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Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ rebalances annoying bits

A much-needed patch has arrived for the new Binding of Isaac: Rebirth [official site] expansion, Afterbirth+, to fix bugs and balance problems. Yes, this does address some of the irritants that Adam raised in his review. Those flipping nuisance enemy-summoning portals are less common, for one, and the Sister Vis boss battle is less of a chore. I’ve already put a fair few hours into Afterbirth+ myself and welcome these changes. Some parts of Afterbirth+ made Isaac simply worse, so I’m glad it’s being worked on. More patches are in the pipeline too.

Isaac is usually pretty bad at releasing patch notes but last night’s changelog is surprisingly clear on the crashes and bugs it fixes (some would-be players are still complaining about crashes, mind). Frustratingly, the notes entirely gloss over balance tweaks, simply saying “Various adjustments for balance and fairness.” Isaac co-creator Edmund McMillen listed some on Twitter:

All of that sounds good. Sister Vis was a rubbish boss fight, Big Horn’s attacks could seem iffy (though I do like the fight itself), Portals were too common, Greedier mode was too stingy… yup, good stuff.

In the opposite direction, I understand Apollyon’s item-devouring Void was been tweaked so you only get a single use out of single-use active items – no more crunching on Pandora’s Box or Mega Mama for mega-powers.

What frustrates me about Afterbirth+ is how many of its new threats are simply a test of your damage. Certain portal rooms take ages with low damage, not necessarily difficult but certainly time-wasting and dull. Sister Vis telegraphs attacks poorly but I wouldn’t have minded if the fight didn’t take so long. The bullying stone giants aren’t hard, they’re just annoying. Greed mode’s new hard difficulty was basically a test of whether I got game-crushing DPS quickly or not; I’d die within the first few floors run after run then get lucky with a wild damage item or two and blow through it all without much of a challenge. And ‘Bad’ items I might occasionally pick up for funsies, such as Soy Milk or Tiny Planet, become too boring to ever take in Afterbirth+ where damage reigns.

But! On the whole, I have been enjoying Afterbirth+. I’m hopeful that, with time and patches, I’ll settle into seeing it as just part of the wonderful grab bag that is Isaac. I’m trying to avoid staring at individual new elements in isolation, as Isaac is about everything altogether played over time. Yeah, it’s not stellar, but it adds some good ingredients and I’m excited to see what official mod support will enable. I’m still blown away by the huge mod Antibirth – and that was made before official tools even arrived.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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