Noreya: The Gold Project is a captivating karma-based pixel art Metroidvania developed by Dreamirl. We tried the demo for around 3 hours, and now we’re ready to share our impressions with you.
In the current video game scene, the Metroidvania genre is assuming an increasingly prominent role within the video game industry and among the gaming community. It boasts numerous iconic titles with undeniable charm, outstanding new IPs, and true milestones that have revolutionized the genre, leading to its full visibility and popularity.
This is the premise we’ve chosen to introduce you to Noreya: The Gold Project, a captivating pixel art Metroidvania that boldly steps into the realm of Metroidvania with its unique concept—a “karma-based Metroidvania,” as defined by Dreamirl, the development team. This game is deeply influenced by the concept of Faith, where deities, worship, and veneration are integral components of gameplay and narrative, significantly shaping the players’ progression paths.
So, without further ado, let’s explore what Noreya is all about, and follow us to discover our thoughts on the demo.
Perseverance, Dedication, and Ambition. That’s Dreamirl!
In the heart of France, in Occitania, more precisely in Toulouse, a small independent studio was founded in 2018 by passionate individuals, developers, and individuals under the banner of Dreamirl. The team carries a significant load of experience and a noteworthy track record in the video game industry with three titles preceding Noreya, namely UpRunner, Jurassic Snap, and the much-appreciated Exoblast.
“The credo of the studio is to make things serenely without sacrificing the essentials, work less but better, good rest means good creativity.” These words succinctly capture the very soul of the team’s philosophy.
Let’s take a closer look at the development team of Noreya. First in line is Antoine Rogliano, also known as Inateno, the founder of Dreamirl and the lead game designer, which boasts nearly a decade of experience in the industry, including working with various companies under Nintendo’s direction.
Next, let’s turn our attention to another remarkable talent, Camille Unknown, the artistic director of Noreya, who wears multiple hats as a streamer, illustrator, and graphic designer. An artist with a unique vision and perspective on pixel art, establishing himself as a leading figure in the world of pixel artists.
And let’s not overlook the audio director, Laurent Lozano, who previously crafted music for the video game “Wakfu” before contributing as a sound designer at Ubisoft on titles such as “Rayman: Origins” and “Rayman: Legends.”
Nor should we forget Xavier Dang, who oversees the sound direction and OST alongside Laurent Lozano, known for composing no less than 30 original soundtracks for video games and television, including “Bokida: Heartfelt Reunion” and the “Mv Expo” DLC masterpieces for the game “Old School Musical.”
As of today, the company comprises 12 members who actively contributed to the development of Noreya: The Gold Project, in addition to various collaborators and contributors who were involved in the game’s initial prototype.
With Noreya, Dreamirl has embarked on a mission to breathe fresh life into the Metroidvania genre, redefining its codes and carving out a unique identity for the game. Have they achieved this ambitious goal?
The Kickstarter Campaign
Launched in 2022 on Kickstarter under the name “Gold Project,” Noreya immediately garnered remarkable success, thanks to a high number of backers who made it possible to achieve both of the Dreamirl team’s set stretch goals.
To briefly recap the campaign, the data at hand confirms that the crowdfunding campaign garnered a total of 3,234 backers who contributed to the funding of the main stretch goal, reaching an impressive amount of €125,000, and an additional stretch goal valued at €150,000. This allowed the developers to work on a new biome. In total, the project collected an impressive sum of €150,531, surpassing its initial goal of €125,000.
Naturally, the crowdfunding campaign represented a pivotal opportunity for Dreamirl to refine the art design and sound, all while serving as a vital stepping stone towards enabling the team to work on the launch of Noreya: The Gold Project on PC and Consoles, in both digital and physical editions.
A winning aspect of the Kickstarter campaign was undeniably the carefully crafted rewards, providing a diverse range for players to choose from. As is customary for any respectable Kickstarter campaign, the team meticulously designed each tier of rewards, from the simplest ones offering essential rewards such as a digital game copy and a digital wallpaper to the more intricate and rewarding tiers.
