August 16, 2017
Nidhogg 2 is a game that allows you to customise your character, jump onto the crazy battlefield, and fence your way to victory. Played as an online, local, or solo game, Nidhogg has players test their skills as they face off against one another in ludicrous side-scrolling mayhem.
Releasing 3 years after the original, Nidhogg 2 brings much of the same crazy, chaotic and fun gameplay from the first game along with a few twists and turns to keep you on your toes. Players will square up against their opponent and duel it out with one of four weapons. You can block attacks, throw your weapon, knock the sword out of your opponents hand, and then go in for an aerial assault. Or if you’re anything like me you’d prefer to slide in, knock your opponent to the ground and finish them off with a flurry of curb stomps to the face. Once your opponent is down and out your goal is now to sprint past them in your intended direction before they respawn and the battle starts again. Each player has to try to make as much ground as possible whilst their opponent is respawning, or you can try to ignore your opponent all together and jump right past them.
The gameplay is chaotic, grotesque, surprisingly tactical, and genuinely enjoyable – much like the original game.
The ways in which Nidhogg 2 differs from Nidhogg is through expansions of the original systems. For those familiar with the first game you’ll notice 3 new weapons on offer (a bow, dagger, and sword join the original rapier). There are also some new attacks and a whole slew of new levels to fight within. The art style has also taken a drastic change (very drastic), but we will cover that soon.
Those who have played the first game will find Nidhogg 2 immediately familiar with the same tightness to controls and tactics to gameplay on offer. Those unfamiliar will be able to jump in without too much difficulty, because the systems in place are easy enough to pick up. The game is easy to learn, hard to master. At first the lack of a tutorial in Nidhogg 2 surprised me, but after playing for a bit the intuitive controls and muscle memory kicked in and I essentially didn’t require one at all. Having said that, those who never had any experience with the first game and don’t know the idea behind this one will certainly struggle more than I did (but probably not for long).
Nidhogg 2, much like its predecessor, is all about that frantic 1 on 1 gameplay. And in this sense the game is fantastic. It’s the kind of experience that may not have you continuing to play a month down the line, but is a very enjoyable romp while it holds your attention. Or it’s the kind of game you load up when you have friends around for some chaotic and competitive gaming. There is enough movement options, offensive options, and defensive options at your disposal to allow you to adapt to your opponent’s play and reflexively counter your opponent’s moves whilst not having so many options that things become imbalanced or uncontrollable. The added mechanic of racing to get to your side of the playscreen simply adds another layer which turns the game into a surprisingly tactical and enjoyable experience.
The game offers a campaign but it’s not where you’re going to want to spend most of your time. To be perfectly frank, the campaign is actually quite disappointing. It offers a 10 level progression where (I think) the opponents get progressively harder as you advance. Beating one opponent moves you onto the next until you complete all 10 stages and credits roll. The reason I say this is disappointing is because it’s just too easy. AI isn’t intelligent enough to put up a real fight which meant that after 34 minutes and 0 deaths I had beaten the game on my first attempt. Now obviously that’s not all there is to the game, you are going to want to take your fencing skills online, but for those of us who like to play against AI occasionally there isn’t really anything worthwhile here. My primary issue with the AI isn’t that they are bad at duels, they are just kind of atrocious at everything else. They could be right at the edge of the screen, 1 step away from progressing into the next area, but rather than take that logical step they instead turn back to unnecessarily fight you. Not to mention they seem to love falling off edges or walking into meat grinders. Because of this I was able to exploit the AI’s stupidity and on multiple occasions a simple dash past the AI was the safest option.
“Watching people destroy you and having to adapt on the fly, pick up new techniques and try your best to put up a good fight was far more entertaining than AI battles…”
Online play is obviously much more difficult. In fact, an entire ranked option is available for those who want to put their skills to the test and see where they stack up against the rest of the world. This is a fun inclusion and something I toyed around with a bit. Watching people destroy you and having to adapt on the fly, pick up new techniques and try your best to put up a good fight was far more entertaining than AI battles. Unfortunately the problem with online play is that you need to find a game to connect to and are subject to lag. I’m not sure if being Australian was a big part of my issue, but not only is it sometimes difficult to find an opponent to play with who’s close by, but when I do get into a match I am all too often the victim to some very rough lag patches. Of course online connection problems are nothing new for newly released games, but that doesn’t make experiencing those issues any less frustrating. And without a solid and challenging campaign to fall back on, the issues of online play becomes all the more infuriating.
So let’s talk about the graphics for Nidhogg 2. This was a huge point of contention when the game first debuted it’s gameplay footage. The original game (pictured on the left above) had this minimalist style that was elegant and simple. It fit the fencing theme quite well. This new game’s art is… well it’s grotesque. And not grotesque specifically in the blood and gore sense, but also in the overtly and deliberately ugly sense as well. And in a way this fits the game’s theme too. Because while fencing may be elegant, throwing your dagger into someone’s head, skewering them through the chest with your rapier, or stomping on their head until it explodes isn’t elegant. It is grotesque. So for that reason alone I can’t really fault Nidhogg 2 for moving in this direction. There is a cohesion between gameplay and art that I can respect. Although having said that I do find myself missing the minimalist elegance of the first game, especially when looking at the world map screen during the campaign, which just isn’t appealing at all.
- Fun and chaotic gameplay
- Surprisingly dynamic and tactical
- Adding to the original game without losing what made it so great
- Lag issues
- AI is too easy
Nidhogg 2 is the exact kind of over-the-top mayhem that I love to throw myself into. The kind of stupidly fun game I can laugh at along with my friends but also secretly take seriously, because it allows for a certain level of skill and strategy you may not initially expect. My issue with the game is that without a great campaign and with lag affecting my online play, I have no perfect way to enjoy the amazing mechanics it has to offer.