Every expansion to The Binding of Issac had a sort of theme to them. With Wrath of the Lamb, it was spiders. Spider enemies and some spider items, among other things. Rebirth gave us poop enemies. With Afterbirth came Greed stuff, after the Greed miniboss. Head of the Keeper, a new playable Greed character that’s next in a spiral to create an even worse character to suffer through, and the ever wonderful Greed Mode.
Greed Mode is an alternative way to play Issac, in a sort of quick and distilled version of the game. Every floor is the same, a central double room, with a extra large shop to the north, two item rooms to the east, a curse room (that costs a heart to use) to the west, and the locked exit to the south.
You progress by defeating waves of enemies, 10 waves per floor, which are triggered by a central button. Pressing the button again interrupts the next wave from spawning, but costs health to do so. The waves automatically stop after the 8th wave, as the last two are bosses to defeat. There is an optional 11th wave, which spawns the devil or angel room on completion. Each wave done drops money, which you spend in the shops for Cool Stuff to help you.
Problem is, Greed Mode sucks. Beyond beating it with each character and filling the donation box at the end, there’s no real reason to choose Greed Mode. It just isn’t very fun, for several reasons.
#1: Schizo Difficulty
Greed mode is only really difficult at two times: the first floor, and the last floor. More often than not, the middle is a breeze, as you become powerful enough that you can rush through each wave before the next can spawn in, with little risk of damage. I’ll get to the final boss later, so what about that first floor.
The problem with the basement is twofold, the spawns and what you start with. What spawns on each floor really runs the gambit in Greed Mode. It could be anything between enemies from a floor later than the one you’re on, all the way to a bunch of troll bombs or even harmless poop. This also applies to the bosses, you can fight later bosses than usual as well.
Moreover, Greed Mode starts you off with one item. Any one item from the Item Room pool, which is the biggest pool of items. There’s also the Curse Room, but that costs health and more often than not contains nothing useful. You have no money to buy anything or access the second item room with a key.
So the basement floor is especially lethal, as you often fight tougher enemies than usual, and your one item is often not enough. You also usually cannot finish a wave before the next one spawns, meaning you can be overwhelmed by multiple waves being stacked.
Or you could get lucky, and your basement waves consist of only flies and poop. And if you survive the basement, the rest of the run is typically very easy as you start to accumulate items with all your money.
#2: Stupid Devil Rooms
In Greed Mode, you can do an optional 11th wave after the two boss fights in order to open a Devil Room. The Devil Room is guaranteed on every floor aside from the last, as long as you do the optional 11th wave. But the items it offers are… off. There seem to be extra items that shouldn’t be there, assuming there are items at all. Very often you will only get some red chests, a couple of black or soul hearts or even just a couple of pills, which are often damaging to you!
Krampus can also spawn in Devil Rooms, but Head of Krampus works even less well because of the 6 room charge which does not sync well with the normal 10-11 rooms you do.
If you avoid Devil Rooms and go for Angel Rooms? They’re generally just as bad. Very often all they’ll have is a single eternal heart.
#3: Ultra Greed is not a fun fight
Ultra Greed is one of the few bosses in the Binding of Isaac to use damage scaling. Basically, he’ll begin to build resistances, stopping you from taking huge chunks of his health in one go. In theory, this should mean that someone with a high damage run and a low damage run should both be able to defeat Ultra Greed, it just ends up making the fight slower when it should be. Ultra Greed has a LOT of health as it is, so making it so your extra damage gets negated if you hurt him too fast seems counter intuitive to becoming powerful in the first place.
The damage resistance puts a hamper on an otherwise incredibly powerful run. You may have breezed through everything else, but you are still taking the same amount of time at the end. The only way around this is to have a very low tear fire rate but high damage sort of thing, like using IPECAC, as the damage resistances will slowly fade if the boss is not damaged after a few seconds. Really, who wants to NOT shoot at a boss?
On top of this, Ultra Greed’s attacks are rather random, with some of them having a chance to heal him. The spinning coins move on their own with no rhyme or reason, and the enemies that spawn are just a distraction while you chip away at a boss with a huge amount of health. The spinning heart and key coins in particular are a huge distraction since you have no choice but to kill them or risk your battle becoming a lot easier with either Ultra Greed regaining health or a swarm of Gapper-like Greed enemies spawning and charging at you.
Oh, and just like all other Greed-like enemies, if you get hurt, you’ll drop coins. Which Ultra Greed will try to eat to heal himself.
Ultra Greedier, an extra stage of Ultra Greed who you fight in Afterbirth+, is also somewhat annoying, as he has lasers that severely limit where you can fight, but his phases and patterns are slightly more predictable.
#4: The Donation Machine at the end
There’s a LOT of stuff to unlock with Greed Mode, and some of that involves filling the Donation Machine that appears at the end of the game after you’ve beaten Ultra Greed. One of the best things in the game, starting with the Holy Mantle on the Lost (who otherwise instantly dies in one hit), requires filling this machine to 879 coins, and the Keeper requires you to fill the machine to 999 to unlock him. So while you’re trying to unlock things, you’re torn between putting money to one side to put in the donation machine and spending your money to make sure you can actually defeat Ultra Greed to be able to donate things.
But this donation machine makes everything worse by the fact that it can randomly break, no longer accepting your coins! Sure there’s a percentage chance displayed above, but that doesn’t make it better when the machine breaks after only donating a handful of coins.
#5: You quickly see all there is to see
Greed Mode is basically a faster version of a normal Binding of Isaac run. But after you’ve unlocked everything, there is almost no reason to go back to it. A lot of the randomness from normal runs is lost simply because you always travel the same path. There are no alternate floors. Many of the bosses are repeated or the same. Especially Polycephalus and the Stain. There is only one real plan of action, to get money, defeat waves and survive that first floor.
At the end of the day, the challenge quickly fades. There are very few surprises in store. You just do Greed Mode, get the rewards (only one if which, Lilith, is any good) and then you get the hell out of there.
Editor’s Note: This article was started by DapperApples and finished by Medic.