After an almost unceremonious announced, overshadowed as it was by the reveal of the two-part Burial at Sea DLC which offered Infinite owners the chance to return to Rapture in a new narrative, Clash in the Clouds was derided and ignored in equal measure for being a disappointingly combat focused addition to the season pass, even before anyone had played it.
Which is a shame because it is both a pleasure to play, and is a lovingly crafted and structured love letter for fans of the main game.
There are four main arenas, each consisting of fifteen waves each, and each of increasing difficulty. As Booker, you start with a pistol and four of the earliest vigours (Infinite’s plasmids, or superpowers). As you make your way through the waves of enemies, you gain cash for kills, including various levels of monetary reward for dispatching combatants using varied methods: headshots, double kills, skyline strikes and the like offer a variety of rewards.
The enemies you encounter are mixed up and combined in different waves, and helpfully, before you enter each arena, you are given a list of the types of opponents you will face. You will also not encounter a huge number, as enemy counts are kept relatively low, most of the time under ten: one early encounter even has you face off against a single Handyman, Infinite’s Big Daddy analogue.
In between each round you are returned to a well stocked halfway house, where you can select your two weapon load-out, use the vending machines to purchases upgrades to weapons and plasmids, and receive infusions (increases your health, shields or vigour) or gear (items of clothing that confer benefits) as rewards for surviving waves.
Your hard earned money can also be used in the one area dedicated to serving the main game’s fans: the Columbia Archaeological Society. Here, any money earned during the combat can be used to unlock items ranging from pictures hung up on the wall that display concept art, to models of character as statues in the hall, to in-game playable recordings of tracks from the game. This is one of the best features of Clash in the Clouds, as it proves that this is more than just a cheap, make-do piece of DLC until the main double feature arrives later in the year, as there is a level of care and fan service that really makes playing in the arenas worthwhile.
Yes, this DLC is arena based combat, so your feelings towards this particular aspect of the game may influence your experience of what this add-on has to offer; I too was one those players who felt disappointed by the lack of story seemingly present in this new slice of Columbia, and was also someone who whilst never in a relationship of frustration or hate with the combat in the main game, still felt it a superior game when not engaged in confrontations. Yet stripped of a strong narrative, and an urgency to progress, the strength of Infinite’s combat shines and showcases the variety and invention that the game had to offer.
Adding to this variety and invention is the addition of Blue Ribbon challenges, which offer much bigger financial rewards for completion; these force you out of your comfort zone, and require you to complete waves in a specific, varied and very often challenging ways. For example, you may only be allowed to use shotguns, or you may only be able to use zoom-able weapons whilst zoomed. One challenge might ask you to gain a certain number of kills whilst possessing an enemy, whilst another might ask you to never pick up a gun or loot a corpse. These challenges add further variety to the way that the arena encounters can be handled by the player – to reiterate, with an overarching narrative removed, the strength of the combat mechanics in Infinite are given free rein to show off.
This isn’t a review, as your interest in the DLC is tied intrinsically into your relationship with the game. As an extra piece of content to the main game, Clash in the Clouds is well worth a purchase. If you are planning to Buy Burial at Sea there is no reason not to purchase the season pass and at least try this out.