  It may be brief, but with the way Bioshock works, that’s probably for the best.  It is fitting how the main character is named Sigma, since his journey is the sum of everything great about Bioshock.

37/40
Wonderful
An exceptional product that merely suffers from a few nagging issues that do not distract too much from this experience.

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