If I had to describe Minerva’s Den in one word, it would be “deceitful”.
This DLC chapter for BioShock 2 starts off very simple and familiar, but slowly becomes a more complex and original story set in everyone’s favorite underwater city.
Minerva’s Den finds players in control of Subject Sigma, an Alpha Series Big Daddy sent on a mission for the scientist Brigid Tennebaum. Deep inside of the central computing wing of Minerva’s Den is a powerful supercomputer called “The Thinker”. Tennebaum wants to use its immense computing capabilities to help her reverse the harmful effects of the drug ADAM.
As you reach Minerva’s Den, you’re contacted via radio by Charles Porter, one of the scientists who created The Thinker. He asks for your help in retrieving a copy of the programming code form The Thinker, because he’s afraid of it falling into the hands of Reed Wahl, another scientist in Minerva’s Den. Reed is a mentally unhinged man with diabolical plans regarding The Thinker, and it’s up to you to put a stop to him.
This plot is full of twists and turns, introduces us to some great characters in the BioShock lore, and has the best writing in the entire series. As you pick up audio diaries and learn the history of Porter and Wahl, it’s very evident that Minerva’s Den is different than other chapters in the franchise. This one is more emotionally charged, thought provoking, and shocking than any of the others.
You also get to learn more about the intricacies of the workings of Rapture.
This will probably be more interesting to the BioShock super-fans, but Minerva’s Den explains how the city is powered and how it functions. I really enjoyed picking up the audio diaries from scientists who worked in this wing of Rapture. Learning how the different machines functioned, how the men and women contributed to keeping Rapture running, and the hardships they faced as the city started to degenerate was fascinating.
Another thing I appreciated in Minerva’s Den was the new combat and enemy additions. The most noteworthy of which is the new Big Daddy, the Lancer. Equipped with a devastatingly powerful Ion Laser and the ability to blind you with a powerful blast of light, the Lancer is a dangerous new member to Big Daddy roster. These fights felt tougher than those in the base game and typically had me preparing much more carefully before starting them. The laser attacks are tricky to dodge, but manageable, so those won’t be too much of a problem, but the blinding attack is a different story entirely. You better make sure to memorize the layout of the area you’re in, because you’re in for trouble if you don’t turn from the blinding attack in time. If caught by it, the Lancer usually gets in close to either whack you with the butt of the Ion Laser or simply unload it on you at point-blank range.
Thankfully, you get your own Ion Laser fairly early on.
Shooting out a high-powered beam of death is grisly and satisfying, but the real enjoyment comes from its alternate modes of fire. It can use thermal cells to shoot out a powerful fire-based laser that can ignite enemies, or burst cells to deliver a charged up attack that does in insane amount of damage. The other weapons from the base game all return as well, but the Ion Laser is the standout for this DLC.
One of my complaints with BioShock 2 was that it didn’t introduce any new Plasmids, which are an important part to the BioShock experience. Thankfully, Minerva’s Den adds in a new one. The new Plasmid, called “Gravity Well”, might just be one of my all-time favorites. It allows you to throw a small gravity ball that sucks up nearby objects, corpses, and enemies into a “swirling vortex of destruction”. When fully upgraded, the vortex secretes acid, damaging enemies over time. It’s incredibly helpful in larger fights, but it’s also used to pull power cores out of the wall to open electromagnetic locks on doors.
A feature brought back from the base game is the Little Sister gathering portions.
As you explore Minerva’s Den and come across a new batch of Little Sisters, they’re all guarded by the new Lancer Daddy. Similar to the base game, you have to defeat the Big Daddy before getting access to the Little Sister. You can harvest them for a large amount of ADAM (which can be used to purchase new Plasmids, or upgrade current ones) or you can choose to save them, reverting them from the state they’re in back to normal little girls. You can also have the Little Sisters lead you to fresh corpses, which they’ll extract extra ADAM from. I think these segments are fun, but they do become a little tedious over time. Also similar to the base game, for every three Little Sisters you harvest/rescue, a Big Sister comes to attack you. The Big Sisters are fast and agile, running around and leaping over you expertly. While these fights made more sense in the narrative confines of the base game, they felt sudden and out of place in Minerva’s Den.
In many ways, Minerva’s Den could be seen as the best BioShock entry.
It has the best story in the series, it gives extra background on how the city functions, and the new enemy type, weapon, and Plasmid are all incredible. From the first steps you take, all the way till the end credits, Minerva’s Den oozes with excitement. With a new cast of fascinating characters, and a new part of Rapture to explore, Minerva’s Den shouldn’t be missed by any fan of the series.
– Zack Burrows