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Today's Convenient Excuse to Demand You Play BioShock 2: Minerva's Den

The tragedy of Milton Porter is something any BioShock--or gamer, really--should experience.

Even though BioShock 2 was hardly as revelatory as the original BioShock, whatever you thought of the Ken Levine-less sequel, the reason for its existence was cemented with the release of Minerva's Den.

Minerva's Den is a fantastic little story, a slice of life from the twisted and wet world of Rapture. Even if you didn't like BioShock 2, it's worth picking up a cheap copy and downloading Minerva's Den.

I'm spouting off about Minerva's Den because 2K Games has finally made good on bringing the downloadable content to PC. That wasn't going to happen, but fan demand convinced the company to change its mind. Thumbs up. Minerva's Den finally arrives on May 31 for $10 via Games for Windows Live.

If you're not convinced, I have something that could help. After finishing Minerva's Den in December, I was compelled to write about it on my now-dormant blog, Push The Button. The post was titled "The Tragedy of Charles Milton Porter," and attempted to convey why Minerva's Den worked: playing with your heart.

So, here we go.

== TEASER ==

BioShock 2 was by no means a bad game, but for long stretches of play—the middle, mainly—it was a very boring thing. There were forgettable environments with no lasting mark, characters whose presence felt mechanically contrived and slightly better combat rendered limp by repetitive Little Sister protection missions in pursuit of more Adam. And this comes from someone who, all told, enjoyed BioShock 2, a game whose narrative end held proper payoff. For Rapture fans, it’s worth playing.

It’s also worth buying—only $9.99 at GameStop, as of this very second—for something even better: Minerva’s Den. It’s little surprise the downloadable content’s writer/designer, Steve Gaynor, was picked up by Irrational Games to work on BioShock: Infinite. Minerva’s Den captures the magic of Ken Levin’s original in a way the sequel didn’t, channeling the familiarity of Rapture’s iconic world to spin a tale that’s more emotionally charged than anything in BioShock 2. That’s less of a knock towards BioShock 2 than it’s a compliment to what’s been achieved in Minerva’s Den. It’s impossibly fantastic story grounded in an unreal world, and by the end, you’ve bought in, you’re invested—and touched.

I couldn’t help but start comparing Minerva’s Den to LOST. A broken, manipulative and downright magical paradise filled with wide variety of engorged egos jockeying for power over something they can hardly comprehend. There is a Chosen One, an individual that all others are watching with a close eye—and a knife in their back pocket. The comparison is even more paramount in Minerva’s Den, which may as well reflect a subterranean partnership between Andrew Ryan and the DHARMA corporation. Anyone who knows me can understand why Minerva’s Den would strike a chord.

BioShock’s twist stuck thanks to its simultaneous commentary on the nature of game design and how little say players actually have in the experience. You were shocked because Ryan—Levine—had been playing you like a fiddle all along. You felt betrayal, anger, and probably a pang of respect, too.

There is a twist to Minerva’s Den, one as grand and shocking as the one in BioShock, but one that doesn’t rely on the same parlor trick. Sure, you played a “character” in BioShock, but the story was ultimately the player’s own, altered by their interactions with the Little Sisters. The Little Sisters are present here, but simply as a gameplay mechanic. Minerva’s Den is the tragic story of one Porter, mathematical genius. When the true nature of your mission in Minerva’s Den is revealed, the surprise meant so much more because I could step back and sympathize with the events I’d played a part in. The tragedy of Minerva’s Den is not yours, it is that of Porter and The Thinker.

Something much more subtle is at work, too.

BioShock is a stressful game; Splicers and Big Daddies are always appearing, often from unseen shadows. But when Minerva’s Den transitions to its emotional payoff, the interface quietly disappears, a masterful nod to the player that it’s okay to move a little slower from now on, pull your sweaty fingers off the triggers and pay extra close attention to what’s hanging on this wall or laying on that desk.

I wish I’d played Minerva’s Den earlier, much earlier. Take-Two should release the story and not require BioShock 2’s disc. Even gamers who consider BioShock 2 blasphemous should seek out Minerva’s Den. If there are no more tales from the murky and treacherous Rapture, Porter’s provides needed closure.

(That said, I wouldn’t mind a series of Ratpure-set short stories like this. Would you?)

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek

Even though BioShock 2 was hardly as revelatory as the original BioShock, whatever you thought of the Ken Levine-less sequel, the reason for its existence was cemented with the release of Minerva's Den.

Minerva's Den is a fantastic little story, a slice of life from the twisted and wet world of Rapture. Even if you didn't like BioShock 2, it's worth picking up a cheap copy and downloading Minerva's Den.