What set the campaign apart was the inclusion of unique, exclusive, and unconventional rewards. For example, backers could obtain the Tarot Card Game inspired by the game, available at the minimum price of €75 under the name “The Wheel of Fortune.” The campaign also showcased the physical OST edition (available on vinyl or CD) priced at €100, known as “The Singer,” or at €125 for the “The Conductor” version. The offerings extended to include theme-based T-shirts, accessible in the “The Collector” tier, priced at €350 alongside the Lore artbook and other valuable rewards. Notably, there was even “The Divinity” tier, available at €8,500, which featured, among its various rewards, a limited-edition statue adorned with golden elements of the Final Boss.
Let’s talk about the Demo
Before we delve into our analysis of the demo, let’s start with an assumption: creating a video game that deals with cults or religion is no small feat, and certainly not a simple undertaking. It’s a theme that requires careful handling, especially when it touches upon existing religious beliefs or doctrines.
Yet another relevant consideration is the wealth of titles that explore religion in various ways and styles. Take, for instance, The Binding of Isaac and how Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl approached the theme of religion, drawing inspiration from the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. The themes of sacrifice and the impact of religion and cults, Cult of the Lamb, or the religious iconography prominently featured in the Blasphemous series. In other words, where does Noreya: The Gold Project find its place within this intricate landscape?
But wait, let’s take a step back and provide some context. What is the story behind Noreya: The Gold Project? Let’s closely follow what Dreamirl has revealed to us…
In time immemorial, seven deities united to shape the land known today as Noreya. The power of the Seven was so immense that people, out of reverence but also fear, worshiped them. However, it happened that some people deviated from the righteous path, giving life to their most sinister aspects. From this malevolence, new deities were born, drawing power from the servitude of their subjects.
In the realm of Lemia, the land of the primordial goddess of Light, recurrent famines plague its people. The impoverished inhabitants’ desire for wealth played into the hands of the god of Avarice, who promised to end their suffering. The deity now known as the “God of Gold” transformed all of his followers into shapeless and tormented beings: the golden shadows. Lemia, once radiant, now succumbs to devastating greed.
This is where the protagonist Kali comes into play, a huntress who once bore the brunt of a god’s malevolence. Fueled by vengeance, she has taken up arms after hearing rumors about the God of Greed and is now making her way toward the City of Gold. The Goddess of Light will attempt to leverage Kali’s arrival by extending her assistance, sharing some of her powers. However, depending on Kali’s actions, she may gradually succumb to the allure of the Gold, significantly enhancing her own power.
Will you choose the path of Corruption or Purification? The choice is yours!
As you may have noticed, the way Dreamirl has handled the theme of cults and religion within Noreya is an original and unique approach, deeply symbolic and imbued with the duality of Light and Gold. Therefore, we can assert that, more than the cult, religion, or faith, it’s karma that stands as the game’s true leitmotif, the element that exerts influence over the story, level design, gameplay, music and the skills that players will acquire and master in Noreya.
In the demo, we were consistently prompted to make choices and align ourselves with either Auria (the God of Gold) or Héménis (the Goddess of Light). The consequences of our choices will ripple through Kali’s progression, the narrative, and even the ending of Noreya. But, be aware, we’re not simply talking about lore here. Our choices will also significantly affect the player’s playstyle, Kali’s abilities, and the branches of the skill tree. As we experienced firsthand, players will be called upon to choose between a light dedication and a gold dedication, each with its unique skills that drastically reshape the gameplay and player’s approach.
Your progress will be tracked by a “karma bar.” Keep in mind, every action in service of the Light or surrender to the greed of Gold may tip the bar in one direction or the other, so pay attention to the bar’s progress. Pushing the bar exclusively in one direction would be an extreme choice, but balancing and blending abilities between the light dedication and the gold dedication won’t grant access to the most powerful spells.
