General game information
Game name: Nidhogg 2
Release date: August 15, 2017
Price: US$ 14.99
Available on: Steam
The original Nidhogg introduced players to a weird world where two fighters attempted to best each other through a number of screens, with the ultimate aim of being eaten alive by a giant worm-like creature. Fast forward three years, and Messhof, the game’s creator, is back at it again with an improved sequel, changing the art style and adding a ton of content.
Nidhogg 2 presents us with the same premise as the first one, we have to duel our way through a number of screens, advancing while our foe is down, so we may reach the finale, triggering the release of the Nidhogg worm which will eat us alive. Should we fall in battle, our opponent will advance towards our side of the map, a mechanic that makes for heart pounding matches where it’s never easy to predict the outcome, even if one of the duelists seemingly has the game in the bag. The fancy new art style breathes life into the game’s maps, and our customizable character’s sprite work, while nightmare inducing, is excellent at conveying every movement, helping us anticipate the enemy’s moves and react to them accordingly.
This is a very important thing, because Nidhogg 2‘s action relies on quick reflexes and lightning fast strikes. Melee combat is handled cleverly, letting us choose three different stances (up, middle and low) which may then be countered by our opponent, resulting on a tense rock, paper, scissors game. There are no intricate counter/parry/block animations, stat buffs or overpowered ultimates, and every movement we make is the result of our choices. This means that sometimes matches go on forever without sword clashes, as two duelists face down each other, observing their foe’s reactions and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When that finally happens, chaos ensues, as even the most carefully planned strikes can be reversed if we think outside the box.
Aside from the melee stances, we may also choose to throw our weapon at our opponent (especially useful if they are running towards the exit, with their backs to us) or engage in good old fisticuffs. In order to aid players who favor hand to hand combat, the game also offers a dodge roll maneuver and a divekick option, or we could simply attempt to jump or duck over and under our enemy’s sword. Disarming our foe is also an option, but we should never expect them to surrender their life quickly, as a disarmed enemy is far from dead if they play their cards right. If all that wasn’t enough, Messhof‘s latest release includes a number of different weapons that can be used to murder our opponents, ranging from crude knives to heavy broadswords and nimble bows. Thanks to the deceptively simple gameplay mechanics, we can take on broadsword wielding foes with a knife and emerge victorious, or even try to fight our way through everything as an archer in a melee-centric game.
Nidhogg 2‘s maps play a big role in any engagement, as they not only look downright stunning (seriously, there’s an airship map that feels like a painting in motion) but also offer hazards that can turn the tide of the battle if used properly. Height differences may even eliminate potential playstyles from the table altogether, or create the need for desperate attack maneuvers that would otherwise fail against the same opponent. There are also ways to avoid fighting, just running past our foe thanks to the use of alternate paths featured in some arenas, which may let us skip entire areas of the map (although we should always expect to see a weapon flying towards our back if we chose to engage in such cowardly tactics). With the amount of options available at any given moment, it’s safe to say that no two fights are ever the same.
A new art style and an improved arsenal aren’t the only apparent changes introduced by Nidhogg 2, as it also contains a fully featured single player campaign which tasks us with beating ten levels as quickly as we can. With every map taking place in a visually different area of the world and introducing new weapons to the fold, we’ll spend quite a bit of time trying to perfect our runs, something that will definitely make a lot of people happy.
If we prefer to fight human opponents, there are two options, local play and online multiplayer. My experience with the former was flawless, but sadly I can’t say the same thing about the latter, as the game suffers greatly from latency variations, and right now the matchmaking system doesn’t seem to be take that into account very well. Hopefully this will be patched soon, since it’s a dark spot on an otherwise excellent title.
I’ve already expressed my love for Nidhogg 2‘s art style, with its striking backgrounds and disturbingly detailed character sprites, so the only non-gameplay related thing left for me to praise is its soundtrack, which is simply sublime. Featuring tracks composed by Mux Mool, Geotic, Osborne, Doseone, and Daedelus, it perfectly accompanies the player’s journey as they traverse the screen in pursuit of the Nidhogg’s deadly embrace.
To conclude, Messhof has crafted a sequel that manages to surpass their 2014 masterpiece. Offering more weapons and gameplay options, a fully featured singleplayer campaign, a new art style and an incredible soundtrack, Nidhogg 2 proves that sometimes, more is better.
9.5/10 – Excellent.