I'm spouting off about Minerva's Den because 2K Games has finally made good on bringing the downloadable content to PC. That wasn't going to happen, but fan demand convinced the company to change its mind. Thumbs up. Minerva's Den finally arrives on May 31 for $10 via Games for Windows Live.

If you're not convinced, I have something that could help. After finishing Minerva's Den in December, I was compelled to write about it on my now-dormant blog, Push The Button. The post was titled "The Tragedy of Charles Milton Porter," and attempted to convey why Minerva's Den worked: playing with your heart.

So, here we go.

== TEASER ==

BioShock 2 was by no means a bad game, but for long stretches of play—the middle, mainly—it was a very boring thing. There were forgettable environments with no lasting mark, characters whose presence felt mechanically contrived and slightly better combat rendered limp by repetitive Little Sister protection missions in pursuit of more Adam. And this comes from someone who, all told, enjoyed BioShock 2, a game whose narrative end held proper payoff. For Rapture fans, it’s worth playing.

It’s also worth buying—only $9.99 at GameStop, as of this very second—for something even better: Minerva’s Den. It’s little surprise the downloadable content’s writer/designer, Steve Gaynor, was picked up by Irrational Games to work on BioShock: Infinite. Minerva’s Den captures the magic of Ken Levin’s original in a way the sequel didn’t, channeling the familiarity of Rapture’s iconic world to spin a tale that’s more emotionally charged than anything in BioShock 2. That’s less of a knock towards BioShock 2 than it’s a compliment to what’s been achieved in Minerva’s Den. It’s impossibly fantastic story grounded in an unreal world, and by the end, you’ve bought in, you’re invested—and touched.

I couldn’t help but start comparing Minerva’s Den to LOST. A broken, manipulative and downright magical paradise filled with wide variety of engorged egos jockeying for power over something they can hardly comprehend. There is a Chosen One, an individual that all others are watching with a close eye—and a knife in their back pocket. The comparison is even more paramount in Minerva’s Den, which may as well reflect a subterranean partnership between Andrew Ryan and the DHARMA corporation. Anyone who knows me can understand why Minerva’s Den would strike a chord.

BioShock’s twist stuck thanks to its simultaneous commentary on the nature of game design and how little say players actually have in the experience. You were shocked because Ryan—Levine—had been playing you like a fiddle all along. You felt betrayal, anger, and probably a pang of respect, too.

There is a twist to Minerva’s Den, one as grand and shocking as the one in BioShock, but one that doesn’t rely on the same parlor trick. Sure, you played a “character” in BioShock, but the story was ultimately the player’s own, altered by their interactions with the Little Sisters. The Little Sisters are present here, but simply as a gameplay mechanic. Minerva’s Den is the tragic story of one Porter, mathematical genius. When the true nature of your mission in Minerva’s Den is revealed, the surprise meant so much more because I could step back and sympathize with the events I’d played a part in. The tragedy of Minerva’s Den is not yours, it is that of Porter and The Thinker.

Something much more subtle is at work, too.

BioShock is a stressful game; Splicers and Big Daddies are always appearing, often from unseen shadows. But when Minerva’s Den transitions to its emotional payoff, the interface quietly disappears, a masterful nod to the player that it’s okay to move a little slower from now on, pull your sweaty fingers off the triggers and pay extra close attention to what’s hanging on this wall or laying on that desk.

I wish I’d played Minerva’s Den earlier, much earlier. Take-Two should release the story and not require BioShock 2’s disc. Even gamers who consider BioShock 2 blasphemous should seek out Minerva’s Den. If there are no more tales from the murky and treacherous Rapture, Porter’s provides needed closure.

(That said, I wouldn’t mind a series of Ratpure-set short stories like this. Would you?)

Staff
Edited by AndrewW

I can also highly recommend Bioshock 2 plus DLC (well, Minerva's Den at least...).

Posted by Dtat
@AndrewW said:
Go go go
What?
Posted by StingingVelvet

I'm sure most PC gamers will bitch about it taking so long and about it needing Games for Windows Live, but honestly this PC gamer is just so thrilled to get to play it that I have no complaints.

Roll on May 31st!

Posted by TheGreatGuero

You should have told me a week ago when it was on sale for $5 on Xbox Live...

Posted by hurrikenux

I was on the fence about Minerva's Den, as with after the BioShock 2 Multiplayer faltered I kind of lost interest.  Thanks for the great piece, Patrick, I'll look into picking this up.

Posted by Sammo21

I really didn't care for this DLC...the fact it was so highly contested against Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2 blows my mind.

