Sand Physics Go Wild in Noita

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Years ago during grade school, there were only a few games you could play that wouldn’t be blocked by some sort of website filter. Most people had their preference, but for me, those old falling sand flash games were my favorite. If you’ve never heard of that before, they were essentially sandboxes – no pun intended – where players could mess with a constant stream of falling sand. You could change the type of sand to be flammable and cause explosions and the like. Noita is like a nostalgia trip because I feel like I’m playing the next generation of falling sand games. Every pixel is simulated, so I’m given unprecedented control of the environment. Although Noita is in early access at the moment, its physics are incredibly advanced, and it’s all bundled together as an enjoyable roguelite dungeon crawling adventure.

Stay away from the fire!

In Noita, you play as an unnamed wizard. You begin with two wands: one that shoots a simple magical bullet, and another that produces three bombs. Along the way, you’ll find more wands to add to your arsenal that allows you to manipulate the world around you and kill enemies in the dangerous depths below. As a roguelite, you begin every adventure with essentially a blank slate, descending into a mine filled with relatively easy enemies. Pools of poison, water, and flammable wood are intermingled with stone walls. In gameplay, oftentimes your path is blocked by a wall made of some sort of material. If it’s a flammable wall like wood, you can set a bomb off or even use a fire spell to burn it away. Watching the physics at work is fascinating since in real time you can watch the fire spread and open a new path before you. Little bits of flame drip downward and steam fills the air, all in separate particles.

As you delve deeper, you’ll encounter different environments. In the few hours I played, I only managed to make it down a few levels. I encountered caverns full of poisonous liquid as well as an icy cave. In the latter, there’s some thin ice that your spells can cleave through, and it’s simply blissful to break apart individual chunks to move forward. Being unaware of your surroundings can lead to your doom, though. Blowing up a poisonous pool to open the way forward can cause it to go everywhere, making each step a hazardous one. Of course, the environment poses some danger, but enemies are even more deadly. There seems to be a decent variety of foes to fight in Noita, from humanoids armed with snipers to bulbous, flying toxic-spewing enemies. Others are even more terrifying. The most difficult enemies I find are ones that look like ghosts enveloped in fire or ice, and shoot spells at you. They cause havoc on the environment. The ice ghost‘s spells leave behind what can only be described as frozen steam in the air that hurts you.

Stay away from that ice too!

Indeed, there is a decent variety of enemies to fight, and you’re also given a great degree of freedom with your spells. While you start out with a humble wand, found throughout your adventure are more wands filled with different sorts of spells and a number of slots. Each spell fills a slot on a wand. Some spells shoot out sawblades or arrows, and others poison blobs and exploding fire bolts. Other spells simply alter the properties of projectiles, like decreasing their spread. After reaching the bottom of each level of the cave, you can edit your wand and mix and match different spells. Essentially, you have what seems to be millions of possibilities to choose from when it comes to wands. Furthermore, you’re granted a choice of one of three random perks every level. This ranges from immunity to electricity to even more hostile enemies. Noita doesn’t really tell you what the perks do, as it only gives you their name and icon. It’s up to you to find out what works.

Noita is undeniably roguelite in nature, but unfortunately, I have a few issues in that regard. Right now, the only incentive to continue on is to beat previous runs’ records. Records being how far down you get, how long you live, how much gold you obtained, and more. Noita also catalogs all the enemies, spells, and perks you’ve acquired. Still, there is no metaprogression, so every new run begins with a blank slate. I would have liked to see some system where progress carries over however minute it may be. Have some gold transfer over so that we have a better chance of reaching the end, or the choice to carry over with a perk you’ve acquired from the last run. Noita is already a very difficult game with considerably formidable opponents, so why not give the player some sort of edge on their next run?

Bad things happened here.

My only other complaint right now is that Noita‘s UI can be difficult to read at first. It seems needlessly complicated to read about spells or customize your wands at first. The options menu is also a mess full of pixelized letters that could use some sort of organization. But as it stands, Noita is a considerably fun game despite being in early access. I don’t see dozens of hours of gameplay in it just yet – there needs to be more spells, enemies, and levels, all of which the developer says is on the way. If you’re looking for a fun sandbox-like environment to dawdle in and waste some time, I don’t have a hard time recommending Noita. If you decide to wait until release to buy it, I have no doubt that Noita will end up to be a great roguelite.


TechRaptor covered Noita on PC via Steam Early Access with a key provided by the developers.

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