Noita review — In the mouth of madness

Noita review — In the mouth of madness

The rogue-lite genre isn’t known for being kind. That being said, most games that fit the description actually want you to win. Noita does not. Noita wants you to die. At any given moment, you’re a single blink of your eyes away from death, which isn’t going to be for everybody. But it’s a remarkable game with some fascinating mechanics and hilariously random instances of horrid death that is already widely-beloved by those interested in its unique brand of sadism.

Noita doesn’t waste any time on story or setup. You’re a mage, and you’re going deep into a series of areas in order to kill a big thing. The game isn’t interested in telling you why, it only cares about telling you: “die.” When you start the game, you’re given a choice between four modes. There are the standard run and the harder nightmare run for the 13.8% of current players who’ve actually beaten the game. Then you have the daily seed, which can only be attempted once per day, and the (also seeded) brand new daily practice run that starts you in a random part of the game with an assortment of wands and potions. You can try this one as many times as you want.

The game has had a large amount of content in it for some time now. However, the 1.0 update mostly fleshes things out, adding more to levels, and makes some surprising changes. Prior to 1.0, Noita always started you with a default wand and a flask of water. That flask was insanely helpful, as you could just spray yourself with water after catching on fire or getting poisoned. Instead, now you start with a different wand and a random flask or potion. I love having random wands, but I do greatly miss the water flask, even if desperately dousing yourself with some polymorph potion when you’re burning to death with no water in sight makes for a fairly hectic, amusing scenario.

Noita 1

Into the dark

If you’re not at all familiar with the way Noita handles, it’s quite simple. You start outside a cave system and you progress downward in order to reach a purple portal. These portals transport you to the laboratory (replacing the Holy Mountain area of the past, even if it’s functionally identical). The laboratory lets you refill your health, refresh your spells, buy new spells or wands, and lets you pick from one of three random perks. These perks are going to have a big say in how each of your runs plays out. You can get one that gives you an extra life, or a permanent shield, or even one that gives you giant monster legs that automatically attack nearby enemies. Gross!

Your character is a mage in purple robes who can use wands and potions, levitate, and kick things. You’ll need to descend into the caves. Or whatever they are. There’s a friggin’ underground forest down there, too. And a base with machines that relentlessly hunt you. You’ll need to use your wands to defeat enemies before they murder the hell out of you. You can’t take much punishment at all and, as every pixel is simulated, anything can happen. An explosion overhead can have part of a structure drop down on you as a fire spreads, only for part of a wall to get broken which releases poisonous water everywhere. What about safety regulations, Noita?!

Enemies drop gold when they die, and it can also be found in the ground if you’ve got a way of digging it out. Noita always starts you with a secondary wand that comes with three bomb charges that you can use to blast most things away. New wands and potions can be found by exploring, and you can also find pickups that increase your maximum health. While all that’s well and good, it’s often a better idea to just book it straight for the laboratory, as it’s insanely easy to die when trying to explore.

Noita 2

Wand-er alone

The enemies in Noita are dangerous. Seriously. They start off simply enough, even if the ones that throw explosives can ruin your day in short order. By the time you get to the third biome, the gloves not only come off but are thrown hard at your face. The game has no qualms about throwing hordes of foes at you at once and, if you try and fight them all, it’s typically only going to go one way. As I pointed out earlier, only 13.8% of players have beaten this game. This is not something you go into aiming to immediately win.

One of the most important things you’ll need to do to keep these enemies at bay is to make sure that your wands are strong enough for the job. The laboratory is the only place that allows you to edit your wands and each of them has slots that can be filled with spells. These can change various wand properties. Knowing how to properly tune them is instrumental to success in Noita. However, it’s very much a function that needs to be learned on the fly.

Applying certain spells to wands with specific attributes might have no effect at all. And you can’t even know what a spell does without purchasing it. Therefore, experimentation is the name of the game. Well, no. It’s Noita actually. Why are you being such a stickler about this? You really do need to have some idea of what you’re doing, however, or you can make wands that you don’t have the mana to use. Or ones that are so unwieldy or weird that they’re practically worthless.

Noita 3

It doesn’t get any easier

Most rogue-lites have some mechanics that increase your odds of success. But not Noita. Playing the game unlocks nothing. Every improvement you achieve has to come from skill and knowledge. Good luck with that. That isn’t to say that anyone looking to goof around or just enjoy the game’s mechanics can’t have a good time here. Workshop support is not only included, but there are a ton of mods, some of which make the game much easier. I put on the god mode mod to take screenshots of the lower levels because taking my fingers off the keys to take pictures often just results in a Game Over screen.

Obviously, Noita isn’t for everyone. But it’s well worth checking out for rogue-lite fans who don’t want their hands held, and don’t particularly care how victorious they are. A lot of people will be frustrated by its unrelenting difficulty and plethora of instant death scenarios, but that’s part of the charm. It looks great, plays very well, and there’s a lot of variation between runs, so it’s easy to recommend. The final boss is also very cool if you can get to it. Fat chance of that, though.

Noita 5