With a fresh new look and a few small changes, is Nidhogg 2 able to do enough to win over the naysayers?
The original Nidhogg has always been a go-to for the missus and I. Many disputes have been settled with a few rounds of tug-of-war fencing, and there’s no mic-drop as glorious as getting eaten by the Níðhǫggr. The title proudly sits atop our growing local-multiplayer collection, and it’s thanks to games like this that our relationship has remained mostly argument free.
You can bet there was much excitement when we realised that Nidhogg 2 was on the horizon. Unlike many, I actually like the new art direction. While I’ll admit that the sword-swinging, goblin men are a little odd, the levels look very alive and very gorgeous. It was bizarre to see such a furore around the new look, but at the same time, it shows just how many fans Messhof have out there.
The original Nidhogg, while lacking in content, is mechanically sound. The simple design made matches all about skill and outsmarting your opponent. But it’s also approachable, fun, and especially hilarious with a group. The controls are simple and newcomers get up to scratch rather quickly.
For the unacquainted, players start in the centre of the level with fencing swords in hand. You have a high, mid and low attack but can also throw your sword and perform a dive kick. Killing your opponent allows you a few seconds to push forward before they respawn and attempt to return the favour. The first player to make it to the end of their opponents side wins.
Now, Nidhogg 2 is very much the same game, but you could imagine that the added features dilute the experience somewhat. It has become less about skill and opts to be more chaotic instead. This is mostly due to the inclusion of three new weapons: a broadsword, throwing knife, and bow. Every time a player dies they will respawn with a randomly selected weapon, and with how fast and frantic the game is, you could be at a disadvantage. This is especially true if your opponent rolls up on you with a rapier and you’ve just spawned with a bow. By the time you realise what you’re holding, they’ve already poked a hole in your plump, squishy body.
Despite the occasional unfair fight, the weapons are well balanced. Each have their own strength and weakness and it’s up to you how you’ll use them. The knife, though lacking in melee range, could be thrown at the opportune moment or you could dash in between strikes for a close up kill. The broadsword allows for slow, sweeping attacks, but your disarm must be well timed as your stance leaves your torso exposed. As you’d expect you’d have to keep your distance with the bow, but firing a flurry of arrows creates a platforming nightmare for your opponent. Then there’s the trusty rapier. It’s a fast and accurate stabber, but the wrong attack will certainly mean death.
One noticeable change that additional weaponry brings is the level of improvisation. As fights progress, the floor becomes littered with them, and after throwing your weapon or being disarmed, you have to grab whatever’s closest and use it to your advantage. It creates a tense back-and-forth with some truly wild moments. Purists may scoff at the change, but I welcome it.
There are also nine levels to choose from, ranging from the classic castle to a pirate’s cove, and even a cloudy temple in the sky. All have slight tweaks and obstacles, but none too crazy to distract from the main objective. They are all beautifully drawn with subtle animation and help extend the life of a play session. The only gripe is that some sections are too busy, making it hard to spot a flying arrow or spinning dagger. It’s unlikely to spoil the fun, but it can add confusion on occasion.
Sure, Nidhogg 2 isn’t as pure as the original experience, but I found myself laughing at the goofiness. Not only is it nail-biting, competitive fun, but it’s a visual treat as well. Those looking for a more traditional Nidhogg can simply customise the match settings or go and play the original. It still exists. For those that want to embrace the chaos and enjoy the spectacle, then Nidhogg 2 is perfect.
• Developer Meshoff • Publisher Meshoff • Genre Action side-scroller • Platform PC, PS4 • Price $15/£10.99 • Origin Sweden • Release Aug 15, 2017
A review copy of Nidhogg 2 was provided by the developer, Messhof.