Noita

A game by Nolla Games for PC, not yet released.
Noita is a roguelike actioner starring a wand-wielding wizard (“Noita” is a Finnish word meaning “witch”) who dives into a series of procedurally generated environments in what is essentially a raw gameplay experience without a narrative or any kind of permanent progression system. The thing that separates Noita from other genre entries is the fact that every pixel in the environment is simulated and behaves according to its assigned properties.


This results in a chaotic experience within a physics/chemistry sandbox where the player’s abilities are constantly changing, which impacts how he can affect the environment… occasionally spiraling into madness as the player inadvertently sets off chain reactions that destroy the world around him in spectacular fashion.


Each run begins with the player standing outside of a mine. There is a bit of area to explore here (and secrets if you have the proper skills), but the most direct path sends the player into the mines carrying two wands and a flask of water. The first wand acts as the player’s primary weapon, allowing him to spew a steady stream of purple projectiles that do moderate damage.


The second wand allows the player to make drastic changes to the environment. This wand drops bombs that explode after a few seconds, allowing the player to knock down walls, drain pools of water, and cause heavy damage to nearby enemies… and to the player if he’s not careful. This second wand has a limited capacity, and the player is only able to carry three bombs. Not to fear, because the world is packed with wands that offer new abilities (more on this in a bit).


You also start out with a flask of water, which comes in handy when you find yourself on fire and want to put yourself out quickly. The flask can be tossed and smashed, and the water pixels within will flow downward as expected, eventually pooling in recessed areas. The water can also be sprayed, allowing it to be used more strategically to put out fires, or even to cool lava in order to pass safely across it… potentially leading to secrets or allowing the player to skip ahead to later areas.


The game is filled with different kinds of materials, each of which behaves differently. In the early areas, the primary elements that you need to contend with are fire and water. As mentioned, water flows and pools, and it can be used to put out fires. The mines are lined with lanterns that can be knocked down – either accidentally or on purpose – spilling out their oil and usually igniting. If the oil is sitting on solid ground, it will simply burn away, but if it touches wood, the fire will begin to spread.


Fire burns along flammable surfaces, eventually engulfing floors, walls, and ceilings - and even igniting enemies who get too close - until the wood is completely burned. While burning, the flames will send smoke upward, which rolls along the cave ceilings, and it will even suffocate the player if he stands in it for too long. As expected, fire will melt ice, ignite pools of flammable liquid, and cause some objects to explode, sometimes setting off extensive chain reactions. Fire will also heat water, which turns into vapor that rises up into clouds and eventually rains back down as water.


Some enemies wield explosives or flaming projectiles, further adding to the likelihood that the environment will undergo sudden and unexpected changes… and things get more complex as new substances are added to the mix, including ice, blood, and acid. There are even some magical fluids, such as a polymorph substance that can transform the player or enemies into strange creatures like a giant bug or a sheep with bat wings. There’s also a fluid that teleports anything it touches, one that makes the player or enemies go berserk, and one that charms enemies to fighting alongside you. You may encounter these substances in the wild and find vials of each, which may be tossed or sprayed to let you make use of their effects.


The game even keeps track of the kind of fluid that is coating your clothing. Water is the most useful, as getting fully soaked makes it less likely for you to catch on fire, and jumping into a pool of water lets you put out fires and wash off undesirable fluids such as acid that would otherwise cause continuous damage… but it’s sometimes hard to notice that you’re touching any given fluid given the game’s chunky low-rez art.


If you’re covered in oil, you’re far more likely to be immolated, and being oiled up even makes your movements more slippery. Jumping into water causes the oil to float to the surface, since oil and water don’t mix, and it’s possible that this oil will be ignited and burn above you while you’re submerged and running out of oxygen.


Environments are vertically oriented, with the primary goal being to reach the bottom and teleport to the next area, although there are plenty of secrets of you spend some time exploring instead of descending as quickly as possible. The wizard is able to levitate for long distances, which is important given how often he’ll need to hover over dangerous liquids or wait until a chain reaction runs its course.


By reaching the magical portal at the bottom of the area, the player is teleported to a safe interstitial room which contains pools of water, a full health restoration, and an ammo recharge. There is also a shop that allows the player to purchase one of an assortment of wands or spells, and there’s an alter containing three perks, from which the player may select only one.


Wands are quite expensive, and most are unaffordable in the early going unless the player makes it a point to seek out and destroy as many enemies as possible, each of which drops golden nuggets. There are also lots of wands to be found simply by exploring the environment, with beams of light indicating their presence. Given the game’s random generation, the player is just as likely to find a nice wand for free in the environment as he is in the shop, so money is often best held for purchasing spells unless the player spots something he really likes.


In these interstitial safe areas, the player is able to swap all available spells between any of his wands, and he can carry up to four wands at a time. This allows for quite a bit of customization as the player can combine any and all spell effects, or even string together a series of fast weak attacks and strong explosive attacks. Spells assigned to purchased or discovered wands may be freely swapped as well.


The issue with a lot of the wands is that they’re often not that useful compared to the two that the player starts with. Often, the player simply finds another wand that fires similar projectiles or drops bombs, just like the ones he is carrying. Random generation also means that some wands are ineffective, offering short range attacks or imprecise projectiles. On the flipside, sometimes the player finds incredibly powerful weapons that allow him to mow down hordes of enemies. Furthermore, the player occasionally encounters wands that are so destructive that he is killed the first time he tries to use them.


These factors, combined with the random generation of the environment and often unpredictable chain reactions, means that much of the player’s success on any given run is left entirely to chance. A good run can be brought to a sudden end by accidental splash damage from explosive weapons or any number of environmental hazards. This is compounded by the fact that most enemies are complete bastards. Many baddies are quite mobile, take a lot of hits to destroy, or can swarm on you faster than you can move, and some enemies spray acid when shot, so it’s dangerous to attack them when they’re close to you.


Projectile-tossing enemies are incredibly accurate and have fast firing rates. This means that a single enemy can do quite a lot of damage if the player isn’t good about avoiding its attacks, but being attacked by even two or three enemies at the same time can result in a swift end. These enemies are accurate over a distance, so you must avoid their projectiles by running and levitating while also trying to line up shots of your own… and being mindful of the fact that some enemy projectiles may impact the environment around you in unfavorable ways. If you try to run from these enemies, it’s just as likely that you’ll run into more of them and be further overwhelmed, or find yourself doused in acid or burning oil, losing a bit of health every second.


Health restoration is extremely rare, making it all but impossible to recover from mistakes. When low on health, your best shot at recovery is to get to the bottom of the area and teleport away. The best way to protect yourself is to be smart about the kinds of perks you pick up, some of which make you impervious to certain kinds of damage. For instance, it can be incredibly useful to be immune to fire or explosive damage.


In the end, the game is more about experimentation and toying with the sandbox elements, which often lead to surprising and spectacular outcomes, even if said outcomes result in your death. Nothing is carried over between runs, and the reward for reaching later levels is a tougher set of enemies that drop more gold… but getting there requires a bit of luck when it comes to random generation, especially when it comes to the available wands.



2D CRED
Noita was developed by Nolla Games, a studio comprised of Petri Purho, the developer behind Crayon Physics Deluxe; Olli Harjola, the developer behind The Swapper; and Arvi Teikari, a.k.a. Hempuli, the developer behind Baba Is You and Environmental Station Alpha.


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