Noita is a ruthless and mercilessly deep pixel roguelike

Posted on October 31, 2020

Releasing as a complete, “1.0” product in mid October, Noita is a fascinating and deep roguelike title that offers a unique and refreshing approach to the genre. The game takes dungeon delving to a whole new level as you work your way further underground through the game’s various biomes and encounter a plethora of dastardly enemies and environmental hazards.

In Noita everything is a threat. You’ll start the game on the surface with a basic wand and as you explore the game’s various dungeons and caverns you’ll uncover new treasures, wands, potions and more. The game’s combat comes in the form of avoiding enemy attacks whilst casting your own spells to take down foes. Although pretty quickly you’ll discover that the biggest danger is the world around you. Explosives, spreading fire, noxious gas, poison liquids and lava are just a small handful of the many environmental hazards you need to be keenly aware of. Any wrong cast of your way could blow up an explosive object or destroy a piece of the terrain, sending harmful substances your way.

Reaching new depths

Noita is a deep and gruelling experience. There is so much left unsaid and so much for the player to learn that newbies will be instantly on the backfoot. It’s one of Noita biggest assets but also its biggest detractor. Games like Dark Souls have proved that sometimes players like a challenge. Occasionally players want a gaming experience where your hand isn’t held and instead you’re asked to figure stuff out for yourself. Noita certainly occupies this philosophy of play and it brings with it some real benefits and challenges.

In a way, it seems like Noita is deliberately obfuscating information. You’ll start the game with a couple of wands and a potion but you aren’t taught anything outside of how to move, attack with your wand and make your character kick. The wand and potions are random and there are so many different possibilities between what you can start with and what you can acquire throughout your run. You’ll eventually need to learn what they all do and how to utilise them properly but this isn’t a quick or easy task. Take potions for example. You may start the game with a water potion and that’s pretty self explanatory. If you get set on fire you can douse yourself with water to put it out. You can drop the water on a fiery surface to douse it or even drop the water on some fire enemies to do damage. But what happens when you start the game with blood, whiskey, concentrated mana, berserkium, polymorphine, flummoxium, or any other of the large selection of liquids found within the game? Each interacts with the world differently. Each reacts differently when you drink it, douse yourself in it, fling it at an enemy, or mix it with another part of the environment. Learning all of these interactions will separate the dedicate players from the newbies, but unless you play with a wiki page open on a second monitor, you’ve got a lot of self discovery and learning to do.

Spellcasting is equally challenging yet admittedly really cool. It’s something I had to watch a couple of YoutTube videos on before I really started understanding it. Basically you can craft your own spells by collecting wands, stripping them of their spells, and using your pool of spells to your liking. You then have spell modifiers which have a huge range of functions and can give your spells extra utility, impact the order in which spells are cast, change the way a spell casts and much more. The wands you find along the way will also have different stats. Some will cast spells randomly and some will cast them in an order. Some wands will hold multiple spells and some very few. Wands will also differ in cast delay, recharge time, max mana, spread and more.

You won’t get very far in Noita until you figure this system out. Sure, maybe you’ll get lucky and uncover a wand that’s really good by itself. But 99% of the time you’ll want to create your own and you’ll need to understand every single one of the above elements to know what spells to look out for, what wand stats you really need, and how to best utilise the 4 wand slots you’re given. It’s a lot to learn. But Noita doesn’t mind presenting players with this challenge. For better or worse.

Noita is a deep and scary game that’s not very accessible and not friendly to more casual or newer players. That much is true. But in that depth comes a level of reward that most games aren’t capable of striving for. I don’t mind that Noita is a challenge because it’s all the more satisfying when you actually learn and succeed. Could it find a way to be more friendly to newer players? Yes. Yes it could. But I can safely say that I feel like I haven’t even been able to scratch the surface of what Noita has to offer and that’s an incredibly exciting and scary prospect given how much time I’ve already put into this title. A dedicated player will be able to get lost within this game, always finding new things and getting better and better.

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Pixel perfection

The world of Noita is made up of tiny pixels. It’s not the first pixel art game and it certainly won’t be the last, but what Noita is able to achieve with its pixels is unlike anything else I’ve ever really seen. The decision to utilise pixels wasn’t just an art decision, it was a gameplay decision. Much like how Minecraft is made up of many blocks you can interact with, Noita’s tiny pixels are also integrated into the gameplay with every single pixel on your screen simulated within the game. This means that an explosion can take out a chunk of the wall. A dangling piece of structure can be severed at the base to cause it to tumble down through the caves. Water and lava can run along a surface and drop down into the depths below. Wildfire can spread across oil and poisonous gas can float and fill up a crevice with deadly effects. The environment is constantly reactive and every pixel matters in a way that I’ve never seen before.

Both you and your enemies have to be wary of the environment around you. This means you can utilise the environment to your benefit or your detriment. Once again this becomes a learning prospect. You need to know what parts of the environment could prove hazardous and which elements are going to interact with each other in dangerous ways. You need to be constantly aware of your surroundings and careful that you’re not about to drop into your own demise.

“Noita’s tiny pixels are also integrated into the gameplay with every single pixel on your screen simulated within the game”

Visually the pixel style perfectly facilitates the gameplay. It’s an evolving world you occupy and one where the visuals need to convey a lot of information. Sometimes it can feel cluttered and overwhelming, but with so much different information for the player to take in at any given time, that’s a feeling I imagine would be hard to avoid. You’re going to see a lot of visual effects including spells, enemy attacks, environmental hazards, elemental reactions, and more. Don’t focus too much on getting to that next wand, powerup or chunk of gold if it means you’re ignoring any of the many hazards. Read the space around you and take your time. Because in Noita every single pixel matters.

The goal

I’m yet to beat Noita, which is part of the reason I’m hesitant to give the game a full review at this point. But I do feel as though I’m progressing and learning well. Every run your goal is to get as deep into this world as possible. You’ll collect gold from fallen foes, find upgrades along the way, spend your money on spells and more to make the perfect wand, and really try to figure out the best plan of attack to help you get deeper and deeper into this experience. I’m still finding myself coming across new enemies, boss fights, areas, spells and more that I’ve never seen before. But invariably, despite how well I feel as though I’m doing, I’ll get hit by a projectile or fall into lava and my run will be cut short. You then respawn at the beginning with a new set of randomly generated wands and a new randomly generated dungeon in front of you and your journey starts anew.

Noita is a challenging and unforgiving game. It almost feels like the kind of game you need a community around to chat about strategies, share knowledge and progress collectively. The game requires an intimate knowledge of its many systems and a dedication to learn. For me, as somebody who dislikes looking up wikis and plays many games at once, I don’t know if I’m the kind of person who will ever be able to finish Noita. But I know for a certain kind of gamer, Noita will offer up a huge amount of deep and satisfying content that will keep them entertained for hours.