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Noita’s chaos is spectacular, but it’s the order that shines

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Every pixel can be burnt, for good or ill

A pixel-art priest stands on an altar underneath a red, eldritch design Nolla Games

As games become more advanced, designers are beginning to use complex toolsets to simulate their worlds as accurately as possible. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s developers famously made a 2D prototype to ensure that the physical interactions between objects and enemies were legit. Sadly there’s no way to play that Breath of the Wild prototype, but Noita may be the next best thing.

Noita’s elevator pitch is that “every pixel is simulated.” In practice, that means that every pixel in this side-scrolling rogue-like can be burned, exploded, or soaked-through with frightening precision. Breath of the Wild’s fire may have spread out a few meters, but entire Noita levels can be engulfed in flames with a few well-placed spells. This is generally a bad idea from a “winning,” perspective, but it does look damn cool.

We’ve written quite a bit about this simulation, but one aspect of Noita hasn’t gotten much attention: The amount of control given to the player to shape their abilities, thereby discovering order within the chaos.

Noita is particularly punishing for new players. Just getting through the first level requires a mastery of the game’s basic mechanics: Fire bad, fire loves oil, fire hates water. Taking advantage of the total destructibility of the levels, I can create pools of water, acting as safe spaces to run back to when I become engulfed. Once I become more familiar with these mechanics — after several deaths and ruined mage cloaks — I survive deeper and deeper into that first level until I eventually reach a portal.

The portal brings me to a shop, of sorts. I enter one of these shops whenever I complete a level. They act as pretty typical RPG shops, selling new spells and offering new perks. But they also allow me to assign various spells to my wands. That’s where things get interesting.

Wands are my primary damage dealers in Noita, and they each come with a set number of slots. When discovered in a level, a wand may have all of its slots filled with, say, spells that add a fire effect whenever I attack, setting objects ablaze. Another might shoot out a spray of water, or act as a slow-moving orb of energy.

The wands are locked most of the time, but once I arrive in a shop, I can customize them, swapping spells from different wants or banking unneeded spells for later use. This means that a previously fire-shooting wand could transform into a wand that shoots, wait for it, fire and water at once. (Pro-tip: This is not recommended.) Once I become more familiar with the various spells, I’m suddenly able to cobble together godlike combinations that turn me into a death machine.

The downside, of course, is that the more exotic wands are also more dangerous for me. A wand that shoots out exploding lightning bolts is liable to kill me by accident if I’m not careful, so it’s always a good idea to keep a safer, more traditional wand on-hand.

But Noita isn’t satisfied with conservative wands just taking up space. No, it also offers up perks in these shops, like immunity to fire or explosive damage. So what was previously a reckless wand becomes a nuke you can fire at your feet and watch the carnage unfold. On one instance, a particularly deadly combination of rocket launcher-esque spells, matched with a handful of immunities, proved so useful that I was able to sprint through levels just by firing in the vague direction of some truly hairy enemies. It seemed a bit broken, if I’m honest. But that didn’t make it less fun.

Noita is in early access on Steam and other platforms right now, which means some of the more broken spells and perks could be adjusted, making the game less like a slot machine waiting for the right combination to pop up. But until that happens, there’s something truly magical about being a god among the chaos, walking straight out of the fire with nary a scratch.

Noita is available on Windows PC, in Early Access. The game was played using a Steam download code provided by Nolla Games. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.