The two paths players can choose, “The Path of Light” and “The Path of Gold,” will shape Kali’s identity, her allegiances, her loyalty, and even the game world itself. Depending on the path you opt for, you’ll unlock access to distinct and exclusive pathways, chambers, and branches on the map. In Noreya, bidimensionality reigns, so if certain areas are inaccessible on the “Path of Light,” it probably means that other areas have opened up on the “Path of Gold,” and vice versa.
The demo wasn’t particularly difficult or challenging, except for the first half-hour when our only available abilities were the basic attack, jump, and a basic jump attack. As we progressed and learned the wall jump ability, after defeating the first true mini-boss, platforming granted us access to new areas, offering multiple solutions and showcasing the map’s outstanding interconnectedness.
The basic enemies, the soulless shadows, aren’t particularly intimidating; you simply need to learn their patterns and make use of the excellent tools provided by the settings to overcome them, or face them boldly with sword strikes. The only situation that added a touch more “anxiety” involved escaping from a massive worm-like creature that pursued us on multiple occasions while exploring the underground of the second biome.
Another theme to pay particular attention to if you play the demo is the stelae, a kind of stone glyphs scattered throughout the game world, allowing you to uncover intriguing details about the lore and reveal mysteries about the deities and the background of Noreya.
Our thoughts on the Demo
Let’s move on to our concluding remarks and take a brief look at the major strengths and some limitations we encountered in the Noreya: The Gold Project demo. We had the chance to test Noreya on both PC and later on the Steam Deck, and in both instances, the performance was commendable, indicating impeccable optimization for both platforms.
One of the prominent features of Noreya is its unique and unconventional karma-based concept, which sheds new light on the Metroidvania genre. To be clear, we’re not talking about a game that seeks to revolutionize or completely overhaul the genre, but rather a product that does everything it should, and does it quite well, with its own distinct identity.
The level design stands out as one of the elements that impressed us the most. It is solid and functional, working exceptionally well despite its simplicity. The art design is deeply inspired, remaining faithful to its dark fantasy essence while undergoing transformations by incorporating gold, not just as a color but as a theme, a symbol, a nuance. In this regard, Camille Unknown’s work on pixel art has been truly extraordinary.
The gameplay and combat system aren’t particularly challenging, although you might face a learning curve at the beginning, especially if this is your first day with a Metroidvania. However, each time you meet Kali’s demise or accidentally make her fall from a platform, depleting her life bar completely, you have the option to choose whether to respawn from the nearest statue with full health (the true checkpoint) or from the last stage with your remaining health.
Oh, and speaking of platforming… If you’re a fan of action platformers, you’ll find Noreya to be home to some genuinely intriguing and enjoyable platforming segments, offering just the right degree of challenge. But do watch out for the platforms, let’s put it this way… some of them appear to be quite, um, alive.
Another remarkable and thoroughly convincing aspect of Noreya is the sound design, specifically the OST, crafted by Laurent Lozano and Xavier Dang, that dynamically shifts and evolves in response to players’ choices between the Path of Gold and the Path of Light.
The most notable weaknesses and limitations we experienced firsthand in the demo are of a technical nature, understandable but still necessary to address before the game’s launch. The most common issues include a slight frame rate drop and occasionally imperfect, somewhat stuttery animations of the protagonist, which can lead to unexpected falls during platforming segments or unwanted hits from enemies.
Despite these minor issues, the demo we played showcases all the good potential of the project and leaves us hopeful for the game’s release.
Noreya: The Gold Project will be released on November 7, 2023, in early access on PC. The game will remain in early access for approximately 2-3 months, during which Dreamirl will introduce all the new content for the full release. As for the game’s release on consoles, there is no information available yet. Nevertheless, the development team has plans to release the game on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X in the future, in addition to the already announced PC release.
We’d like to remind you that the Noreya: The Gold Project demo is available for free on Steam. Keep following us to stay updated on Kali’s adventures and visit Dreamirl’s official website to stay informed about the project’s future.