With the Binding of Isaac Rebirth's second expansion, series creator Edmund McMillen is handing the reigns over to the community. On top of the much-anticipated mod support, Afterbirth+ also features 69 new items scattered across new levels, a collection of new enemies and bosses, a new character, and many new ways to kill poor little Isaac. Afterbirth+ marks a turning point in the never-ending saga that is the Binding of Isaac; but is it a worthy send-off to Isaac's story?
If it wasn't clear, it should be stated that this expansion isn't for new players. Afterbirth+ is hard, but might be too hard for its own good. It's so difficult that Edmund has already tweeted plans to fix many of the balance issues. As of now, he has fixed the spawn rates of the Void Portal enemies, lowered the spawn percentage of the Stone Fatties, and removed the now infamous "Blastocyst Room." Other patches have already begun rolling out fixing bugs, crashes, and implementing balance changes. After a few days of playing, I noticed a drastic change in the difficulty as the patches fixed many of the initial problems I had with the expansion.
The new bosses of Afterbirth+ are natural extensions of previous bosses. Big Horn expands on Little Horn by slapping you around with his giant hands and flings troll bombs out like crazy. Delirium is the new end boss with every attack being a move performed by a different boss, which becomes incredibly hectic and unpredictable. Unfortunately, his level is kind of a letdown. Called the Void, it changes things up by having every new room picked from a different floor in the game. Replaying these rooms becomes redundant, and the entire floor comes across as a missed opportunity.
The new items that Isaac and friends have at their disposal range from awesome to strange to head-scratching. For example, Jacob's Ladder allows Isaac to shoot electricity everywhere and provides wonderful synergies with other items. I also picked up Cricket's Body, which allowed Jacob's Ladder to run wild and shock everything in the room, as my electric tears now had splash damage. On the other hand, Moldy Bread is just another health increasing item, which isn't really that interesting. Of course, the most notable of the new items is the Void, which is not to be confused with the level of the same name. The new character Apollyon starts with this item, and it's the one thing that makes the new character stand out. It consumes any pedestal item in the room. If the item was a space bar active item, then the effect gets added whenever you use the Void. If the item was a passive item then it becomes consumed and provides a random stat boost to your character.
The new challenges do a great job at bringing out the bizarre possibilities of Isaac. "Backasswards" starts Isaac at Mega Satan and having to work his way back to the level one basement. My personal favorite is "April Fools," where every item, coin, heart, bomb, etc. is a lie and you have no idea what will happen. It's RNG taken to its extreme conclusion. I'm glad the challenges this time around aren't as tedious and rage-inducing like past challenges (Looking at you "Brains!").
Unfortunately, the new items once again highlight an issue that has plagued Isaac since day one. With most of the items, you initially have no idea what they do. For many of the items in-game, I had to leave the game and open up a wiki to see what the items actually do. I completely understand the intention of the developers to make item descriptions vague at best, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating. I was eventually able to alleviate this issue by installing a mod that gives a full description of the items, and the developers are looking into integrating something like this into the game officially.
For many, Afterbirth+ is an expansion based on potential. With the new mod tools, the community can keep Isaac in a constant state of torture for many years to come. I'm already having a blast with the Pokemon mod, which turns every character and enemy into different Pokemon or characters from the anime. As I said before, the item description mod allows me to fully understand the new items and synergies. Edmund is planning to officially add the best of this community-created content into the game once a month. The mod scene is still young, but great stuff is already being published by fans and breathes new life into this 2014 game.
Afterbirth+ is an expansion that will become excellent in time. With the potential of mod support and balance patches, I see the Binding of Isaac community staying strong for many years to come. The expansion might not break new ground, but keep digging through the mods and soon Isaac will reach the depths of hell.
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ expansions was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
Afterbirth+ doesn't break much new ground, but the inclusion of mod support potentially provides Isaac's community with years of content to torture themselves with.
- Tons of Substantial New Content
- Endless Potential of Mods
- New Ways To Shoot Poop
- Steep Learning Curve
- Some Generic Additions