This title is exclusive to PC and was reviewed as such.
Niffelheim is a side-scrolling, sandbox, survival game from Ellada Games. Set in the world of the old Norse mythology, you play the part of an adventurer looking for a way to prove yourself to the gods and gain entry to Asgard. You’ll need to gather resources, build your base and set off to explore the world around you. The key to your victory are pieces of the Asgard portal, scattered around the world in the hands of some very big bosses. Time to suit up.
The survival aspects of Niffelheim are few and forgiving. Hunger is the only usual suspect here and you need to either eat raw food, or gather the ingredients to cook dishes. There’s no thirst, cold/heat meters or sleep required. Depending on how much you like these normal survival features, you’ll either find Niffelheim a bit boring or a way to enter into survival games that doesn’t send you mad trying to balance everything (this is a great game if you have anger issues, it’s really very calming for a survival game).
On the sandbox side of things, you are one of 4 heroes trying to find the portal pieces. You each have your own land to build on and, ahem, ‘visiting’ each other is as simple as heading to the side of your home map that corresponds with where you want to go. There’s not really much difference between the lands except aesthetics, but those aesthetics are gorgeous. In the same vein, the sounds and music are beautifully written into the game. Everything feels the part.
On the other side, while the art is beautiful, the animation is a bit…janky? Yes, janky is the right word. It’s not bad, it’s just… noticeably not quite right.
This is a game built for the art. Anything in what I’m going to call ‘the above world’ is hand drawn beautifully and the atmosphere is right out of a Norse saga. I played the Valkyrie and did in fact expect her to break into song at any moment. Everything looks the part. The only part of the visual aspect of this game I found to be, well, a bit boring again, is the lack of variety in enemies. They’re all pretty much the same and with the current combat system, it all conspires into the repetitive.
While there are four different character types, there’s no real difference between them except the look. There are some basic (and I mean basic) character passive abilities, but I didn’t know about these until much further into the game. They honestly never came up. You do gain proficiency by doing things. You’ll level up as a fighter, hunter, cook, gatherer etc. Which gives you a bit more utility out of those skills.
Combat is a single button push (two if you count the block with a shield button, but you don’t do any damage if you do this and it’s pointless. DPS race ftw). Niffelheim in a rather baffling display of concentrating on probably the wrong thing, has three separate buttons to gather different things in different ways but only one attack button. There is no jumping, dodging or ducking. Just the one attack. I worked out how to attack things in 1 second. It took me 15 minutes to figure out how to gather everything.
The actual building of things was a bit more fun. You actually have a very large internal base with many things that can be upgraded to provide new recipes for armour, food and building upgrades. Outside you can upgrade your little hovel into a rather nice citadel with tower defenses, and you’ll want to get those defenses up pretty quickly.
One of the most fun parts of this game are random events that just happen and will alter the world somehow and send challenges your way. From hordes of skeletons to attack your home to curses (this mist, is cursed!). Losing parts of your tower mean you either need more resources to repair or even rebuild if the damage is bad enough. It wasn’t too hard to get things into place to repel the initial hordes and you get a few minutes warning to make preparations. If for some reason you totally get destroyed, the only things you keep are in your vault, not the general chests around the place. So make sure you keep your super valuables in there.
Aside from the global events, the other three players (either AI in the single player or friends in co-op mode) will try to attack your home (and you theirs). The AI never showed much of a challenge, but with friends you could have a nice little race going on.
There is so much to gather though, everything is gatherable and it all respawns relatively quickly. Because there’s really not much space, the quick respawn is actually welcome but the sheer amount of things you need to gather is a bit daunting, and again, super repetitive. There was never really much challenge in my play through. It was all just about getting that rarer resource to make the next upgrade.
There are some quest givers around (mostly a bunch of ravens to start with) but they’re all fetch quests and don’t really add much except some okay rewards (more crafting mats usually). There is a central citadel where you can spend your hard earned (stolen off skeletons) money with a totally not dead merchant, but that’s about it for that.
The tiny bit of story you are given was completely gone from my mind by hour 6 and I only found a piece of the portal of Asgard by mistake in a dungeon dive. The dungeons are plentiful in Niffelheim but again err on repetitive. While you will do some mining and killing down there, it’s all pretty much the same resources and the same monsters. Even the big bosses were mostly bigger versions of what I’d seen before.
Between the endless resource gathering, lack of story and one button combat system, there just wasn’t much to Niffelheim to keep me interested. The only thing that kept me going was the lovely art and atmospheric sound. I would pick it up on sale if you want a survival game that’s a bit relaxing and with a unique hand drawn aesthetic.