As Repentance, the final expansion for The Binding of Isaac, approaches I thought I’d take a look back at one of my favourite games ever.
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+
Before we start, I have to admit that I love Isaac. It’s one of my favourite games of all time, my most played Steam game by some way, and basically my default gaming state when I have a spare half hour.
But it’s not perfect. Since the original Flash version’s launch in 2011, the game has seen a full rebuild – Rebirth – and two major expansions – Afterbirth and Afterbirth+. The final expansion – Repentance – is fast approaching, so I wanted to take some time to talk about the things I really like about the game, as well as some of the things I don’t.
No Flash in the Pan
I can’t remember how I got the Flash version of Isaac, but I did. And at first I didn’t get it. It wasn’t until I found Northernlion on YouTube that I started to understand how the mechanics properly worked. I was an immediate fan and subsequently watched every single video he put up from then on. I played a bit (according to Steam, it was 13.2 hours) but I still wasn’t hooked.
It wasn’t until 2014 and the launch of Rebirth – a ground-up rebuild that added a new game engine and hundreds more items – that I finally lost myself to this amazing game its disturbing universe. I played it on my PC, on my laptop, on my Playstation Vita. Basically anywhere I could. The procedurally-generated nature meant that every run was different without having to learn new stuff like you would in a new game. And the bump to 60fps made it feel much better to play as well.
When the first DLC launched in 2015, I snapped it up. Afterbirth added so many new items, floors, characters, and hundreds of extra hours of content that I couldn’t resist. A game that was already endlessly replayable became even more replayable. Unfortunately, Afterbirth never made it to the Vita, so any time I went back to that version it felt like a step backwards. That said, I played it right up until my Vita finally gave up the ghost.
Daily runs were also added, giving players a specific seed every day and enabling leaderboards so I could check how I compared to the rest of the world (usually not too bad, thanks for asking). I also love that certain days had obviously curated items and characters to fit a certain theme – like turning Isaac into former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata every December 6th for his birthday.
A Community Divided
It was here that Isaac split the community. There was a super popular (and insanely ambitious) mod for Rebirth called Antibirth, that totally remade sections of the game. I watched NL play it and it looked amazing. I was about to install it when AB came along, but it turned out that the new official expansion broke the mod, and I read some complaints that Antibirth could break some things in the expansion. So I decided not to. Both sets of developers said they were working to bring Antibirth to Afterbirth, but it never happened. Which is a real shame, because I really wanted to try some of the stuff in Antibirth.
But that was okay, because there was another official expansion coming that would take care of that.
Yikes. It’s hard for me to be kind to AB+, because despite adding some cool items, the ways that they diluted the quality of other things really hurts the experience. I went into this in my previous article, so I won’t go to deep here. But safe to say, they made pills less valuable; they made Devil deals worse; there are too many enemies that take too long to kill; there are too many meme items that you only use once; there’s no reason to want to visit the new final floor and the final boss is garbage.
But other than that I guess it’s fine?
So the game has become a bit bloated, and it’s with stuff that can’t really be tweaked after the fact. It feels like they wanted to advertise a certain number of items so they just added a couple of new memes. It feels like they wanted to boost per-run play time, so they added tanky enemies (or added super armour).
And still no Antibirth.
I don’t know if the name Repentance is because they’re going to make up for the mistakes made in AB+, or if there’s just new canon that it fits with. I don’t know how they can fix the things that I don’t like about AB+ and I’ll be hesitant to grab Repentance just like I was with AB+. Maybe they have some major fixes planned, I don’t know. I know the Antibirth developers are working with the main team now, so hopefully that’ll mean good things.
I still love the game, I really do. I just never bother with most of the Afterbirth+ content. I’d really like to have them add content that I actively want to play and experience. I guess we’ll find out!
Where to Buy The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth
Please note that some links may have affiliate referral codes attached to them. These links allow me to get a small commission from the sale price at no extra cost to you, which helps keep my website running. Thanks!