Talk about going out with a bang. The final piece of downloadable content for BioShock 2, 2K Marin’s plasmid-enhanced sequel to Irrational Games’ brilliant 2007 Game of the Year, delivers a meaty five hour mini-narrative that tells the story of the technological heart of Andrew Ryan’s failed underwater utopia and the machine responsible for keeping it beating, the supercomputer known as The Thinker.
You play as a Big Daddy named Subject Sigma, summoned to Minerva’s Den to track down and eliminate The Thinker’s co-creator Reed Wahl, who has, obviously, gone mad, a particularly terrifying proposition given how vital The Thinker is to Rapture’s sustainability. Under the direction of the computer’s other creator, Charles Milton Porter, you must navigate through Rapture Central Computing, battle your way through plenty of beefed up splicers and brutes, and face off against a new Big Daddy called the Lancer (oh, and, of course, the screechy menaces that are the Big Sisters) along the way.
On your quest to save the massive computer, and, by extension, Rapture, you’ll travel through several expertly crafted, and unmistakably BioShock-y, areas, including McLendon Robotics, the department responsible for building the turrets, cameras, and security bots found throughout the city (as well as some early prototypes for a very different kind of Little Sister…), and Air-Tite Archives, the Brazil-ish nexus for all of Rapture’s most precious information.
The introduction of the Lancer Big Daddy brings will it the new Ion Laser, which sounds a lot cooler than it actually is. Sure, it shoots an energy beam, and one of the alternate ammos adds fire to the beam, but it never feels as satisfying as it should. The new Gravity Well plasmid, on the other hand (literally), is quite the little marvel as it creates mini black hole of sorts that sucks up any unfortunate items and enemies in the area. Once you level it up, you can create gravity well proximity mines that coat enemies in acid, making for a doubly painful execution.
Depending on how you felt about having to protect Little Sisters as they gather Adam from the countless corpses strewn about Rapture, you’ll be pleased/infuriated to know that there are actually 12 (optional) gathering opportunities in the DLC. While I didn’t particularly dislike the protection mechanic in BioShock 2, it did tend to suck me out of the game world a bit because of its inherent gameyness, and it feels the same way here. It definitely leads to some wild combat scenarios, but it can get old after a while.
The story of Minerva’s Den is by far its most appealing and successful feature. Traipsing through the dilapidated remnants of Rapture’s tech hub, all the while finding out more and more about the conflicts The Thinker sparked between Andrew Ryan, Wahl, Porter, and Little Sister overseer Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum. It’s always fantastic when you get to see a game world you are absolutely enthralled with from a tangential angle, and while Minerva’s Den doesn’t necessarily compel you forward as strongly as BioShock and BioShock 2 did, it still drops enough bread crumbs to keep you moving through the wonderfully textured and well paced journey of a man reconnecting with his former self and his greatest creation.
If you are a devoted BioShock fan, Minerva’s Den is a must buy. And not just because it’s the last (?) tale to be spun in the doomed oceanic metropolis of Rapture, but that certainly factors into it. Especially since we have to wait until 2012 for BioShock Infinite. Curse you space time continuum!