Nidhogg 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Messhof
Developer: Messhof
Release Date: Aug. 15, 2017


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PC Review - 'Nidhogg 2'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 18, 2017 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Nidhogg 2 is a dueling tug-of-war game where you destroy your opponents with all new moves and weapons across ten different arenas.

Buy Nidhogg 2

The original Nidhogg fulfilled many of the requirements that characterized indie games at the time. The graphics were reminiscent of a refined Atari 2600 or Intellivision title. The plot involved two combatants dueling for the chance to be eaten by the large flying worm that is the Nidhogg. More importantly, the gameplay was solid, as the simple fencing mechanic made way for a multitude of moves and strategies that could turn a match into a marathon war of attrition. It was a bona fide hit, but people weren't sure if they would see a follow-up anytime soon. It was a surprise to see Nidhogg 2 come in with a slew of changes, and depending on your outlook, they're either for an improvement or a downgrade.

The sequel sticks with the original's outlandish premise. Two people enter a duel for the right to be consumed by the Nidhogg. For the most part, the gameplay is the same. One hit is all that's needed to defeat your opponent, but dying and the act of killing are distractions instead of the main goal. Once you kill your opponent, you run forward only to be met by your newly resurrected opponent. Defeating or outrunning your opponent is necessary, but dying means that you have to chase down your opponent once you return, and you must kill him or her to be able to move forward once more.

For a game with such a simple premise, there's some depth to the combat. You can set the level of your foil, so your thrusts either aim low or high. This is also useful if you're trying to disarm your opponent or defend against a jump kick. Weapons can be thrown and picked up, so you can chuck your foil at an opponent and pick it up later so you aren't left unarmed. Even though the actual fights aren't very long affairs, every one that you encounter is very tense.

There are quite a few changes to the overall combat system. The first is in the environments, which play a more significant role in the combat flow. Bottomless pits and environmental camouflage were part of the first game, but now players have to worry about rotating spiked traps and conveyor belts. Elevation can also be variable, such as when you're standing on an iceberg and it sinks. The melee has also expanded a bit. Aside from a jump-kick, players can employ a regular roundhouse kick when no weapons are on hand; a sweep-and-slide move is also available if you're aiming lower. You can also initiate a series of stomps to kill your opponent when you're bare-handed, so players are quite lethal without a weapon.

The most noticeable change is the addition of new weapons. The broadsword is slower to swing due to its weight, but it also does a good job of disarming your opponent. The dagger has terrible reach, but you can perform swift slashes with it. The bow and arrow is a projectile weapon that has a slow setup but makes up for that with its range.

The differences between the four weapons balance out each other. The bow and arrow may have range, but a well-timed shot from another bow and arrow can cancel it out while a broadsword or dagger swipe can reflect the arrow back at its shooter. As dangerous as a broadsword is, a quick poke from the foil can nullify it while everyone can fall for the dagger. As a result, players have some fighting depth if they don't mind the random nature with which they receive weapons at every respawn.

Initially, the new additions can feel like a betrayal of the prior game's ideals, where the simplicity of using a foil and not dealing with too many environmental hazards meant having a simple game that still possessed some depth. However, the game addresses this by letting you tweak any number of options, from removing weapons to restricting melee moves. You can also mess around with other settings, like enabling low gravity.

Nidhogg 2 is perfectly suited for multiplayer, especially local multiplayer, where part of the enjoyment comes from having your opponent right next to you as you both experience the ebb and flow of a fight. For those who don't have someone to throw down with locally, the game features online play. The good news is that the netcode is much better than the first game, and several of the matches played during this review period were smooth and had little to no lag.

For those looking for a stronger single-player experience this time around, however, prepare for disappointment. Much like the first title, the game takes players through 10 opponents in 10 different environments but with no accompanying fanfare. All you get at the end is a timer showing how long it took you to finish the mode. There's no difficulty level to set, which is a shame since the AI doesn't put up much of a fight, and no unlocks are given for completing the mode. Unlocks would've made the mode more appealing since the game lets players customize their fighter with different hairstyles and clothes. As it stands, the only reason to play this mode is to get the achievement.

When players laid their eyes on the new graphical style, many were revolted by it. It looks like terrible clay animation mashed up with something from Spike & Mike's Twisted Animation Festival. Every part of the game, from the character designs to the backgrounds, looks unappealing in still shots. In motion, however, you begin to see why the developers went this route. The bright expanded color palette brings more life to the scenery, while the smooth animations for the foreground and background are gorgeous. The extra animations are put to good use whenever you see a character's face react to getting killed, while the colorful blood and guts spewed forth look more ridiculous in this style. After a game or two, the unappealing look of the designs is largely forgotten.

As good as the first game's soundtrack was, this one matches it in some areas and surpasses it in others. There's more of a party vibe, with the instrumental tracks being backed by a bass-heavy beat that sounds good both in and out of the game. While there's no crowd to cheer you on, the grunting from attacks and getting hit are a nice replacement, and the sounds of swords clanging is as solid as ever.

Nidhogg 2 is a worthy follow-up to the original. The new additions give the game some depth while still keeping intact the spirit of the game. For those who appreciate the prior title's simplicity, it's still there if you're willing to tweak some options. In the end, the game is a perfect multiplayer title in short bursts, and it's a game that's worth keeping in your library for such an occasion.

Score: 8.0/10

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