Posted by patrickklepek

@hurrikenux said:

I was on the fence about Minerva's Den, as with after the BioShock 2 Multiplayer faltered I kind of lost interest. Thanks for the great piece, Patrick, I'll look into picking this up.

Minerva's Den is my favorite BioShock thing that isn't the original BioShock.

Staff
Posted by transience

reading this brought me back to the longest 65 minutes in Bombcast history.

Posted by Liquidus

I would have played this if the whole plot twist wasn't completely ruined for me due to me listening to the GOTY deliberations bombcast. Thanks, Giant Bomb, thanks. :P

Posted by Afroman269

I'll check it out since I got the pc version of Bioshock 2 a while back on sale.

Posted by lockwoodx

Passed on Bioshock 2 after all the DRM issues with the first one.

Posted by SuperSambo

I bought this while it was on sale with the intention of buying the full game at a later date.

While browsing my inventory I realized that I actually had the game... That is how good Bioshock 2 is...

Posted by Toms115

i'd try it if they released it standalone. realllly don't want to get bioshock 2 again.

Posted by Oni

Minerva's Den is really incredible, you guys should play it. I daresay it's one of the best stories the medium has to offer.

Posted by Schweikher
@grant742: Thanks for the input.
Posted by animateria

 Take-Two should release the story and not require BioShock 2’s disc. 

I'd play it.
Posted by andriv

just on games for windows live? not on steam?

Posted by pantzing_nome

I never finished Bioshock 2 but I decided to pick this up last week when it went on sale on xbox live. I haven't played it yet but after reading this I'm now looking forward to trying it out tonight.

Posted by hi_im_rob
@Dtat: @Dtat said:
@AndrewW said:
Go go go
What?
Build more Marines
Posted by WalkerD

Never got people's burning hatred for Bioshock 2. The story didn't have the same "what a tweest" feeling as the first game, but  the gameplay was solid and I felt like a big enough bad ass during the little sister segments that they didn't really bother me. I would have S-Ranked the game had my live and resources to pay for live not run out, and if I ever get financially situated again, I'll pick up Minerva's Den too.

Posted by Yummylee

I really enjoyed Minerva's Den and all, and it was a great piece of DLC, but I've never considered it as such as highlight within the confines of DLC as the staff here heralded it. It was essentially more DLC (Little Sisters and all, which I also still enjoyed during the main game, but felt a little out of context and pointless in MD) with a brilliant story--one that was better than BioShock 2's for sure---but still, essentially, just more of BioShock 2 with little standout from the rest of the two games.


@sammo21 said:
I really didn't care for this DLC...the fact it was so highly contested against Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2 blows my mind.
I agree with this to an extent. I really enjoyed MD, but Shadow Broker was considerably more memorable for me. They're from very different games, mind you, but I really liked both games both DLC's sprouted from and Shadow Broker with it's brilliant set-pieces, a temporary new squad member, and that car chase really had it leave a great lasting impression. I've also played through it like 4 times now, so maaybe I'm a lil biased as well :P. I should probably give Minerva's Den another whirl; it's been a while, and just to see if I can pick up on anything that's made it so outstanding for some.
Posted by blacklab

Shit, I almost sold back BS2 without playing this. Guess I'll have to try it out once PSN re-appears.

Posted by GJSmitty
@Schweikher said:
@grant742: Thanks for the input.
No problem man
Posted by falling_fast

I assumed this was going to be written by Brad when I clicked on it.

Posted by artofwar420

Hope it makes it to Steam, but even if it doesn't this will be the second thing I buy from GFWL.

Posted by tplarkin7

I enjoyed Bioshock 2 as much as 1. I would say 2 was more fun. I'll have to check out Minerva's Den.

Posted by spankingaddict

Bioshock 2 was amazing. I don't care what all you whiners think.   :)

Posted by Sooty

I preferred 2 over 1

Edited by nail1080

Bioshock 2
better gameplay than the original

new storyline which is fucking epic

better graphics

awesome fun MP that reminds me of good old Timesplitters for some reason

and a great DLC in the shape of MD

....however great the DLC is though, I don't understand why the GB crew keep pissing on the Bioshock main storyline, I say you should all turn off your stupid-ass smart phones, shut the curtains, and play through the Bioshock 2 campaign again, because it's fucking amazing.

Posted by cooljammer00

Ah yes, the infamous twist that Jeff was able to deduce in seconds during GOTY.

