Have You Played… BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Oh, my feelings about BioShock as a series are so muddled these days. I’ve been round the houses with hype, backlash, backlash-backlash, controversy, disappointment, hope, nostalgia, all of it. One thing I do know: late-in-the-day BioShock 2 DLC Minerva’s Den got it right.

It benefits hugely from being essentially a standalone vignette, rather than trying to in anyway affect the fate of the larger BioShock universe (let alone universes), so there’s barely even a compulsion to wonder about loose ends or cosmic deus ex machinas. That isn’t to say there isn’t a whole lot of craft here, in terms of level design, tone and writing. There’s tons of attention to detail, and in its convincing fleshing out of a ghost town world it’s not hard to see how its creators went on to make Gone Home.

It hits the key beats of the ideas behind BioShock – manipulation, twisted technology, distorted values, ambition and folly – and it weaves all that into the improved combat system that, for some, makes BioShock 2 the superior of BioShock 1. Given recent, divisive talk of BioShock being a continuing franchise without its original creator at the helm, Minerva’s Den’s quiet completeness suggests that needn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

44 Comments

  1. BeaconDev says:

    One of my favourite pieces of DLC ever, really done right.

    • LordOfPain says:

      Really? I suppose it was lengthy but I don’t think it’s worth any of the hype it gets. Any time it’s mentioned people rave about it. :/ It’s no better than Bioshock 1 or 2 (or Infinite for that matter).
      (Sorry if this seems like I’m picking on you. I could have replied to a few of the comments here which are similar and I’m just expressing general disagreement to some of the sentiments in the thread. :) )

      My main problem with it from a content delivery point of view was that it was only available from GfWL and lots of people couldn’t get it to work. I did but it wasn’t straightforward. Also, the price was a little on the steep side. Now that it’s available through Steam that’s not an issue but it really wasn’t ‘DLC done right’ in that respect.

      As far as actual game goes, the main problems I have with it are these: the plot rehashed elements already used in the Bioshock series and the twist was very predictable; the plot overall used sci-fi cliches; and the environments weren’t very interesting (it all felt quite samey and very similar to Bioshock 1 and 2).

      I don’t think it was bad, I just don’t understand the glowing praise it gets. :/
      I’d rate it probably 7/10 (about the same as Bioshock 2).

  2. Gap Gen says:

    Incidentally, someone actually set up an objectivist colony, and it turns out that if you do that everyone will just scam each other before it even gets off the ground: link to salon.com (unfortunately the local workers were also scammed and probably won’t be paid)

  3. Rolento says:

    I know I’m in the minority, but Bioshock 2 is my favourite out of the series so far. . Nice story, solid combat and some interesting decisions that actually influences the story + ending. Infinite really irked me, as it talked about infinite choices and gave you none:((

    Minervas Den was the icing on the cake for Bioshock 2, so to speak.

    • subedii says:

      Not as much a minority as you might think. A lot of us really liked Bioshock 2, even above the other 2 games.

      Richard Cobbet even wrote some words on it:

      link to eurogamer.net

      link to richardcobbett.com

      • Xocrates says:

        That second article is a really good analysis that closely mirrors my opinions on those games.

      • slerbal says:

        Very interesting. I’ve had it sitting in my steam library forever, but I’ve never played it. I think I shall rectify that now.

    • Vandelay says:

      Nope, I’m the true minority in thinking that Infinite’s faster paced combat is the strongest in the series! I’m always amazed that people say that the combat was too heavy. Were they not jumping around the rails?

      But, as a whole, 2 probably is the best. I didn’t really get into Minerva’s Den though. It was only fairly recently that I tried to play it, so perhaps it hasn’t aged well (Bioshock the First very much suffers from this.)

      • subedii says:

        I could write a loooong post about my issues with B:I’s combat design and mechanics, but I’ll just say that Errant Signal largely covered most of it in his video on the game.

        I’ve been told that apparently playing it on “hard” was a bad idea as well if I wanted to enjoy the game. Who knows.

        • Muzman says:

          Yeah, you definitely don’t want to make it too challenging. It’s basically just ramping up the hit points. You’re clearly supposed to get through the combat fairly quick before it wears out its welcome.

          I do think BIs simplified shooter combat was pretty good in the end. I thought the previous two couldn’t balance their elements properly and tilted you to taking boring paths of least resistance as often as not.
          Minerva’s Den actually fixed that for me though.

