It has been a fair few months now since we played Bioshock Infinite. We were blown away when entering Columbia, and again when revisiting Rapture at the end of the game; the bit in the middle though unfortunately, was a bit less memorable. The main reason for this being the lacklustre combat, which mirrored the original Bioshock’s combination of weapons and Plasmids, introducing Vigors as Columbia’s Plasmid equivalent, but somehow failing to capture the magic of Plasmids. Plasmids where an integral part of the Bioshock story, whereas in Infinite the Vigors feel like more of a tag on. Even though they are more sophisticated and inventive than the basic selection of Plasmids, introducing interesting abilities such as Murder of Crows, using them did not feel as exciting, and refuelling them with salts made it feel less visceral than the need to inject with Eve. There also seemed to be less emphasis on using Vigors together with the environment to bring down enemies, and less use of traps which were a fun part of the combat in the original Bioshocks.
The enemies themselves also were missing a certain something. Although again their design was more inventive than the splicers, you never really got a feel for who you are fighting. You could sense the desperation of the splicers and get an eerie glimpse of who they used to be, whereas Infinite’s enemies, although creepy, were a little soulless.
With this in mind why would you want to play some DLC based purely around Infinite’s combat system? On seeing the breath-taking trailer for the Burial at Sea DLC it was obvious we would be getting both parts, so it seemed a good idea to purchase the DLC Season Pass and get Clash in the Clouds as a bonus. With low expectations we booted up Clash in the Clouds and were pleasantly surprised.
You start off in a room where you can pick up supplies, and later in the game when you have earnt money, buy more. From this hub you enter a tear on a painting on the wall to enter the first stage named Ops Zela. There are other paintings on the wall which require cash in order for them to be unlocked. When you enter a stage you then fight waves of enemies on the same map. The maps are relatively small and are based on environments from the main game, such as the Finkton Docks, and include resources for you to use such as skylines and tears. Elizabeth also accompanies you, as in the main game, but she is much less involved and does not really talk, although she does occasionally give you resources from the environment, as in the main game. What makes the combat interesting is the introduction of ribbons. A ribbon is awarded after each wave for fulfilling certain requirements such as killing enemies using only skyline attacks, or using a particular weapon only. This requires the player to put a lot more thought into the combat, and try out combinations of weapons and Vigors that you might not have bothered with during the main game. It also requires you to become more reliant on the resources provided by the environment, such as tears, oil spills, and the skyline. The strategic thinking required makes the combat enjoyable, and allows you to play in ways you probably wouldn’t have needed to during the main game.
After each wave you are returned to a mini-hub where you can choose the weapons for the next wave, make upgrades and receive gifts. At the main hub, as well as unlocking new stages and spending the cash you have earnt from the stage on upgrades, you can also spend it on unlockables in a museum section of the hub. Here there is a large room where you can spend money to unlock videos, pictures, and statues, including a massive songbird.
Clash in the Clouds is a good first entry to the Infinite DLC and gives the player a taste of using resources in a strategic way that was missing in the main game. There are many unlockables and some of the ribbons can be difficult to obtain so this DLC can give you many hours of gameplay for a fairly low price, especially if bought as part of the season pass. Clash in the Clouds is a good, thoughtful distraction until we get what we are all waiting for: Burial at Sea.