Let me start the review out with this – I almost never buy downloadable content. My Xbox 360 hard drive isn’t too big and I don’t like paying extra money for my games, so for me to actually spend money for extra content is rare. Minerva’s Den, however, has really impressed me. For $10, players are not only getting an extra amount of single player game-play from Bioshock 2, but they’re getting a separate side story that I would argue is frequently better than the game it’s adding on to.
Here’s where my skepticism in buying this particular piece of DLC came in – Bioshock 2 was good, but it was disappointing. The first trip to Rapture stands as my second favorite game of all time (with only Mass Effect 2 trumping it), but needless to say I loved it. The second one basically rehashed everything the first one did and called it a new game, though it did add some great stuff in the last few hours that made it highly worth the journey overall. Still, I think it probably should have been DLC in and of itself. But though Bioshock 2 was loaded with filler, Minerva’s Den really isn’t.
Know that this story is completely separate from Bioshock 2 and in no way related other than the fact that both take place in Rapture. You now control Subject Sigma, a different big daddy who wakes up underwater to find a man named Porter giving him orders to find a supercomputer called The Thinker. To say anymore would be to ruin the story, and this one is really, really worth your time. You wouldn’t think much of it until the end when the climax hits, but this story really packs an emotional punch and is honestly as good as, if not better than the story of Bioshock 2 itself. And that’s probably because although this is pretty long for DLC (about 4 hours for $10, not bad I say), it really doesn’t waste time.
What you’re getting for the price is two levels structured in the same way as Bioshock 2 (large open areas each with three little sisters to choose to collect or harvest) and one final level that serves to tell most of the story for the game. This DLC’s story also solves the mystery of who or what the big daddies are, so if you’re interested in finding that out, I’d highly recommend it.
If there’s any complaint I have about this DLC, it’s that it starts off being fairly unremarkable. Yes, you have a new story and new characters (plus a couple new toys, but I’ll get to that soon), but otherwise very little differentiates itself from Bioshock 2 (and in the first level, not much story is told anyway). There are still audio tapes lying around and they are absolutely worth picking up, but other than the fact that the pace is faster than usual, nothing is really different. One minor change is that weapon upgrades are now found rather than chosen at Power to the People stations, but that’s very minor. Also, the difficulty is definitely cranked up, so expect a challenge considering that a much larger ratio of splicers now use bots against you.
As for the new toys, they are actually pretty cool. Minerva’s Den introduces the Ion Cannon (which is kind of like a laser beam gun), which is a fun addition to the arsenal. With it comes a new big daddy that wields the weapon, but in most cases I didn’t find the new big daddies to be that much of a challenge. Also new is the Gravity Well plasmid, which seems to create some kind of singularity that sucks up objects and enemies. It’s cool, but I didn’t find it to be all that useful aside from in some puzzles that required it. Still, it was funny to watch Splicers get sucked up in it.
Although the first level isn’t that remarkable aside from a few new additions and faster pacing (since you start the game with nothing, it very quickly has you finding new weapons, plasmids and tonics), the second level adds some definitely cool moments to it that I found to be memorable, and the third level is just awesome, with one of the most finely crafted twists I’ve seen in gaming for quite a little while.
Although the core gameplay is basically the same, Minerva’s Den is quite a bit of content for the $10 price tag. It’s new story really packs a bunch, the new weapon and plasmid are cool, and the game really does itself justice for being our last taste of Rapture (since the next Bioshock will be set in the sky). If you hated Bioshock and/or Bioshock 2, this might not change your mind, but overall it’s a great package that is worth the asking price.