Review: Nidhogg 2 (PS4)

Developed by: Messhof
Published by: Messhof

Inspired by classic Intellivision games from the 1970s, the original Nidhogg aimed to become a title known for its simplicity and elegance. Underneath the simplicity of Nidhogg, though, is an incredibly complex and competitive game. With Nidhogg 2, developer Messhof has attempted to improve the core of the original with new weapons, maps, and improved online multiplayer. However, sometimes simplicity results in a more stable experience, and Nidhogg 2 reflects heavily on this concept.

Nidhogg 2 relies completely on the gameplay established in Messhof’s original title. While the gameplay is easy-to-learn, it can be difficult to explain to those unfamiliar with the subject, so I will do my best to explain. Every battle in Nidhogg involves two players attempting to reach their end of the map. Using various weapons, such as swords and knives, the player must kill their opponent by strategically timing attacks and finding openings. Once either the player or opponent is killed, they can run further along their side of the map, until the other player is re-spawned. This pattern of gameplay is continued until one of the players reaches their end, where they are then eaten by the Nidhogg, a giant worm-like creature taken directly from Norse mythology.

The Nidhogg is always hungry and you get the honor of being its lunch.

The brilliance behind Nidhogg 2’s gameplay is that it’s easy-to-learn, but difficult to master. To start, you only need to know how to move your character (using the D-pad or left analog stick) and how to jump and attack, which are mapped to two separate buttons. As you get into more challenging battles, then you will slowly begin understanding more complex strategies, such as blocking and weapon throwing. Nidhogg 2 is a fast-paced game that will teach you the basics, kick you around a few times, and then teach you how to really play if you can keep up with it. This cycle of learning makes playing Nidhogg 2 a rewarding experience every time you play.

Nidhogg 2 provides players with four different weapons, which are randomly generated at the start of each match or re-spawn. You’ll be paired with a rapier, broadsword, dagger, or bow and arrow. Making its return from the original game, the rapier is the most balanced and reliable weapon. Matches featuring only the rapier are typically the most fun, as these matches rely more on patience, wit, and precision, rather than pure luck. The other weapons, especially the bow and arrow, are often unbalanced and lack precision. The bow and arrow is difficult to control, the dagger leaves too many openings, and the broadsword is too heavy at times. This is an instance where Nidhogg 2 forgets its simplistic roots and aims for something that it doesn’t need. While the new weapon additions seem like a logical step forward, some of the additions are questionable. These new weapons are not exactly terrible, but I felt the game lost a bit of its balance after they were introduced.

Speaking of getting away from simplistic roots, I would be damned if I didn’t mention Nidhogg 2’s art direction in more detail. Moving away from the Intellivision palette, Nidhogg 2 is more directly influenced by graphics found in a Sega Genesis-era game. As many have pointed out, the look of the game is, well, kind of gross. But don’t take that as a criticism. In fact, the disgusting nature of Nidhogg 2 adds a lot of character to it. Everything from the character animations, bloody maps, and the wonderful pulsating movements of the Nidhogg as it swoops down for his meal. All of these factors add to the personality of the experience. In this regard, moving away from the simple palette of the original Nidhogg was a rewarding call.

Nasty? Yes, but look at how cool this stage is!

There are three modes to choose from in Nidhogg 2: Arcade, local, and online. Arcade mode is the single-player experience of the game. Players will progress through ten unique maps, fighting off computer-controlled enemies. This is the best way to get familiar with the mechanics and different weapons. Arcade mode teaches you the ropes without specifically telling you how to do everything. The single-player portion of Nidhogg 2 isn’t anything special, and doesn’t feature anything special or new, but it does its job well in teaching the basics. Although, it would’ve been nice to see the single-player experience do something a bit different than the rest of the package.

Local mode is your “couch co-op” mode, so that you can play with friends that are present in the same room. Online mode allows you to play with friends and strangers from across world. Connecting to an online match is easy and fluent, and I didn’t experience any lag or connection issues while playing Nidhogg 2 online. Playing online with others is where Nidhogg 2 will continue to shine in the future. As a mostly competitive game, Nidhogg 2 includes all of the right modes. You can play by yourself, with local friends, and with other across the globe. It’s a good mix for this type of game.

The guy was just answering his door and got a sword in his chest. Rude.

Another new addition is character customization, which is present in all modes. Before entering any of the modes, you will be allowed to create a custom character to use. The main body can be painted in a variety of colors, which you can then add accessories, clothes, and crazy hair styles to. If you’re not feeling particularly creative, you can mix different options together for a randomly generated character. Character customization is a welcomed addition to the Nidhogg formula, especially with the change of art direction. However, a huge flaw with this system is that you cannot save any of your characters. Every time you start the game or change modes, you must create a new character. Creating a character only takes a few minutes, but it’s a real shame that there is no option to save these custom creations.

Nidhogg 2 is a unique game that takes the original formula and attempts to improve it. In some cases, the new additions give it more character and improve the experience. Other additions, however, make it somewhat lose what made the original so special in the first place. With that said, what you get in Nidhogg 2 is an overall entrancing experience, with some flaws that hold it back from being truly special. Still, if you’re in a competitive mood, like giant worms, and want something different, Nidhogg 2 might be just for you.

Final Verdict: Nidhogg 2 is exciting and addicting, but sometimes forgets the simplistic roots that made the original so popular among competitive players. Nidhogg 2 was played on PlayStation 4 for this review.

[Note: This product was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review]

I’m sorry, but this crossed my mind while writing this review and it’s just too perfect.

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