The first thing I noticed about Minerva's Den was that, with it's strong "science and technology" tone, it looks distinct from the rest of Rapture. In place of the plush, velvet-draped ostentatious locales of Rapture proper, Minerva's Den offers a more cold, metallic look. The Rapture Central Computing district was very much designed to house The Thinker, not play whim to lavish parties where artists and intellectuals lounged about.
Putting around the cold corridors of the Den are Lancers, the new Big Daddy type. These dudes are pretty vicious. I fought one and while I was able to put him down, he was no joke. The Lancers wield the new weapon in the Minerva's Den DLC: the Ion Laser, a beam weapon that harnesses the power of sunlight to create a powerful Moonraker-caliber laser and gives Lancers a strong flash bang-like defensive move that dazes you. With my drill, my own Ion Laser and only my Telekinesis Plasmid to rely on, I had to run though plenty of first aid kits before finally taking him down. But take him down I did ... and then I harvested his Little Sister.
I wouldn't dare dream of doing that in the game proper, but in order to salvage some of my tough guy persona (I did nearly have my ass handed to me by a Lancer in front of one of the guys responsible for creating him, after all -- what would you have done?) she had to be consumed. Shortly thereafter, I was shown the new Plasmid: Gravity Well.
I wasn't able to wield this myself, thanks mainly to time constraints involving harvesting enough ADAM to acquire it -- nothing is free in Rapture, folks! -- but its value was quickly evident, as one toss of a squishy black ball created a vortex sucking up everything unlucky enough to be within spitting distance. That includes actual live Splicers, dead bodies and random junk laying around. As enemies are localized to the eye of the swirling storm, their souls become ripe for the plucking.
The Gravity Well also wreaks havoc on the Sentry Bots of Rapture, which haven't been forgotten in the DLC; they now wield different types of munitions, such as rockets and electric bolts. I hacked one that used lightning early on -- once enlisted in my entourage, it would shock an enemy, freezing them for a moment so that I could nail them with a quick Drill Dash, an effective combination for dealing with Rapture's crazed community. I imagine Tenacious D would've been proud of our judicious application of teamwork
I would've liked to spend more time with Minerva's Den
, because the majority of the area I experienced was fun and offered plenty of challenging conflicts but, more importantly, it offered new areas to explore. For me, that's a large part of the appeal of the game and, even better, Steve Gaynor, designer at 2K Marin, promised that the DLC would be less linear than the main campaign. He said players would be able to explore areas well before the game tasked them with going there. Removing those shackles and allowing me to explore Rapture at my leisure sounds like a recipe for DLC success. Try it for yourself next Tuesday when it reaches Xbox 360 and PS3 for $10.