Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: July 30, 2013
Well, dammit. I already exhausted my spiel on challenge rooms just a few weeks ago for Guacamelee!. Thanks Irrational Games, now what am I supposed to jot down for Clash in the Clouds, the challenge room DLC for Bioshock Infinite? Regurgitating the same superlatives is a feasible option so I’ll do just that: Clash in Clouds is wonderful, combat-focused add-on worth the meager $5 admission fee for anyone who fancied the strategic battles found in the core campaign.
Those final few words of the last paragraph are key to your enjoyment of Clash in the Clouds. Specifically the “anyone who fancied the strategic battles found in the core campaign” section of it (if you couldn’t figure that brain twister out). If you found Infinite‘s combat to be too wonky or strenuous, then leave now; there’s nothing here of worth for you.
But if you delved deep within the depths of the combat mechanics, then Clash in the Clouds serves you quite the treat. Four maps are available to battle on, each differing in terms of aesthetic but all having some vital aspects in common. Each is a wide open vista ripe with differing opportunities that display the refreshing wealth of options available to the player. Tears (which change from wave to wave), sky lines, and a myriad of encampment options yield a similar nearly-overwhelming sense of freedom that main story encompassed so well. All of the usual vigors and weapons are also in the armory, leaving even more tools in the toolbox to play with.
Utilizing the plethora of combat accessories is necessary because of CitC‘s aggressive difficulty. Make no mistake, CitC will annihilate you when given the chance, especially early on. Trial-by-fire or not, this initial underperformance creates a balance that evens out as time passes. Killing enemies adds cash to your metaphysical wallet, along with advancing to new rounds (fifteen is the final one). At the end of every new wave, you are rewarded with an Infusion or piece of gear. Slowly but surely, you’ll become stronger and be able to conquer more waves. It’s an ingenious way of gradually letting the player build up power while let him or her advance deeper into each map. Because of this, you won’t hit the power ceiling too quickly nor will you be too frustrated at early shortcomings.
Fatter stacks of Columbian cash will flow your way if you decide to tackle each of the Blue Ribbon challenges. Optional tasks pop up at the start of each round, demanding more from the player (kill enemies with only a pistol, take no damage, etc.) with the promise of more scratch. While everyone loves more layers on the combat cake, most of these missions are puzzling in their inclusion. We’ve established that depth and variety are the glowing pillars of the combat, but these aren’t reflected in these Blue Ribbons. Objectives like “Use only the shotgun” or “Kill the entire wave using only Possession traps” severely clip the wings of a game with an enormous wingspan. Very few of them provide a challenge and maintain freedom, making these Blue Ribbon assignments something most players will ignore.
Free from the shackles of being canon, Booker and Elizabeth are warped into Columbia’s Archaeological Society Museum, which serves as a glorified menu to purchase various items and start the wave-based survival. Although not as convenient as a by-the-numbers, bland set of menus, this construction adds a bit more flavor to the typical in-game store. Dumping money in combat upgrades might be more viable, but this museum lets you peek into concept art and behind-the-scenes footage. More video features would have been appreciated, but it serves as a way to extend the life of the arenas while simultaneously being an interesting peek behind the curtain.
Whether you use it as a testing grounds or a chance to boast about your combat superiority, Clash in the Clouds is worth the small fee to download. Proved in the root game and reintroduced here, the combat strategery is still hitting in full force, but the focus on it here is what makes Clash in the Clouds special. Not many games can stand on one half of the structure (story/gameplay), but I guess that’s part of what makes Bioshock Infinite that legendary.
A cloud shaped like a robotic shark fighting Godzilla:
+Arenas test your Bioshock Infinite combat prowess well with difficult arenas
+Economy is well-balanced, allowing you to upgrade or buy extras
A cloud shaped like a dick:
-Blue Ribbon objectives are too obtuse in most challenges
Again, I don’t hand out scores to DLC. Weren’t you listening last time in the El Diablo’s Domain review? Here, I’ll shout it: I DON’T GIVE OUT SCORES TO DLC! Heesh. Get a hearing aid, old man. Matter of fact, get two. TWO HEARING AIDS!