Nidhogg 2 is the sequel to the popular indie fighting game Nidhogg. Nidhogg was a pixel fighting game with pixel blood and gore, where killing your opponent paints the map in blood like it’s a Jackson Pollock splatter painting. Nidhogg was a popular party game as its simple controls meant anyone could pick it up. With its arcade graphics coupled with a fast paced play style, it quickly became a favourite. I first played the original Nidhogg at a party and the casual yet lively gameplay made it perfect, as we played round for round while drinking. I loved how it went for an old school arcade game style and went away from the overly-complex style that most fighting games have (not that being complex is a bad thing). The only problem that I had with it was my doubts on how they could continue the series, such a fun game needed to be continued but how?
So how does Nidhogg 2 improve the lineage? Despite going a full 180 and changing the graphics and art style, the sequel manages to stick to its roots. Achieved by fine tuning the fast paced combat style while revamping the graphics in a disgustingly beautiful style. Another aspect of the classic Nidhogg which was improved, was the amazing soundtrack. This all culminated into a great sequel with its own flavour of game yet a taste that old fans will still recognise. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – something which Messhof Games have adhered to.
The aim of Nidhogg is to battle your opponent with a variety of weapons, inching closer and closer to the end of the map each time you kill your opponent. Though when YOU die, the camera locks onto your opponent and he has a chance to progress to the opposite side of the map. This means both players are playing a sort of tug of war for control of the camera, moving closer and closer to their end with every kill. It only takes one hit to kill you so, the game is fast paced and dynamic, with both sides dying constantly before the game ends. Games only last a few minutes a piece but you will be surprised by the amount of deaths (and rage) that can add up in that space of time.
Nidhogg keeps the controls basic by giving you control over the level you keep your weapon (high, medium or low for most weapons aside from the longsword). When you attack an opponent at the same level they block your weapon, if they are not at the same level they die. This creates a constant mind game as you try to counter your opponent’s moves, while also lunging forward with your own attacks. The game gets slightly more complex with things like different levels in terrain, ability to throw your weapon and also knocking your opponent’s weapon out of their hands. It’s not the most complex system, but at times it can feel a little hectic as you smash buttons hoping for something good to happen. This leads to frustrating periods of deaths that you have no idea how to avoid as the pacing can seem too fast for any strategic planning. Fortunately, there is a counter to this so that your opponent doesn’t just steamroll you. Nidhogg 2 has 4 different weapons with different strengths and weaknesses. The options are the classic rapier; the easy to strike but hard to block with longsword; the quick but close combat dagger; and the bow. These are rotated through every time you respawn. This creates a new opportunity after each death. If you aren’t good with the dagger you will respawn with the bow, a weapon you might have a better shot with (pun intended). The addition of different weapons fine tunes the game as it make it less one dimensional and creates some much needed variety.
Speaking of variety, with the change in graphics comes the ability to personalise your character in some of the ugliest clothing options ever. This hideous appearance suits the aesthetic of the game, with the two troll like characters battling to the death. Even though the character models seem to be incredibly ugly and disturbing the backgrounds are simultaneously beautiful and breathtaking. This contrast creates a perfect appreciation for the stunning backgrounds while also a humorous detachment from your character as you repeatedly see them get sliced in two. Nidhogg 2 has some of the nicest maps I have seen in a while and you can really tell love was put in by the artists and it pays off as it makes going through the campaign a pleasure for the eyes.
The one gripe with this game is that its campaign is short and unrewarding. It’s completed in around 20 minutes and repeating it just feels pointless unless you are trying to beat your time. I know the real fun happens when you play PVP or ranked PVP but it still feels a little hollow as you go from map to map beating bots of different difficulty. I’m not saying there needs to be an amazing story with massive character progression but I would appreciate something different to what I can get in a custom game. The campaign is really only for achievement hunters and speed runners, though it does have its uses for teaching you the basics (though there isn’t that much to teach).
Lastly I have to complement the soundtrack of this game. It’s not often that I actually appreciate and enjoy a soundtrack and maybe tha’ts because I’m a little ignorant to the importance of a good soundtrack. Though when a game’s soundtrack moves me to actually listening to it outside of the game I know it’s something special. Classic Nidhogg had a nice soundtrack that matched the arcade-y aesthetic but like the aesthetic of Nidhogg 2 the soundtrack got a revamp and is much better off for it. Every level had a unique soundtrack that perfectly encapsulated the mood of the map, transporting you into the environment through sound and visuals. I’m not putting the soundtrack on my Spotify playlist or anything but it is definitely a perk of this game and one aspect where it shines.
Nidhogg 2 is sadly a small game, but just like I defensively tell my sexual partners its not size that matters. Unlike my sexual partners, I actually came away from Nidhogg not regretting the time I put into it. Though it was small, it did everything right and there aren’t many other games out there that can take its niche role as a fast paced modern retro arcade fighting game. In a time where plenty of people only care about the graphics of a game, Nidhogg is a shines brightly in all its disgusting beauty.