They say there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. In Noct there’s only one, and it sure ain’t taxes- it’s the end of the world, people!
Noct is the latest breed of online cooperative survival horror. Don’t be fooled by its simplistic monochrome graphics though, it can deliver as exhilarating and terrifying an experience as any of its AAA peers.
Some form of apocalyptic purge has wiped most of the human populace from the face of the Earth and you are left to roam the wasteland now known as Noct. Not only has most of the planet been exterminated, but hordes of marauding mutants now inhabit Noct, hiding in the shadows as they search out the remaining survivors. Fear not, for you need not face these demons on your own. Persistent online gameplay allows for players to team up with each other to face the terrors of the night – at least in theory.
A small notification at the top of the screen keeps track of the number of players on the server. Should you manage to cross paths with them they may be willing to team up with you or to give friendly advice. Or not. There’s no server-wide chat, instead the developers have opted for location-based chat that is only visible to nearby players. So, when you do finally find another player there’s always a rush of excitement no matter the outcome.
Bonds with your newly-found comrades will nearly always be tenuous at best. The wastelands are scattered with supplies like bullets, food, water and new guns – but there isn’t nearly enough to go around. Friendships will undoubtedly end abruptly as the scramble for equipment ensues, so never be too trusting.
Against this backdrop of death, mutants and snow (or nuclear fallout) falling from the sky are the guiding words of an all-seeing ally. Your ally is equipped with information to keep you safe, and to save mankind from extinction. The game’s first act sees your travel through Noct‘s various zones, from the harbour to the hydro electric damn, and then into an abandoned military base – all at the behest of this enigmatic figure. But it won’t be an easy journey, the mutants you’ll face are as unpredictable as they are deadly – perhaps to a fault.
Some mutants are small whilst others are truly colossal, but they all share the same trait: they are all extremely agile. You’ll need to become accustomed to their movement patterns and behaviour if you are to stay alive and lead the rest of humanity into safety, which is easier said than done!
Mutants are genuinely difficult to kill, especially when faced with more than a couple at a time. With your comrades by your side, it is easy to unload your clips into them leaving their lifeless husks on the ground, but when faced with more than one things can go South very quickly. Noct‘s mutants have a talent for splitting up tight-knit groups of survivors and picking them off one by one, but things don’t always feel fair. In fact, more often than not, I found myself dying at the hands of mutants that just so happened to spawn in the same tiny room as me, or on top of me, or around the corner from me. You get the idea. At this current early access stage these things are acceptable, but I expect spawning to be more balanced within the next few updates.
What’s most surprising is just how foreboding an atmosphere Noct can cook up, given its simplistic pixelated graphics. The terror of the night accompanied by the unseen evil hiding in the shadows will always be unnerving, but Noct‘s sound design and tense, edge-of-your-seat gameplay are the game’s true centerpieces.
Early Access can sometimes be difficult to justify, given just how overrun it is with clones, cheap money-spinners and never to be released games, but Noct, along with a few other exceptions, justify its existence. With over 100 positive reviews on Steam already, the game is off to a flying start, and given the developer’s eagerness to communicate with buyers, I am quite confident that Noct will be a very solid title on release.