I’d been intrigued about Nidhogg 2, the sequel to 2014’s cult hit from Messhof, ever since the game was originally revealed. I mean, the basic gameplay mechanics of the original game didn’t really seem like there was much there to evolve upon, so I couldn’t figure out what a follow up could really offer outside of a new aesthetic. Whilst Nidhogg 2 certainly doesn’t re-define the formula – ‘why fix what isn’t broken’, and all that jazz – it does make some changes that makes it feel like a better experience overall. Fans of the original will be happy to see the game still feels the same, but the new additions compliment it and add a bit more variety overall.
Nidhogg 2’s gameplay follows a simple concept, with the game putting you in a one on one battle with another player as you both try to reach the opposite ends on a long vertical map, with the ultimate goal being to get eaten by a giant mythical worm. You’re only able to race to the end if you’ve got the advantage though, meaning you’ve got to defeat your enemy in order to earn the right to speed to the finish line. However, once a player is defeated they’ll quickly respawn, meaning you’ve got to kill them again or alternatively find a way past them. If they manage to kill you though they get the advantage, allowing them to try and run their way to victory. It’s all pretty simple stuff, with the game proving incredibly accessible for just about anyone who plays it. I felt like I mastered the mechanics within my first ten minutes of playing, whilst on the flipside I played against a newcomer who managed to defeat me on their first attempt – it really is that easy.
Whilst the original game only offered the fencing sword to battle with, Nidhogg 2 offers a bit more variety. This time around you’ve got a dagger, a great sword, a bow and arrows, as well as the classic fencing sword. Each of these weapons work in different ways too, offering you a completely new way to play the game. The bow and arrows for example give you a hell of a lot of range. Whilst it’s always been possible to throw your weapon at your opponent, if they evaded it you were left vulnerable. With the bow and arrows you can send out an infinite amount of ranged attacks to keep your enemy on their toes, forcing them to act quickly or feel your wrath.
The great swords on the other hand focus on power, allowing you to either disarm your opponent or instead overwhelm them when in a sword fight. If you’re going for an up-close battle with a fencing sword and your opponent has a great sword, you’re going to find yourself in trouble. However, it lacks the speed of some of the other weapons so there’s certainly vulnerabilities there. Whilst the weapons don’t quite feel like ‘rock, paper, scissors’, you’ll certainly find that some have advantages over the others. It adds a bit more variety to the game, and with a different one randomly spawning alongside your character you’ll never really know what to expect.
Of course, you can attack when unarmed too, with your character able to dish out a knuckle sandwich or a barrage of punches. They aren’t as effective as something with a sharp end, but hey, it’s better than nothing, right? You can also do a dive kick that if pulled off right can actually disarm your foe. This can be really effective, especially when up against someone armed with a bow and arrow where you’ve got to jump over each arrow they send your way. If you’re especially good you can follow it up with a good old stomping attack too – one of the most brutal and satisfying ways to end an opponent in Nidhogg 2.
Outside of the new weapons, the most significant change to be made to Nidhogg 2 is the massive upgrade in visuals. Whilst the original game had an incredibly basic look that made the game look like it could’ve easily come out in the early 80s, the sequel instead adopts an over-the-top chaotic style that’s full to the brim with colour – this is graphical enhancements taken to the EXTREME. I can actually see this revamp being quite divisive among fans of the game. The subtle look of the original game added to its charm, with the gameplay instead taking centre stage. In Nidhogg 2 you simply can’t help but to be distracted by everything that’s going on. I like it though – it’s certainly unique and adds a lot more character to the already incredibly original premise of gameplay. Plus, seeing the blood everywhere or you opponent explode into pieces is a whole lot more satisfying when each sprite is filled with so much detail.
The levels in particular look great, with each of the ten available offering a completely different landscape for you to battle across. You might be fighting through an enchanting forest, an airship in the skies, rainbow-filled clouds, a jazzed up nightclub, or even a snowy field full of icy platforms just to name a few. There are some unique features within these levels too, such as high grass where you can’t see what your opponent is doing or even moving platforms. These sort of features might seem minimal in a traditional game, but when used with Nidhogg 2’s simplistic style of gameplay they feel quite significant. Each level never offers a straightforward path either, with plenty of obstacles for you to jump or climb across if you want to reach your goal. This can be both an advantage or a disadvantage; it means you can often outrun your opponent by taking a different path, or alternatively it might make them spawn above you. If Star Wars: Episode 3 taught us anything, it’s that having the high ground means ‘it’s over’ and your opponent is about to lose some limbs – it’s often the same case in Nidhogg 2.
Despite being a lot of fun to play, the main problem Nidhogg 2 has is that it’s at its best when played in multiplayer. It does have a single player component, but it gets boring fast seeing as the AI is pretty braindead.
Naturally, it’s the most fun when played in local multiplayer when you have a group of friends with you. It’s the sort of game that’ll keep you laughing and, as mentioned, the accessible nature of gameplay means that anyone can pick it up and be good at it almost immediately. You’ll easily lose hours with the game and have a hell of a good time whilst doing so. Now local multiplayer isn’t always possible for all players, but fortunately Nidhogg 2 does have online options too. However, I haven’t managed to find a single functioning match so far. I’m not sure if there are problems on the network, other players aren’t around, or if there’s just something I’m doing wrong – either way, I haven’t been able to complete an online match. I did manage to get into a battle once, but that was over almost immediately because the other player ‘disconnected’. I’m hoping it’s something that’ll be improved upon in time because I could easily see myself coming back to Nidhogg 2 time and time again to battle other players online; in its current state though it’s limited to just when I’ve got friends over.
Overall, Nidhogg 2 offers some impressive improvements upon the original game without changing up the formula too much. The new weapons add some much needed variety to the gameplay, whilst the vibrant art style offers some stunning 16-bit style landscapes to battle across. It adds a lot more character to the game, in turn making it a more entertaining experience.
The only thing that really lets it down is the seemingly broken online multiplayer component. Not everyone has friends around all the time and the single player is boring, so unless the online mode is functioning properly you’re left with nothing to do. I’ve seen others are having problems too, so hopefully Messhof will work on getting it fixed in the near future.
If you’ve got some friends around though then you’ll have a blast with Nidhogg 2. Each battle is action-packed from start to end, whilst the newly added improvements ensure that the formula won’t grow old fast.
Release Date: 15/08/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), PC, Mac