Looking Back @ The Binding of Isaac

Looking Back @ The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+

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.

Afterbirth

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.

Looking Back @ The Binding of Isaac

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.

Afterbirth+

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?

Looking Back @ The Binding of Isaac

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.

Repentance

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

Steam | Humble | Switch

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Check out my full list of First Look videos, Quick Looks and other Looking Back retrospectives!