The Binding of Isaac is nothing new to gamers. It’s a game that helped put roguelikes back on the map, paving the way for a slew of other procedural generated games, like Spelunky and FTL: Faster Than Light. Since they’re so replayable, these games typically gain a hungry cult following. When big updates and expansions come along–like Rebirth and now Afterbirth for The Binding of Isaac–there’s already a fanbase ready to jump back in and discover what’s new.
Game Name: The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth
Platform(s): PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One
Designer: Edmund McMillen
Release Date: May 10, 2016 (PS4, Xbox One)
Since Afterbirth is simply an expansion to the game, adding new modes, new bosses, new challenges, and new items, it wouldn’t make sense to do a full game review—none of the typical mechanics have changed, we’ve just been given new content. Instead, I’ll focus on what Afterbirth brings along, explaining how some new things work and what is great or not so great about the DLC.
Stuff, stuff, and more stuff.
Before the new expansion, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth already had so many items, bosses, and challenges that some casual players had yet to see everything. On any given playthrough, you might only come into contact with a significantly small portion of what’s available because of the random nature of the game.
For instance, there were already over 50 bosses that could randomly inhabit a boss room, and a player typically only goes up against 8 bosses per run (there are exceptions, like boss rush rooms and double boss rooms). Afterbirth threw 10 more bosses into the mix. As far as items go, you collect quite a few of them throughout any playthrough, but only barely scrape the 341 unique items possible. With the Afterbirth expansion, there are 95 more things to find.
One great thing about the expansion is that I feel like it has been implemented in such a way that those who’ve been playing Afterbirth since it went live are actually seeing quite a bit of the new material. Of the 10 new bosses, I’ve encountered 9, and I feel like I’ve ran into various items that I hadn’t seen when only playing Rebirth. This is a smart way to go, because if the new stuff was still so random that a player would never see it, Afterbirth might not have been worth getting excited about, or worth the money for that matter.
This new mode behaves like an endless wave mode, because instead of a large map where you roam from room to room, finding items and hunting for the exit like usual, there is only one large arena where you’ll do all of your running and shooting. Attached to the arena is one treasure room with an item, one angel room with an item, and one merchant room with a set number of goods that replenish after every purchase.
In the middle of the arena room there is a button with a timer. You hit the button, enemies appear, and the timer counts down from ten. Once it reaches zero, more enemies will appear whether you’ve killed all of the previous wave or not—basically, you want to kill as fast as possible or you’ll be overwhelmed. After every wave, you get coins and can visit the merchant to buy items. Tip: It’s a good idea to save your money for hearts or soul hearts, because you’ll need them and they’re cheap.
There are only so many waves before you’ve beaten the floor, and you’ll then go the next floor, with a new treasure room, merchant, etc. On the 8th floor you’ll face the final boss, Ultra Greed, who is only accessible in Greed Mode. Check out the video below to see me beat him with Azazel, and also see the new ending (fact: getting the controlled tears item was a big help, because it turned Azazel’s burst shot into a floating red ring of death).
I actually really like Greed Mode, not only because of it’s difficulty, but because it’s an entirely new way to play the game. Most of the other additions to The Binding of Isaac simply add new items and rooms to discover, but Greed Mode puts an entirely new spin on the game while still keeping the spirit and aesthetic of the title.
Challenges in The Binding of Isaac are a good way to get more mileage out of the game, even if some of them are painfully difficult for me. They are the same as normal runs, but start you off with items that restrict Isaac’s abilities in some way. The “Solar System” challenge from Rebirth, where you can only attack via flies that are surrounding Isaac, still vexes me. With the Afterbirth expansion, we get 10 new challenges, and while I haven’t unlocked them all, I can say that two early favorites are “Pride Day” and “The Guardian.”
“Pride Day” starts Isaac off with a new item, the “rainbow worm.” There are many items that change what Isaacs tears look and shoot like, as well as scale the damage and add status effects. What the rainbow worm does is continuously cycle through random combinations of tear modifiers, constantly changing the way in which Isaac’s tears operate.
“The Guardian” is by far my favorite challenge. I simply love it, and not just because you get a sword for the first time in the franchise. In this challenge, Isaac himself cannot take damage, but instead the player’s health is tied to a little guy with a swollen head that follows Isaac around. The goal is to kill enemies before they attack the little guy, which sounds easier than it is—enemies ignore Isaac and go straight for the guy he’s guarding, and enemies with projectiles are particularly deadly. Where you’ll really run into trouble is when the little guy you’re protecting does nothing to protect himself, but instead just wanders around the screen, sometimes even stepping on spikes that he should probably avoid. This means you have to kill the enemies in the room as fast as possible if you’re going to get out of there before the kid does anything stupid.
A shot from new challenge The Guardian
Another new addition is the option to try Daily Challenges, which basically presents players with a new run every day, and one that is completely identical for everyone who tries it (something previously impossible until now). It gives the player a score and has leaderboards for players who are interested in matching up against others.
I did get to play two daily challenges, but I found out the hard way that you only get one run per day. Sadly, for two days in a row, I had trouble connecting, and when I tried to play the daily challenge, an error occurred and kicked me out of the game. When I tried to go back in, it said I had done my one daily challenge run and received a score of zero. Needles to say, it was pretty frustrating, but I haven’t ran into the problem since and have been getting low scores all on my own merit for the last few days.
*Copy of The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth was provided for review
More of the same, and that's a good thing.
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth adds more replayability to an already endlessly replayable game. The wealth of new content will keep new and seasoned players alike coming back for more. While the fresh challenges are fun and Greed Mode adds a new spin, more new ways to play with the Isaac franchise would make the Afterbirth expansion top-notch.
– Tons of new items and bosses
– Greed mode is great
– New challenges
– Not enough new ways to play
- Adds lots of fun new stuff, but lacks enough new modes to make it perfect.
User Review( votes)