The latest expansion for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth caused quite a stir when it was first announced. New items, new rooms and new bosses to make each run even more unique is something Isaac fans relish. When the game’s first expansion, Afterbirth, was released it added new floor designs, hundreds of new items, new music, a new game mode…it expanded upon practically every conceivable aspect of the game. So when The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ hit, you can forgive players for getting as hyped as they did for the first DLC.
To be fair to The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+, you can probably work out from its title that it wasn’t going to be hugely distinct from Afterbirth, but considering the amount of work that was put into that first DLC, Afterbirth+ just feels incredibly lacklustre. Instead of boasting 120 items as with Afterbirth, Afterbirth+ brings 55, instead of 8 new bosses, there’s four. When you compare the two pieces of work, you can start to get an idea of why fans are a tad frustrated.
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ also adds a new final ending to the game (no spoilers here) once you have fought your way through a new floor; the Void, and defeated the final end-game boss; Delirium. The final level itself has left players with a bit of a sour taste in their mouths. It is one seriously massive floor with dozens of different rooms. It’s a true challenge, but there’s no new artwork there to make it distinct, no new lore. The entire floor is made up of rooms found on the various levels you passed through on the way down. You might be in a basement themed room at one moment, and passing through a section of the cathedral the next. There’s no new aesthetic at all, it couldn’t be more recycled. The only unique feature is that there are now several different boss rooms instead of just one, so you never quite know when you’re going to square up against a minor boss, or the big bad.
Delirium itself is a seriously tough fight – almost obnoxiously so. To put it into perspective, the two previous final bosses, Mega Satan and Hush had 5,000 and 7,666 health respectively, while Delirium has 10,000. I personally managed to defeat the boss, but in my (very) lucky run I was overpowered to the point of stupidity, with no other enemy on the entire floor, bosses and all, even coming close to damaging me – and still Delirium took me from full health to half a heart.
Delirium also transforms into versions of the game’s other bosses, and it’s specific to your run so if you faced off against Chub or Gish earlier on, you’ll likely see Delirium versions now. It’s actually very cool, especially as the forms are ‘Delirium-ified’, but it’s coupled with a seemingly random teleportation mechanic which just adds to the boss’s difficulty, which gets faster as the fight goes on. Transformations and the boss’s move speed also get quicker and quicker. Hey, maybe this is just me sucking at the game and I should git gud, but for 90% of the runs where you actually reach Delirium, it seems to me that you’re unlikely to come close to scratching him.
Another area that felt a bit…meh was the new Greed Hard, or Greedier mode. It’s fairly easy to work out the format – they’ve taken Hard mode, and applied it to Greed mode, meaning special ‘champion’ mobs sometimes spawn, and fewer coins drop, making it more difficult to buy decent items from the floor’s shop. Again, this doesn’t feel like an innovation. Yes the new enemies from the DLC are now in Greed mode, but honestly? It’s just making enemies more annoying to deal with and passing it off as content. The only real fresh addition is the fact that once you’ve defeated Ultra Greed, he now has a second form (Ultra Greedier), with a few new high-power attacks, and a refreshed health bar.
It’s worth mentioning though that the devs have been very active in patching bugs and re-scaling items and enemies since The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ launched. Worthy of a special mention is the new Portal enemy, which used to continuously spawn random enemies until it was destroyed, but now only spawns 1-5, and crops up FAR less often during your run. They were particularly annoying to deal with on most characters, but are now just a minor nuisance – something I’d like to see more of going forward. Nicalis have also said that they will make a continuous effort to add new items, challenges, floor designs etc. produced by the community into the game, which if implemented properly could really make up for the lacklustre launch. This time next year the game could be totally different and I think that it could be the better for it. Here’s hoping.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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