Noita, an upcoming action-platformer rogue-lite from Finnish studio Nolla Games (whose members created The Swapper and Environmental Station Alpha), puts players in a strange and dangerous pixel-art world where environmental effects and procedural generation combine to affect nearly everything you see — including yourself. I sat down with Nolla Games’ Olli Harjola at Double Fine’s Day of the Devs event at GDC 2018 to play through the current build.
The first thing that jumps out at you in Noita is the dynamic lighting. Your character, a witch armed with up to four wands, ventures deep into a procedurally generated 2D cave system, lit occasionally by wall-mounted lanterns, fire and strange glowing runes. The effect is striking — each area feels dark, dangerous, and alive, as enemies’ eyes glow in the dark as they skitter among the caverns.
In the current build, players enter the caves with two wands: one that shoots a direct projectile and one that launches an arcing bomb. The first wand is useful in early areas as a direct damage dealer, but really shines when it is used to cause domino-like cascades of environmental damage.
At the heart of Noita is the interlocking systems of environmental effects. Fire spreads, gas rises and liquids ooze and drip from cracks in the bedrock. As I traversed downward, I found myself often shooting projectiles at different objects just to see how they reacted: blowing up a potion would release a flammable gas that I could then ignite by blowing up a nearby lantern or flinging a bomb at, dropping liquid flame on a nearby enemy.
Your personal arsenal is similarly designed to maximize customization and interaction. Additional wands can be found scattered within levels, and every wand is customizable. Midway through my play-session, developer Olli Harjola showed me how effects can be swapped between wands, allowing me to make my “projectile” wand into a wand that shoots a potion bottle (exploding on impact), or turn my “bomb” wand into one that transformed the target into a randomized object (“Including a sheep,” Harjola explained, “but we had to remove that from the current build because players kept accidentally turning themselves into sheep.”).
In my short time with the game, I managed to get myself set on fire, extinguished in a pool of water, covered in blood (yes, blood acts as a liquid in Noita), and, once, covered in radioactive ooze. Even in the limited (and sometimes buggy) current build, Noita went above and beyond what I expected from a title of its scope.
Olli Harjola explained that the team has been working on Noita for about five years, and that the title means “witch” in Finnish — fitting for a game about a spell-slinging dungeon-delver. The influence of studio members’ previous titles is immediately noticeable (Environmental Station Alpha is a 2D metroidvania, and Crayon Physics Deluxe is a physics-driven puzzle game), but Harjola also explained that the team was heavily influenced by games like Spelunky, especially in the interplay of systems that affect the player and world.
Noita doesn’t currently have a release date (Harjola: “It will be done when it is done”) but is expected to launch on PC first, with consoles following, though no specific ones have been named yet.