2K Marin is putting the finishing touches on the last piece of downloadable content for BioShock 2--a single-player-focused piece set in Minerva's Den, an as-yet-unseen part of Rapture that takes place in parallel to the game's main story. We recently got some hands-on time with the early portion of the DLC, as well as a demo of some other aspects that showcased the mix of old and new packed into the studio's farewell to Rapture.
Minerva's Den is a technological wonderland that has been cut off from the rest of Rapture. Once upon a time, the den served as a house for Rapture's computers. You'll play as a Big Daddy named Subject Sigma, another Alpha-series behemoth that gets his free will back via circumstances that will be made clear over the course of the adventure. The story kicks off in familiar fashion, with Sigma gaining consciousness and being contacted by Charles Milton Porter, a computer savant who created the intricate systems that keep all of Rapture running. While fans of the series will be familiar with most of Porter's creations, one will be quite new: a supercomputer called the Thinker that serves as Rapture's brain.
Thanks to some ADAM-enhanced improvements, the machine processes data at the speed of thought. But, much like all the cool stuff within Rapture, things have gone a little askew. Details on just what had gone wrong weren't clear when we played, but like any good supercomputer, the Thinker has gone a little bonkers: new security bots roam the halls of Minerva’s Den, Big Daddies are lumbering around with new weapons, and Porter is asking for help. The specifics of what has happened and the trouble Porter needs a hand with are mysteries that you'll have to uncover.
The story of Minerva's Den will span three areas in the new district and introduce you to new characters, enemies, and a new aspect of Rapture’s history. From what we’ve seen, it appears that part of the mystery is tied to a disagreement Porter had with his business partner, Reed Wahl, over how the technology was being used. The narrative will play out via the now standard mix of cutscenes, radio messages, and voice recorders. It also appears that besides the new faces, you’ll be hearing and seeing some familiar ones as well. During our hands-on session with the game, we found a recorder that commemorated Porter being brought on by Andrew Ryan, and 2K Marin reps told us that Minerva’s Den will offer some insight into what Dr. Tenenbaum got up to after she took off near the start of BioShock 2's main narrative.
In terms of gameplay, Minerva's Den strays a little from what we’ve seen in BioShock 2 thanks to a new weapon and plasmid. The former is an ion laser--a good, old-fashioned death ray that rips into enemies and does a stream of damage as long as it connects. As with other weapons in the game, you'll find alternate ammo, including thermal firepower that sets your target on fire. The new gravity-well plasmid plays with physics via a vortex that pulls things toward its center while doling out high levels of damage. Collecting new plasmids, weapons, tools, and even ADAM are key parts of the journey. From what we played, it definitely looks like the DLC will be offering a condensed leveling experience that will have you powering up Subject Sigma, and you'll even get to save or harvest six Little Sisters.
You’ll need all the powering up you can get to deal with the new threats in Minerva's Den, which include a new Big Daddy known as a Lancer, new security robots, and splicers. In addition, although we didn't see anything blatantly menacing, we have to assume that if the Thinker turns out to be a threat, it's not going to be too warm and fuzzy either.
Based on what we played, Minerva's Den looks to be a meaty piece of DLC that will round out the last tour of Rapture nicely. The gameplay is solid, and the story is interesting. The additions to your plasmid and weapon arsenal are cool, the new enemies will keep you on your toes, and the new achievements are always good to see. Fans of BioShock 2 will want to keep an eye out for Minerva’s Den when it's released on August 31.