Bioshock Infinite – Clash in the Clouds is the first gameplay related DLC for the third instalment in the Bioshock franchise.
Before going any further, to anyone that still hasn’t played Bioshock Infinite, there are no story spoilers in this review but I will be mentioning gameplay elements. If you’ve managed to go this long without hearing anything about this game through choice and want it to remain that way before you play it, I applaud you and don’t read on. To anyone else; go play it already.
As Xav mentioned in his post yesterday, this isn’t the story DLC that everyone is waiting for. Rather this is a series of combat challenges similar to the Protector Trials DLC for Bioshock 2. Clash in the Clouds was released with almost no warning, very little fanfare and the release was massively overshadowed by the simultaneous Burial at Sea DLC in which YOU GET TO GO BACK TO FREAKING RAPTURE!!!!! But back to the point, is Clash in the Clouds worth it?
The premise is fairly simple. You face waves of increasingly difficult enemies and you’re rewarded financially for killing enemies and you have all the combat mechanics from Bioshock Infinite to help you. You can then spend your killed-for gains to upgrade your weapons, unlock new levels and get access to bonus content in the museum of the Archaeological Society of Columbia. I like this aspect to it. One of the greatest things about the Bioshock games is the detail that’s put into the worlds, the depth of the fiction and some of the concept art is just brilliant. If you’re happy to buy the DLC just to get access to the rewards then stop reading the review and go buy it. The chances are you were already sold. If you want to know how the gameplay holds up, read on.
Xav called it “horde-mdoe” for Bioshock Infinite and he’s right. At it’s heart Clash in the Clouds is a fairly standard horde-mode. You face waves of enemies and are rewarded for it. A lot of your enjoyment of this will depend on how much you enjoyed the combat in Infinite itself. Clash in the Clouds doesn’t bring anything new to Bioshock Infinite, it merely takes the tool set from the game, and drops you into a pure combat scenario. No new vigors, nor weapons and whilst the maps aren’t specific locations in the game the feel familiar enough, without definitely re-hashing previously visited locations.
That’s enough background, lets get started. You begin in a store front, a pistol on the counter, four “free samples” of vigors on a stand and a row of paintings on the wall in front of you. A locked gateway to your left leads to the Museum and some trophies on your right represent the online leaderboards. A motorised patriot greets you, asking if you’re up to the challenges ahead. I was, so I dove straight in.
The first map is called The O.P.S Zeal and it takes place on a floating barge, between two larger structures all inter-connected by skylines. It’s a fairly small map, but the skylines give it a sense of space as well as a quick way of moving around. I easily dealt with the first wave of soldiers, and was given a few seconds to loot any bodies lying around, another way of increasing your haul. Between rounds you’re dropped into the ‘Armoury’ which is a room with most of the weapons available in the game, vending machines to improve your vigors and weapons and a dispenser which gives you either a piece of gear (I’m not sure if it’s randomly generated or not) or an infusion but these are only given each time you complete a round for the first time.
The combat is just what you would expect from Infinite. You get as many vigors as you can swallow, two guns, your skyhook and Elizabeth to help you out with tears ranging from cover and ammo, to motorised patriots and Tesla coils as you progress through the rounds. As expected you’re rewarded for kills and skill kills, such as headshots. You’re also rewarded for varying the techniques and weapons you use, vigor combos and environmental kills. The biggest cash rewards come in the form of completing the Blue Ribbon challenges. At the start of each round you’re told what types of enemies you’ll go up against and given a challenge. For example, only using the shotgun and skyline kills, possessing a certain number of enemies and so-on, getting more challenging with each round. Unsurprisingly, as the difficulty increases, so do the rewards.
After defeating a few waves of soldiers I was given my first real challenge: A Handyman. I’m a bit rusty when I comes to Bioshock Infinite’s mechanics so I found myself changing weapon instead of firing, and totally missing my jump point on a skyline a few times. So, naturally, I died and was dropped back into the starting area. The Columbia Archaeological Society had opened up for me now, so I explored. The museum unlocks range from $100 to $2000 for some of the character models and kinectescopes.
There isn’t really much more to comment on the combat and gameplay. I enjoyed the combat in Infinite, especially when you get some momentum going around the skylines. Clash in the Clouds retains the difficulty from the full game, I died more than a few times when I forgot to keep on the move. You quite often face a variety of enemy types which kept me on my toes and having to change tactics on the fly.
I played a little on all four maps, and they’re all different, all incredibly detailed and all suitable but the number of them is a little bit of a let down. Four isn’t quite enough variety for a setting as incredibly varied as Columbia. As you progress through the rounds, you use different areas of the maps until you’re zipping around the entire area but it still just doesn’t quite feel like there are enough maps to really get stuck into.
There’s quite a bit of replay value for a few reasons. The obvious ones are the leaderboards, including a friends leaderboard, and just trying to beat your previous best. Seeing as between rounds you can upgrade weapons there isn’t really a reason that you should get stuck on a certain round for too long. The main reason I’m going to keep going back is, apart from the gameplay, is trying to complete the museum collection. Having said that, the limited amount of maps dents the replay value a bit and seeing as the combat is the same as the core game itself Clash in the Clouds lacks that killer punch to set itself aside from Infinite.
In doing this review I’ve played probably between 3 and 4 hours of Clash in the Clouds, as well as finishing Bioshock Infinite itself, and I’m not very far into it. Each of the four maps comes with 15 rounds and the most I’ve completed is 7 at this point. At under £4 it’s definitely great value for money. It’s got a fair bit of replay value, enough varied incentives to keep me going back and I would think about ten hours worth of gameplay for an average player.
Clash in the Clouds is definitely a Ronseal DLC. It does exactly what it says it does, for a damn good price to boot. I would recommend this to anyone that has had a hankering to get back into Columbia and really enjoyed the combat in Bioshock Infinite. If you’re looking for something more substantial, or didn’t enjoy the combat of Infinite, then I would wait until Burial at Sea drops later this year. But for £4? I’d pick it up anyway.
The only thing wrong with it? It’s not story DLC.