BioShock 2: Minerva's Den Review

Can a computer, given the right equation, predict fate? And if so, then what is choice but another variable in that equation? In true BioShock form, the single-player DLC for BioShock 2, titled Minerva’s Den, explores a side of Rapture draped in the same objectivist trappings Andrew Ryan first introduced. It does little to rearrange the feel of BioShock 2, set around the same time as Subject Delta’s revival, and the abilities and weapons are for the most part the same. But on the level of ideal-driven gameplay, Minerva’s Den is in many ways a nod to the first BioShock, asking the player to question identity, choice, freedom, and (surprisingly) race relations in the all but destroyed city under the sea.

All the gameplay conventions established by BioShock 2‘s protagonist return, as the main character is yet another first-generation Big Daddy, Subject Sigma. Weapons and plasmids can again be used side by side, with a few cool additions to the original set like Gravity Well and the Ion Laser. The use of gravity in a plasmid creates a magnetic whirlpool that sucks enemies in and unlocks certain doors, while the laser emits a lasting beam of energy that can burn, blind, or otherwise harm. Neither one is a terribly crucial addition, but they do mix up combat dynamics a bit. One bright spot in weapon choice was the omission of the research camera, which would have been a distinct burden on the player during the shorter DLC experience. Also, instead of Power to the People stations, players simply find upgraded weapons by exploring carefully.

Along with all the positive similarities to BioShock 2, some of the weaknesses prevail. In order to take Subject Sigma from a poorly armed "Lancer class" Big Daddy to a fully armed destructive force in three levels, upgrades and ADAM abound. Also, the frequency of Little Sister gathers, which make an identical return, ramps up in order to gain the necessary ADAM. While it all fits together and rewards players who take their time to explore and patiently sit through the protection segments, we’ve already seen an intallment of DLC (Protector Trials) dedicated to that very kind of gameplay. At this point, it just seems a little repetitive and lacking in creativity to force players to grind through so many gathers, and the DLC probably could have done without them.

Where Minerva’s Den makes up for innocuous gameplay is its story, most of which is told through the myriad of audio records or radio conversations. It feels like a lot of talking, at times, but it’s necessary to pack the full story into a 5-to-6-hour experience. Subject Sigma’s main ally, Charles Porter, was the creator of Rapture Central Computing’s crown jewel, a supercomputer called the Thinker that runs all the automated systems in the city. However, his former colleague Reed Wahl has gotten a hold of the computer and is strangling the life out of Rapture with its system oversight. So Sigma is revived to take out the bad guy and save the day. Sounds simple? The main trajectory of the story is just that, but a number of side elements to the plot open up that eventually converge near the end of the story, and culminate in a fantastic finale worthy of the BioShock name.

As a side note, one audio recording struck me as very peculiar among the others. In it, Charles Porter, and African-American man, discusses a conversation in which some denizen of Rapture suggests that many of his problems would go away if he would simply "splice himself white." At first I was sincerely appalled at the suggestion, but then realized the kind of historical context of Rapture (1940’s 1950’s). While Grace Holloway may have overcome the adversity of racism underwater, the mere suggestion of it in this one dialogue astounded me and deepened the sense of understanding of social commentary that is very much the backbone of the BioShock story. Obviously, this isn’t the biggest deal, but I found it a smart enough addition worth mentioning.

While playing through Minerva’s Den, most players will probably just slog through the pieces of combat and gameplay to experience the real glue to this piece, the story. Some refreshing of the game’s major mechanics or pacing could have spliced this DLC to the next level, but unfortunately its repetitive nature holds it back. Still, if you are a sucker for Rapture lore, then Minerva’s Den may yet be worth the ten dollars the parasites ask for it.

3 out of 5


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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