      • Tekrunner says:

        I must be in the minority of the minority then. Infinite was my favorite of the three, both for its gameplay (which felt miles better than the first game, and seemed more dynamic than the second one: in Bioshock 2, I would mostly use the same two weapons and abilities for everything, had very little reason to ever use anything else) and its story and setting. I very much enjoyed Bioshock’s take on the libertarian utopia theme, but thought that Bioshock 2 just didn’t add much to it. Infinite went where very few other games dare to go, talking about things like racism and how violence can spin out of control even when it may seem justified.

        I’ve never played Minerva’s Den though, had completely forgotten that it existed. So hey, I guess this feature is doing its job.

        • Shizzkizz says:

          You have it the wrong way round B:I gave you almost unlimited ammo no need to switch at all. Bioshock 1 & 2 forced you to change weapons because of the limited ammo. My favorite parts were getting ready for a Big Daddy fights, setting up all my weapons with the right ammo, laying down trip mines and proximity mines. And while Bioshock 2 didn’t add much to the story it did give us a more in-depth look at the city which i enjoyed. If B:I wasn’t so linear and had the weapon upgrade system like the first two, where the look of the weapon changes depending on what you upgrade i would’ve loved B:I all that much more.

          It really depends on what you like where B:I is a fast paced action shooter. Bioshock 1 & 2 are a survival/horror exploration game.

  4. Adamustache says:

    Heck yes I have. IMO it’s better than any of the Bioshock main games, and it’s the best piece of DLC I’ve played.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Phew a Have you Played that i’ve actually played!

    Played this a long while after finishing Bioshock 2 and it was a lovely visit back to that world.

    Yet to play Infinite, will play it soon i’m pretty sure.

  6. nandocanedo says:

    I haven’t yet. But you did get my attention. I really enjoyed Gone Home. :)

  7. amateurviking says:

    Am I right in saying that after the excised the canker of GFWL from Bioshock 2, errbody got this gratis on steam?

  8. yonsito says:

    I thought that you could only buy it from GFWL.
    But not only can you buy it from Steam, I have it already and didn’t know about it until now. Did they give it away for free at one point?

    • Xocrates says:

      Yeah, when they excised GFWL from bioshock 2 and replaced it with steamworks, everyone who owned bioshock 2 got this for free.

      • yonsito says:

        This is a pleasant surprise. I’ll definitely try it.

      • povu says:

        You can even activate your physical copy of Bioshock 2 on Steam with the original CD code.

  9. RobF says:

    No, no, I haven’t and I’d really like to but I did something stupid. I tried to play it after a playthrough of Binfinite because before the patch, it had a habit of just crashing out on a regular basis.

    Unfortunately, Binfinite had pretty much exhausted not just my will to play anything Bioshock again but any games for a short while so going straight from that into more Bioshock meant I really couldn’t enjoy Minerva’s Den. Just something so depressing about Binfinite’s husk of a game and terrible plotting combined with what’s very obviously a very expensive spectacle and the sheer videogame grind of “now do this three times because videogames” killed it.

    I want to go back and play this but I’m still not ready to face more Bioshock really. One day. I really liked Bioshock 2 as well.

    • Geebs says:

      Just remember. Bioshock Infinite is an unusually boring FPS with an unusually stupid plot topped off with an unusually disappointing payoff. There are still decent games out there!

      (like, try playing Painkiller or Doom for a bit maybe?)

      • RobF says:

        Yeah, I solved it with Tower Of Guns which isn’t quite Painkiller or Doom but oh god, it feels so good just moving around that I don’t care.

  10. N'Al says:

    I HAVE played it, and it was GOOD.

  11. Bravado says:

    Everything after Bioshock 1 was crap. SS2 is still the best in the series.

    • Jenks says:

      I strongly agree with that. I didn’t bother with this DLC after the massive disappointment that was Bioshock 2. Typically I don’t buy DLC for games I don’t like.

      • Adamustache says:

        Well you’re missing out then because this DLC was standalone and a better, tighter experience than the main game.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Filthy liar. Interface aside, Ultima Underworld II has always been the greatest Shock game ever.

  12. Morph says:

    I admit to a bit of disappointment in this. I think it had been hyped too much, so I was expecting something a bit cleverer. Ok I was hoping for underwater SHODAN and it was not delivered. A fine bit of shooting, but nothing special.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      My feelings as well. I don’t know what’s supposed to be so special about this. It’s a decent piece of content tacked on to another decent piece of content, but that’s about the nicest thing I can say about it. Not really worth the time I spent trying to convince the dreadful GfWL Marketplace to sell it to me (a few months before the Steamworks conversion, which I’m still a bit sore about).

  13. Freud says:

    I have conflicted feelings about all the Bioshocks. The worlds are so beautifully designed and the ideas behind them are somewhat interesting. But the actual gameplay is so tedious. Boring and clunky combat against completely uninteresting enemies and no interesting mechanics.

