BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den Review (Xbox 360)

 

Editor’s note – Minerva’s Den is a stand-alone story experience which expands upon the BioShock 2 universe (and requires the main game to play). For a more detailed examination of the mechanics and game play of BioShock 2, please click here for the full review.

 

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Few game developers have been able to represent the DLC business model quite as effectively and appropriately as 2K Marin has accomplished with their BioShock 2 expansion, Minerva’s Den. Taking place chronologically in parallel to the events of the main game, Minerva’s Den tells a laconic yet substantial tale which coalesces into a sentimental story about a man’s struggle with personal grief. As a stand-alone experience to the BioShock 2 fiction, Minerva’s Den offers players a worthwhile and alternate perspective to the calamitous events which precipitated the fall of Rapture while finally answering an age-old question – How does Rapture keep the lights on after all these years?

 

deadAlphaThe eponymous Minerva’s Den is home to Rapture’s sophisticated mainframe computer system called The Thinker, which is responsible for maintaining the submerged metropolis’s power. Players find themselves once again assuming the in-game alter ego of a Big Daddy, this time given the moniker “Subject Sigma”, who has allied with The Thinker’s brilliant designer, C.M. Porter, to wrest control of the coveted A.I. system away from the conniving Reed Wahl. What follows is a narrative that is less about the conflict between the two principle characters and more about ghostly discovery and exploration within a mournful mind’s psyche as Sigma delves deep into the lonely and mysterious corners of Minerva’s Den. As an examination of the perpetuity of the human tragedy emblematic of Rapture, Minerva’s Den is haunted by the voices of a painful past given conveyance through old audio recordings found throughout the environment; and the horrific mutated Splicers that lurk the halls looking for prey, living specters of what was once human. A somber journey, Minerva’s Den’s sullen exposition is complemented deftly by BioShock 2’s progressive game mechanics which remain largely unchanged from the main game except for a few notable additions.

 

lancerMinerva’s Den adds a few new toys to the player’s already robust arsenal. The most effective of these new implements is the Ion Laser, a useful weapon found equipped by the expansion’s new enemy class, Lancer Big Daddies, the more slender variants for the iconic and familiar foe. Ion Lasers fire persistent beams of focused energy which quickly depletes a target’s health meter, making this weapon a most welcome addition. The Ion Laser has two alternate ammo types including the Thermal Cell, an ammo type that lights a target on fire; and the Burst Cell, which fires a charged high-energy blast at enemies. Another notable addition is the new Plasmid called Gravity Well, a power used to create a swirling singularity which can entrap enemies in battle or be used to open special types of locks which keep Sigma away from progressing on his journey or from useful loot. Conspicuous by its absence is the Research Camera which has been removed in lieu of more focused attention to narrative and game play with minimal deviations and distractions. Still, the enjoyment of Minerva’s Den relies heavily on the established foundation of the combination of exploration, hacking , and setting elaborate traps for difficult enemies such as Big Daddies and Big Sisters. The in-game morality system transferred over intact, as well, and Little Sisters continue to provide much needed Adam which is used to purchase and upgrade Plasmid power and Gene Tonic enhancements. Overall, Minerva’s Den plays and feels identically to the main game with some subtle changes to the environmental trappings.

 

oldComputerThe BioShock franchise has always succeeded in delivering rich, atmospheric worlds, and Minerva’s Den is no exception. As the center for Rapture’s main computer, Minerva’s Den is replete with primitive electronics; room-sized mechanical systems adorned with tape reels, large levers, and glowing switches. Clicking and clacking and sounds of rotating mechanisms abound to enhance the ambiance and to give the environment a distinct personality when juxtaposed to the familiar Rapture from the main game. Graphically, the expansion suffers from the same technical issues from BioShock 2 characterized by robotic character animations and texture draw-in. Minerva’s Den still manages to produce an engaging experience thanks largely to the conflation of its artistic design with its intellectually and emotionally engaging story.

 

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Minerva’s Den is a fitting sendoff for such a memorable video game world, as well as for characters both old and new. Weaving a very personal and human story about grief and loss, encapsulated within the backdrop of Rapture’s chaos, Minerva’s Den culminates with an evocative and touching climax, complete with the franchise’s signature narrative swerve. As an expansion to BioShock 2, Minerva’s Den is DLC done right, easily providing players with about 8 hours of game play enjoyment. Thus 2K Marin has shown BioShock 2 to be an appropriate platform upon which to provide supplemental content; and Minerva’s Den to be a welcome experience that is money well spent.

 

Story

8.6

Gameplay

8.5

Presentation

8

Lasting Appeal

8.2

Overall

8.5

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