Posted by WickedFather
@grant742 said:
I've never played either Bioshock games, so I obviously won't be playing this

Delightful anecdote, monsignor.
Posted by SomeDeliCook

The thing I don't like about there being twists in games is that, even if you don't know what the twist is but you have heard that there is a twist in the game, you are expecting it. For Bioshock 1, I played it day 1 trying not to find out any information about it, and the twist was awesome when it happened. Then the reviews for Bioshock 2 came in, and they all pretty much stated the same thing "There is a twist in Bioshock 2 that gives you a new view of Rapture"

Great, so now I know there is definitely a twist in Bioshock 2 too. So playing it just made me feel like I wanted to get the twist over with so I could see something new. Same thing with movies, when I hear they have twists, I get less interested, because the initial shock is gone.
Posted by Sprizmo

Man if they didn't take so long in releasing this I would be playing it this weekend. Alas, my copy of Bioshock 2 was sent back into the shuffle.

Posted by rwcohn

It’s little surprise the downloadable content’s writer/designer, Steve Gaynor, was picked up by Irrational Games to work on BioShock: Infinite

Actually, Steve 'Hot Scoops' Gaynor worked on the original BioShock at Irrational Games as well.

Edited by Caudill


I didn't enjoy Bioshock 2 nearly as much as the first game, but it was still pretty solid.

Minerva's Den was pretty cool too, I almost didn't download it after being slighty disappointed with the main game, but once I did I was glad I didn't miss out. One of the better Single Player add-ons out there.

Posted by ValiantGoat

I just got around to playing through Minerva's Den on Monday, and I was left wanting another similar mini story from rapture. The short length of the DLC worked great for keeping focus on the story as opposed to the string of go here, or do this, tasks. I'd be on board for some Tales From Rapture what have you.

Posted by AuthenticM

yes, Minerva's Den is great. Worthy of the DLC of the year of last year. So, so much better than The Shadow Broker. I applaud Brad for winning the argument while being against the three others.

Posted by 234r2we232

BioShock 2 is something pretty special.


In terms of taking something you knew, but layering new kinds of enjoyment onto it with some of the smartest gameplay improvements I've seen in a sequel, fresh characters/story design, and subtle yet dramatic stylistic changes. Certainly my most memorable game experience of last year. To be fair, though, BS2 at it's worst is crazy, if a little too dedicated in it's fan-service to the original, but it's far, far more than just that. A treat for anyone enjoys rich gameplay and interesting characters. I cannot recommend BioShock 2 enough.

As far as I'm concerned, "Ken Levine-less" is something to be proud of. What with BioShock 3 looking as hand-flailingly desperate as it does. I wonder how many here are drinking the kool-aid like Jeff and Brad? :/
Posted by BaconGames

Really happy they are bringing that to the PC but I guess there's no pleasing us because I just bought Singularity for $10.  Steam spoils a man tell ya.

I agree with a few people that I just don't see what's not to like about the game really.  The only thing to complain about is the forgettable level aesthetics and the quality of Lamb's character but literally everything else was fucking brillo.

Oh well I look forward to Minerva's Den hopefully getting a discount in the near future.

Edited by agentboolen

Bought it last week on live for $5, very happy to see this article point out that it was a very good DLC for Bioshock 2.  I haven't started playing it yet but can't wait to start it now....  I guess when I chill out with the new Mortal Kombat I'll get to that then.

To bad this Minerva's Den push wasn't given last week, it might have help move more sales while live had the sale!!

Posted by bybeach

I'm one of those perfectly fine with Bioshock2 I enjoyed the story, which compared to what other games pull wasn't all that contrived. I enjoyed the dual wield. I enjoyed as mentioned the better graphics. And yes, Minivera's Den capped it  Ppl. can bitch about it's need to exist all they want(and they will). I liked it.
Posted by brownsfantb

Yeah Minerva's Den was awesome. I powered through it in one night because I couldn't put it down. The ending was one of the saddest moments I've had in gaming.

Edited by m0rdr3d

Not even funny how so many people bag on Bioshock 2.  I think it must be pushback against the hype for the first game and also because the sequel couldn't make as big of a splash.  Bioshock 2 is a great game.

That said, maybe I'll check this out, Patty.  Thanks for reminding me.  I've got about 18 days to kill before summer semester.

Might have to pick up the final Mass Effect 2 DLC, but I hear that's an utter waste of time...

Posted by DG991

Played it....


I still have no idea how someone could argue for it over shadow broker.... ugh im over this! 

Video games are so dumb.
Posted by McGhee

After Brad's Minerva's Den insanity during 2010's Games of the Year deliberations, I was hoping to never hear of it ever again. Oh well.

Posted by Applederp

I really didn't like Minerva's Den, or BioShock 2 for that matter

So I don't really care.

Posted by Bloodgraiv3


I still have to play Minervas den.

 

Posted by fitzcarraldo

i couldn't get into this

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