When I was a kid and games started to feature more destructible objects and terrain, I dreamt of a game with fully reactive environments. I wanted a game where fire spreads, water drains ,and terrain is destructible. There have been a few contenders over the years that get some of these aspects correct—but I’ve never played a game that has all of that, and is as fun, as Noita.
Noita is 2D side-scrolling action roguelike with an emphasis on physics-based gameplay. In Noita, every pixel matters, and in these procedurally generated caves, everything can be destroyed, burned, melted, etc. This makes environmental hazards just as dangerous as the various enemies you’ll encounter. You play as a lone purple cloaked magic wielding adventurer who decided to go cave diving. As you dive deeper into the cave, you’ll find new environments—and new hazards to die in, or use to your advantage. Noita is a game that is rife with emergent gameplay possibilities. Sometimes fights can become unpredictable with a misplaced explosive—and even just a little bit of dripping corrosive can change the dynamics of a run. Every pixel matters.
One of my favorite recent runs I found a huge vat of polymorphine—a magical chemical that turns enemies (and you, if you’re not careful) into sheep. I shot a fire bolt at the base, which slowly burned, and dumped the huge vat of polymorphine down into the level below. I followed in its aftermath, to find a cave full of harmless sheep—who I mercilessly slaughtered for their gold. A lot of the fun isn’t just that the environment reacts, but also how it reacts. Explosions are appropriately explosive and deadly. Liquids pool, drain and drip in a way that’s believable. Fire can spread, and set off an unpredictable set of chain reactions. Water makes you wet, blood makes you bloody, oil makes you flammable—and flame makes you dead. Jumping in water solves a lot of chemical and fire related burning—but it’s hard to find clear water. Poison works in a jam to put out fire, but now you’re covered in poison.
Noita is broke up into different, distinct environments. You don’t have to kill enemies to to succeed—in fact, you can choose to ignore them most of the time, but you won’t get the gold they drop. At the end of each section, you’re able to use gold to purchase randomly generated magic affixes or wands. You’ll also be given a choice of buffs that will stay with you on your run and get healed, as well as getting your magic topped off.
Your main weaponry in Noita is wands—but wands are customizable, and come with random spell affixes. Between caves you can even purchase new affixes, or mix and match your current ones. Some spells can be dangerous, and many of my earlier runs were ended because I was experimenting with different combinations of spells. My advice is: be careful with fire and explosions. But the ability to mix and match magic to creature your own spells is great fun, and you can create not only deadly weapons, but tools to help protect yourself against enemies, dig tunnels, etc.
You will encounter many creatures in Noita—and the vast majority want to kill you. The caves are full of monsters, but there are also the Hiisi—native inhabitants of the cave– that use technology to try and thwart you. There are also monstrous worms that burrow through the caves and will try to kill you. Even hurting some creatures can be harmful—as some bleed toxic blood, or even lava.
In Noita death is permanent. If you die, you have to start over with a new run. Unlike most roguelikes, there isn’t really progression between runs—just the knowledge you gain. Noita is pretty difficult, and it can be chaotic. I can get through most roguelikes in a few marathon sessions, but I slowed down significantly to play Noita. It’s not that it’s more difficult necessarily, it’s just rife for experimentation. Patience and knowledge of the game’s systems can go a long way to ensure survival. Knowing which buffs to take, how to carry back up water to mitigate status effects, and which magic affixes to use only come with playing with the various systems the game has to offer. While this isn’t unique to Noita, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this much fun just playing around. It’s just as much as a sandbox as a roguelike—too bad there isn’t a sandbox mode.
Noita is fully moddable, so I’m sure someone out there has made a type of sandbox mode. But if you’re not into mods, there are three ways you can play Noita: regular run, daily run, and nightmare run. You can also practice the daily run, since you only get one shot at it.
It’s hard to find something to not like about Noita. It’s insanely fun, sometimes unpredictable and chaotic, and full of emergent gameplay moments. It’s like a sandbox that also happens to be a really great action roguelike. If you like video games at all, you’ll have fun playing Noita.
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