The Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb: Isaac, harder

June 21, 2012

Wrath of the Lamb is technically a DLC pack for The Binding of Isaac. I say technically, because DLC typically adds a new character or a few new items. Isaac’s own Halloween update was like this; it added a new dungeon floor and a few new items. Wrath of the Lamb adds a new level, alternate versions of the old levels, a challenge mode, a new item type, and a slew of new items. Wrath of the Lamb is less DLC in the vein of Mass Effect 2’s side missions (which were fantastic and by no means bad DLC), and more expansion pack, like StarCraft: Brood War. You’re getting a whole new game to lay on top of the one you already own.

For those that don’t know, The Binding of Isaac is best described as Legend of Zelda meets a roguelike. The NES classic formula of wandering around a dungeon and clearing out rooms has been updated and improved on the PC. No longer do you do things in a set order and receive the hookshot, then the stepladder, and finally the bow. In Isaac, each game is different. This morning I had homing arrows that got more powerful the further away from me they traveled. This afternoon I had bombs that I could lob at enemies and walls to find secret areas. Even after you’ve completed the game with each character (there are seven, all of them except Isaac must be unlocked), the replay value is immense. According to Steam I have over 30 hours logged, and I still haven’t found all of the items available in the base game.

Wrath of the Lamb provides new and more challenging enemies and bosses to take down as well. I’m pretty good at the base Isaac game. If I don’t beat it, I come darn close. I died three times this morning, and each time it was on the first dungeon floor. Wrath of the Lamb isn’t screwing around when it comes to difficulty, and it’s wonderful for it. Wrath of the Lamb also introduces new treasure chest types and new room types. There are now red chests, rooms whose doors are full of spikes (meaning you have to decide whether it is worth half a heart to get in), and rooms where treasure chests will only appear if you hurt yourself by walking on the spikes in the center. If The Binding of Isaac was about exploration, then Wrath of the Lamb is about risk-versus-reward.

The final addition (that I have found) in Wrath of the Lamb is trinkets. Trinkets are new items that provide a passive bonus. In addition to your arrows and alternate item, a trinket will have a (usually) positive effect on your character and are carried in their own slot so you don’t have to worry about choosing between a trinket and the spacebar item that it making it possible for you to survive. I like the addition: it’s fun to try to figure out a whole new class of items, what they do and what trinkets pair well with what spacebar items. It’s a small addition, but it really adds quite a bit to the game.

This is what good DLC looks like. It’s substantial, it’s affordable, and it’s gotten me back into a game that I thought I was all done with. If you love Zelda but don’t always want to put up with that pesky plot and overworld, then Binding of Isaac with Wrath of Lamb laid over it belongs in your Steam library.

Pros: New enemies, new rooms, new items, new item type, new bosses, new character, and new final level all for only $3
Cons: Flash causes Isaac to chug even on great PCs, gory imagery may not appeal to all players

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.