People have been asking me why I haven’t bought Afterbirth+, considering I love The Binding of Isaac so much. So I figure I’ll explain it here!
Why I Should Buy Afterbirth+
Of course there’s a ton of good reasons that I should pick up the expansion to The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth. It’s one of my favourite games of all time. Afterbirth+ adds a ton of new items. It adds another new character. It adds new challenges, bosses and a whole new floor. Those are all solid reasons that I should grab it ASAP, right?
You’d think so, but you’d be wrong.
There’s Too Many Meme Items
The Retro Vision pill, for those who don’t know, pixelates the screen for a few seconds when you use it. Mildly amusing one time, but ultimately useless. You don’t need to use it more than once to see literally everything the joke has to offer.
There are two new pills like that in Afterbirth+. Something’s Wrong and X-Lax. They both have such a trivial useful effect that nobody uses them. Of course there are a couple of good new pills as well. But ultimately the expansion actually makes them less compelling by diluting the pool of useful pills.
That theme carries over to some of the new items as well. Haemolacria, Pop, Lachryphagy and Trisagion all look great, but are so much less powerful than they should be. They actually break runs with anti-synergy. And you might say “then don’t pick them up”, which is how most people I’ve seen treat them. But if everyone just learns to skip them, what’s the point in having them in the game at all?
There’s Too Many Tank-y New Enemies
So many of the new enemies in Afterbirth+ either have a ton of hit points (like the pop-up mushrooms) or spawn new enemies (like the portals). I don’t think that would be so bad if they didn’t spawn so damn regularly. I’m not much of a speed runner, but being forced to kill enemies that have HP far beyond the rest of the room just feels like a chore.
Why did they do it? I don’t know, but my only theory is they want to artificially increase difficulty and bump play time.
Devil Deals Got Worse
Thankfully, the Angel Deal calculation was made better in Afterbirth+. Unfortunately it appears they also added new non-item layouts for the Devil Deals. There are now a couple of new red chest layouts, which neither guarantee any items nor give precedent for future deals. And considering Devil Deals are still the best way to boost damage output, this makes them less useful.
The Void Floor Is Dumb & Pointless
The Chest is one of the final floors, where you get a random chance (based on your Luck stat) to spawn chests at the end of every room. Every chest on the floor contains an item, meaning there’s a good reason to explore the entire level so you can boost your power. It’s a great way to end your run, as you have a great chance to become almost unstoppable. Great power fantasy ending for the game.
The new floor, The Void, doesn’t do that. The graphical theme of the floor is basically a random combination of every preceding floor. So you’ll go from a Basement to a Cellar to a Depths between rooms. The level features multiple bosses from every floor. It really fits the theme of the game as Isaac slowly goes mad. But the rewards you see in the Chest floor are gone and you’re back to only getting items after defeating a boss. It really feels like a step backwards and betrays the feelings of power on the floor before. Maybe that’s thematically appropriate, but it’s less interesting as a player.
The Delirium Fight Is Garbage
The final boss of The Void is Delirium, a super boss that morphs between every minor boss in the game. In theory that’s a great thing. It should require you to adapt your play style on the fly as the attacks change. But it doesn’t. The attacks that Delirium uses are more extreme version of the originals, but it just becomes a bullet hell boss that isn’t even much fun. He teleports around the room, sometimes causing unavoidable damage. And, similar to Hush (another not-well-liked boss), he has Boss Armour which limits the amount of damage he can take in a certain amount of time. So that powerful run you came into the room with just became useless.
It’s a Shame
It’s a huge shame, because Afterbirth+ also adds a lot of items that are really cool. The Apple, the Pencil, better Angel deals. There’s a lot that I really want. And the problem with adding so many items that are either just memes or plain bad just dilutes the experience down to a place where I don’t think it’s worth the investment.
What’s an even bigger shame is that the last couple of Booster Packs were made by the team who create Antibirth, one of the most ambitious mods of all time. Antibirth was well-respected and was clearly an insane labour of love that overhauled Rebirth entirely. It’s sad that it was never made available for Afterbirth, but it’s even more of a shame that the same level of effort doesn’t seem to have gone into the official game content.
Edit (20th April 2020): I eventually caved and bought AB+ recently, because it was part of a big bundle sale to raise funds in the fight against COVID-19. And even then, only because buying Legend of Bum-bo by itself (the game I actually wanted) was more expensive than the Stay Inside bundle. I’m still waiting for Antibirth to be added though!