Longest day today. Now it all gets shorter.
Anyway. I’ve owned The Binding Of Isaac, the original flash game, on Steam for a while. Only really played it a little, but I always adored it. The art had its own style, a thick, bordered style that I’ve often used for my own art. The layout was simple. The HUD took up a large amount of the screen but showed you everything clearly, even the seven billion soul hearts you had. Times were quiet and simple.
I never got very far on the original Binding of Isaac. I never managed to beat Mom. I never even got past the caves. Using two sets of arrow keys (WASD and Up, Down, Left and Right) was always a struggle for me, and using the mouse made me even worse as I’d lose track of where I was firing. But bless me, I tried. Somehow, I ended up owning the DLC Wrath of the Lamb, which added a bunch of stuff.
When Binding of Isaac: Rebirth was announced, everyone was slightly worried. Incredibly happy but also worried. People always are with change. Particularly about the art style, which had changed from the thick outline Flash style to a somewhat thinner but still outlined pixel art style. Other changes included a brand new (and equally amazing) soundtrack, better performance, game saves and a HUGE amount of gameplay changes, including nerf to the maximum amount of health you could obtain, from infinite in Binding of Isaac (assuming you had a way to generate infinite soul hearts) to a maximum of 12 hearts of any type in Rebirth. Many instant-damage rooms, rooms in which you couldn’t avoid taking damage no matter what you did, were removed, only to be replaced with slightly more fair bit equally annoying and tedious rooms.
Another major change was firing tears. Firing with arrow keys became the default, with the mouse no longer working at all. You can re-enable mouse firing with mods, but it does conflict with some items.
Afterbirth, the first DLC, came with more changes. Beloved items were nerfed (looking at you, Stopwatch), and some items actually became good, like Crack the Sky. Most of these changes though, particularly the Stopwatch nerf, were later considered to be better for the game, especially since the original Stopwatch was a game-winner pretty much on its own.
The secret character, the Lost, was another unusual one. In Rebirth, the Lost was basically unplayable, since he started with fuck all and died in one hit no matter what. The only way to win was to hope you’d get Dead Cat (which gives you 9 lives) or Holy Mantle (which blocks one hit per room) and get a build strong enough to reach the end of the game, or completely cheese the game by getting Gnawed Leaf and an orbital, contact damage familiar. But that’d take forever. In Afterbirth, the Lost starts with the D4, which allows him to reroll items he currently has, meaning you have a bigger chance of getting a strong item combination. Also, playing the new Greed Mode gave players the chance to unlock Holy Mantle as a starting item on the Lost, completely changing the character’s playstyle. Rather than the one-hit-dead system, you can take one hit in every room, meaning that Lost has both only one health and infinite health, depending on how well you play. Of course, some think that new Lost is too easy with Holy Mantle unlocked, but you can’t please everyone.
Now, the title of worse character goes to the new new secret character, the Keeper, who, like the original Lost, struggles and only has a maximum of 4 hits before he dies, often can’t take devil deals (which offer powerful items in exchange for health) and renders many of the pickups in the game useless (as red, soul and black hearts do nothing, and many items that give health don’t work past your second ‘heart’). Just like the Lost of old, the Keeper relies on getting the perfect item combination, but as the number of in-game items increases, those chances get smaller and smaller.
Afterbirth+ promises yet more items and possibly more changes, but has the bonus of including dev tools, so players can make changes and custom additions themselves. But you can’t deny that most of the changes in general were good for the game. A simple flash game has gone a long way, with a dedicated community and a long life that you wouldn’t expect from something so inherently simple.
The original Binding of Isaac hasn’t been forgotten completely though. For those who still play it and probably have 101% on the game, a free update was added, called Eternal Addition. This adds a hard mode and a couple of new achievements. When they say hard mode, they certainly mean it. For someone who can barely make it past the Basement, Hard mode means I barely make it past the first floor.
At the end of the day, the Binding of Isaac did change for the better. But the developers are smart, they try to cater to everyone and don’t leave you in silence. Even if their conversations with the community are often secretive at best and insanely cryptic at worst.