Monday, 5 January 2015

The Perfect Imbalance of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Over the last two weeks of 2014 I was horribly ill. I also picked up the Binding of Isaac: Rebirth on the holiday steam sale. It wasn't that much of a discount, but the game isn't that expensive to begin with.

I played a little bit of Isaac before rebirth came out, but not a whole lot. I'm not a huge fan of the graphical style, and I found it kind of monotonous. I don't know how much is the redesign and how much is a change in me, but wow is Rebirth a lot more fun.

I've played 40 some hours of it, though those are erroneously counted because Steam simply counts all hours the game is open. My best win streak is 2, I haven't even unlocked the actual end bosses yet and I haven't played hard mode at all, so it's fair to say that I'm not very good at the game at all. There's a feeling you get when and enemy shoots a shot at you and you just back straight away from it and get hit by it instead of side-stepping. It's the feeling of "I have no business playing this."

But then the extreme power variance of items comes to the rescue. Some items are so powerful individually, or pairs of items are so powerful in combination, that I can parlay my lacklustre abilities into in a win. The first two times I got to Satan I just ran out of steam in his third phase, gradually succumbing to enemies spawning on top of me. The last time I got to Satan I blew through phase three in about 15 seconds thanks to bouncing, homing shots that hit him over and over every time they were fired. My lone winning fight against Isaac so far comes on the back of simply getting damage upgrades on pretty much every floor and Cancer. I blasted him.

I like that the creators weren't afraid to do wacky things even if they resulted in obscenely powerful combinations. While some items give you "plus damage" others radically change the way you play. This is exactly the kind of thing that I talk about when I say people should stop worrying about balance and make games fun. The occasional easy run makes the game more fun for everyone - those who wouldn't be able to win otherwise, and those who win almost every time and deserve a little break now and then. Plus, a person who can win with Maggie regularly might need some help to win with ???. So many settings and so many random events means everyone can find their own level and play at it.

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