It feels like it’s been a long, long time since The Binding of Isaac released in 2011. Even 2012’s Wrath of the Lamb expansion could only hold us over for so long, and hundreds of hours in Isaac’s basement have begun to feel their age ever since The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth first made its beautiful existence known to us.
Somewhere between a full remake of the original and a massive, content-doubling expansion, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth features hundreds of new items, a haunting new soundtrack, a massive visual upgrade, multiplayer options, and, most importantly, it is no longer coded in Flash. While we all count the days until its release on November 4th, here’s our favorite features confirmed so far.
#5 Hard Mode
Developer Edmund McMillen revealed this new, brutal difficulty just a few days before writing on the official Rebirth Tumblr. While, like most upcoming features for Rebirth, McMillen will only unveil some barebones details for Hard Mode before release, he has outlined the basic concept.
Making the Isaac formula even more impossibly brutal than usual, Hard Mode will stop bosses from spawning HP drops and feature curses on every single floor. As always, there are some other effects that have not been announced just yet, but higher champion spawns are very likely, and I would not be surprised if minibosses like the already obnoxiously frequent Greed and Super Greed show up more often as well.
The new GBA-inspired graphics actually that The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth features had their start in a contest that McMillen launched in 2013, pitting a series of pixel art styles against each other: out of a battle between SNES, heavy black outlines, GBA, and original-but-pixelated mockups, fans voted in the GBA style for the future of Rebirth.
Since the end of the poll and McMillen’s eventual partnership with Nicalis, the team responsible for excellent distribution work on Cave Story and VVVVVV, for porting Rebirth, the style has been refined and pushed forward to the monstrous and disgusting but absolutely sublime pixels we see in screenshots today. A full suite of particle effects, new lighting algorithms, and lots of small detail touches, all made possible thanks to the abandonment of Flash, make Rebirth darker, more sinister, and far more realized than the original game.
Last week, McMillen announced on the official Tumblr that a Flash-inspired sprite set would be unlockable in Rebirth as a throwback for all the Isaac players who fell in love with the crude, unsettling style of the original title. Even more excitingly, the same post revealed that a full list of art filters will be available as rewards in Rebirth, including a CRT monitor style.
Of all of the things longtime Isaac players expected in a remake of their favorite roguelite, this was certainly not on the list – but it has become one of the most exciting prospects. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth features, as expected, a host of new room arrangements and several new special rooms to mix things up and keep gameplay fresh. Unexpectedly, however, McMillen announced that the new game engine allowed the dev team to expand past the traditional one-by-one rooms of vanilla Isaac and build massive rooms the size of four original rooms or extremely long rooms.
This could mean anything from tons of mobs in a single room to multiple bosses, and all the sweet, sweet loot that goes along with them. A giant square room could make for a spectacular final boss on one of the new floors that Rebirth will eventually feature.
One of Rebirth’s top selling points so far is the massive list of new and updated items currently floating about on the official Tumblr. Not only have all of the items from the first game been updated and fixed (Rusted Key actually does something now! The Bean works like Blue Candle!) but hundreds more are on the way. While a great deal of these are going to be balance-enhancing and run-smoothing stat boosters, there are a ton of new tear effects that have been making huge waves online.
Leading the charge is the Ludovico Technique, a not-too-subtle reference to A Clockwork Orange that changes the entire game’s tear mechanics, letting players control a single giant tear with the arrow keys. New additions like Small Planet add on new trajectories like tear orbits, and ingenious new passives like the Champion Belt let you gain huge amounts of damage in exchange for making the game harder, in this case by making the now more difficult champions spawn more often.
This is the big one. Anyone who plays The Binding of Isaac for a serious amount of time will inevitably experience the frustration of having game-winning items override each other. Whether IPECAC takes precedence over your high fire rate run or you have to decide between Dr. Fetus and Mom’s Knife, the items in Isaac simply don’t work together the way they should. Rebirth is about to change all of that, with items combining to produce and array weird and wonderful effects.
Mom’s Knife and Brimstone unleash a massive screen-wide stream of blades on your foes. Technology plus Spoon Bender rewards you with a homing laser that arcs between every enemy in the room. I’m sure your imagination can handle all the delicious possibilities when you combine Epic Fetus with any other shot augmentation in the game. This addition will drastically improve strategic possibilities for Rebirth and shake up the decision processes that are firmly established in the community as a result of bugs in the original. Sacred Heart will finally be the amazing, game-winning item it should be any time you pick it up.
Given the giant new item pool, run-winning combinations won’t show up all too often, but the mere thought of something like Quad Shot Mom’s Knife is enough to get me hyped for all the new items in Rebirth.
What are you most excited about for the Rebirth launch? Any items you’re itching to try out? The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth launches on all major digital distribution platforms on PC along with the PS4 and PS Vita on November 4th.