    Most games that stick in my mind is games that are memorable because of what I do in the game, not because how they look.

  14. johann tor says:

    So, is there any rhyme or reason for the selections in the feature? I would love to read a few words on what prompts a particular recommendation each day.

  15. Stense says:

    I have played it and thought it was wonderful, and inspired me to write about cats. link to tessstenson.blogspot.co.uk

  16. Brosecutor says:

    I love System Shock 2, Bioshock and Binfinite to death, yet I hate Bioshock 2 with unbridled fury. Never played Minerva’s Den, though. Should I?

    • Xocrates says:

      That would depend of the reasons you hate Bioshock 2, because honestly I cannot fathom any reasons that would cause you to hate Bioshock 2 that wouldn’t extend to Minerva’s Den.

      Mind you, I cannot fathom any logical reasons to hate Bioshock 2 that wouldn’t extend to the original.

      • Jalan says:

        The glorified escort mission is the only part I hate in the first game. As someone seems to have thought it was so awesome that it needed to become the basis for the sequel, I have a strong sense of loathing toward it. Having seen Steve Gaynor’s playthrough of Minerva’s Den put me of the mind that it, at least, looked better than what I’d played of the game proper.

        • Xocrates says:

          Oh yeah, those. That’s a contentious point right there :P

          I think they’re still in Minerva’s Den though.

    • Adamustache says:

      The shooty shooty, freezy, shocky stuff is obviously going to be similar, but storywise and tonally, it’s certainly different. I think it may very well be worth a shot for you. It’s more of a standalone experience in Rapture than an actual add-on for Bioshock 2.

  17. Shazbut says:

    I bought Minerva’s Den recently, played an hour or two, and then bought Dark Souls 2 and haven’t gone back.

    It is fine, but is contrived nonsense, where all the bad guys speak in comedy bad guy voices, there is no believable reason for any of the plot exposition to be happening, and no penalty for anything – probably because if death was any more than a slap on the wrist then the flimsy gameplay would have more of a chance to show itself.

    No worse than Bioshock 1 or 2, but by the time you play this the freshness has worn off

  18. liquidsoap89 says:

    If I really didn’t like Bioshock 2, but enjoyed #1 and Infinite, is there still a hope I could enjoy this? I WANT to try it; but if it means I have to play BS2, or if it’s just BS2 but more then I’ll pass.

  19. MadTinkerer says:

    Minerva’s Den is basically Bioshock 3 as far as I’m concerned.

    Gameplay-wise, it’s fun but a little short. That’s partly because of the budget restraints of an expansion and partly because what is there is quite good. Most of the weapons and plasmids are recycled from 2, but there is one new weapon and one new plasmid and both are fun to use. There are also a few new variant splicers and Big Daddies and miscellaneous things to find. Story-wise and character-wise DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU ANYTHING YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE IT YOURSELF.

    Basically, if you like Bioshock and Gone Home you probably will like Minerva’s Den. If you liked Bioshock 1 and 2 and Gone Home you will probably like Minerva’s Den as much as I do. If you liked any one of the Bioshocks, you have a good chance of liking Minerva’s Den. There is one major plot hole inherited from 2 (WHY do Alphas have the ability to harvest/save Little Sisters other than gameplay precedence? Still no good explanation.), but otherwise possibly the best of the Bioshocks.

    The other DLC Big Daddy Trials or whatever it’s called is pretty good as well. It’s more challenge / gameplay oriented. If you liked the Little Sister Defense fights in 2, but thought they were a little too easy, you will like this DLC. My recommendation: get it with Minerva’s Den next time they both go on sale and even if it’s a little too challenging in the later levels, you’ll still probably get your money’s worth out of the early easier levels. EDIT: If you hated the Little Sister Defense fights, this is even more of that. So consider that warning/endorsement depending.

  20. Muzman says:

    I have played it and it was worth the wait (being free helps too). What people say is true; it’s tightly designed and well written. There’s a neatness to it that the first two lack.

    Most notably it seems like it was designed with a certain distance from the two main games and people designed it to fit Bioshock gameplay very nicely. Better than anywhere else in the first two anyway. It lacks that feeling of fighting against the game that the first two had. And to add to that sense of people understanding Bioshock like never before they added weapons and bots that were just so much more fun to use than anything in the vanilla ones. It was like Bioshock 2 had to do what B1 did for marketing reasons; This made a bomb so don’t deviate from the formula too much, they were told, I’d guess. They tried valiantly to refine it but it was still clunky. MD on the other hand was under no such pressure and could see what Bioshock gameplay really boiled down to more clearly and could design to that experience.

    It works a treat.