The thing about games with “emergent gameplay” is that, for some people, that gameplay never emerges. Noita, with its procedural generation, crafted spells/weapons, and roguelite design, leans hard into that “emergent” concept. It counts on you (and some random number generators) to create the maximum amount of fun, and every so often, it nails it.
Noita is in early access and it feels like it. That is why I’ve chosen to do a preview rather than a review, as I imagine quite a lot will go into this game before it releases. At the very start, after a brief and somewhat cryptic intro, you’re tossed into the game with minimal instruction and expected to just go with it. The adventure begins with you descending into a cave and, within seconds, you’ll be fighting your first enemies. The first enemies are generally not too threatening, but that doesn’t mean you won’t die.
This game has a way of killing you in ways you just won’t see coming. Whether it’s you stumbling onto a huge wave of enemies, falling into a giant vat of acid, a random projectile triggering a chain of explosions or just plain old being on fire, you’ll die. I’ve barely made it more than a few minutes into the third level because of how easy it is to get caught up in a must-die situation. This can be problematic though, in my perspective.
While it may not be too challenging to restart the game and dive back in, there were definitely moments where dying felt like it was out of my control or impossible to avoid. This can be fairly common in emergent games where otherwise you’d rip through them having collected some good items or weapons, but here it feels somehow more punishing. Perhaps it’s just because of the rogue-like nature forcing you to restart without any of the loot or gold you’ve collected. Whatever the reason, it’s something that somewhat takes away from the appeal of the game.
Living or Looting
Noita rewards the player for exploring and gaining more wands, spells to attach to those wands, potions, and buffs. However, exploring such treacherous levels usually means you’re going to be lacking health, and heals are extremely rare. It often becomes necessary to rush toward the level exit, a large portal that takes you to a safe zone, rather than to collect more loot. The safe zones give you a chance to heal and recharge your limited-use weapons as well as spend the gold you’ve collected for upgrades. However, without much exploring, you aren’t going to have much to spend.
There is potentially a ton of gold in even the early levels, but it’s buried in the soil throughout the level. It’s very easy to spot, but the problem is accessing it. You don’t start with wands that are good for digging. The starting ‘bomb wand’ has only three charges and you’re at the whim of gravity placing those. There are a few spells that are good for digging, and even one dedicated to it, but you’re submitting to the gods of RNG to get them. I’ve only once found the digging spell and my time with it felt like it opened up the entire game.
Diamond in the Rough
Still, even with the notable issues in this early access title, it feels like Noita has so much potential. The nature of designing and manipulating wands and spells is one that promotes a lot of experimentation. The variety of environmental tools and dangers makes it possible for quick thinkers to create all sorts of fun outcomes. Enemies are diverse and challenging, meaning you can’t ever let your guard down and breeze through the game. Even the many deaths I experienced didn’t deter me from jumping right back into the game to try again.
Over the coming months (or longer), Noita will undoubtedly grow both in quality and people enjoying its gameplay. I’m still looking for the game to have more moments like the awesome trailer though, which seems much more sparse than it implies, but I plan to keep checking back. Even in the first week or so since it was released, Noita was updated, so I believe it has a bright future. I’m looking forward to reviewing the game when it comes closer to its final release date!
What do you think of Noita? Do you plan to check it out? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.