When the original Nidhogg came out three years ago, it showed us yet again that the simplest game concepts often end up being the most memorable. All you needed was two people going at it with swords and trying to get to the opposite side of the map. Now, with Nidhogg 2, the developers at Messhof are attempting to expand on this simple idea. Nidhogg 2 not only succeeds in this sense but also manages to refine some of the nagging quirks of the first game, making the game a worthy sequel.
While Nidhogg and Nidhogg 2 are identical in many ways (usually for the better), the addition of new weapons really helps the game stand apart from its predecessor. In the original Nidhogg, you were given only a rapier and your fists. The sequel expands your options to include a broadsword, bow and arrow, dagger, or your bare hands. Each time you die you respawn in a couple seconds holding the next weapon in a predetermined chain, always in the same order for that match. As you can probably imagine, each weapon plays in starkly different ways, adding a surprising layer of depth to the game that uncovers the more you play Nidhogg 2.
For example, the rapier is your basic weapon in Nidhogg 2. You can guard in the high, middle, and low positions, as well as throw your rapier at your opponent. Your attack is a lunge forward that covers a good deal of ground. Contrast the rapier with the broadsword, which can only guard in the high and low positions. To attack, it's a sweeping motion up and down, much slower than the rapier. However, unlike the rapier, all you have to do is make contact with the enemy's weapon when swinging to disarm them.
The above example illustrates that each weapon in Nidhogg 2 has clear pros and cons. However, no one weapon clearly overpowers the other. Any weapon can defeat any other one in this game, and preferences tend to be very subjective. I personally prefer the broadsword in most situations and I tended to hate using the dagger due to its lack of range. However, one of my friends picked up a dagger every chance he got and only used the broadsword when he absolutely had to. You really are able to play Nidhogg 2 in any way that fits your play style thanks to the diversity of weapons.
This further impacts the moment to moment gameplay in other ways, too. For example, let's say you prefer the rapier above all other weapons, but you've just spawned in with a broadsword instead. During the course of a match, people will die and drop their weapons on the ground, and these can be picked up when unarmed. So, you may find yourself throwing away your current weapon and trying to find the one you really want. Your opponent, knowing this, will try to guard the rapier you are after by standing over it and trying to predict what you are going to do. Weapon diversity doesn't just influence how duels will play out in the moment. This new feature allows for grander strategies to play out over time, adding even more depth to an already surprisingly deep game.
However, while there is a bit of luck that goes into winning any duel, the bow and arrow gives you a bit more of an edge in the luck department. I found that it was far too easy to "cheese" your way to victory for the simple fact that you can fire an arrow just before your opponent spawns, and by the time they finish spawning, your arrow has already killed them. While it's difficult to win an entire match using this strategy alone, you can get pretty far with it. I found that it is especially unfair for newer players who are still trying to grasp the basics of the game. This may seem like a small balancing issue at first, but it can really take the fun out of a match if you continue to die without being able to do anything to stop it.
One other way that Nidhogg 2 improves upon its predecessor is in map variety. While the first game only had four maps, Nidhogg 2 has ten maps to choose from. Better yet, the quality of the maps has improved in this game, too. There is more variety in the terrains (even between screens of the same map), and each map is much more detailed than the original quartet. It was easy to grow bored in the first Nidhogg after only a couple of matches, largely because it would mean playing through the same maps over and over again. This needs no longer be the case in Nidhogg 2, as ten maps are more than enough to keep you satisfied for quite a while.
One way to try out all these new maps is the game's single player mode. In this mode, you try to work your way through each map against CPU opponents. As you progress through the maps, the game introduces the new weapons one at a time, making this an excellent way to get yourself acquainted with some of the new mechanics. While Nidhogg 2 is a local multiplayer game first and foremost, I found that speedrunning the single player part was a good way to pass the time when I didn't have anybody else to play with, and that's coming from someone who normally couldn't care less about speedrunning a game. However, this mode was just short enough to make it worth the try and the enemies were just tough enough to make it a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.
If you don't have anybody to play Nidhogg 2 with you locally and you're tired of the single player mode, you do have the option to play online. However, I have to highly advise against this. Nidhogg 2's online mode simply feels tacked on, incomplete, and not worth the hassle that it presents.
The online multiplayer's main problem is that it works identically to local multiplayer. This means that just like if you were playing with a friend, the stage select screen is open to both players to scroll through and pick a map, which means you are often at the mercy of your opponent. While this may not necessarily be that bad, it gets worse from here. Unlike in most 1 v 1 online games, each player has an unlimited amount of pauses and each player can pause for as long as he/she would like. This means I often went against players who would purposefully pause the game at the most inopportune times so that I would die when they unpaused it. This also means that in unranked play, your opponent can quit a match anytime, only to start a new match immediately afterward without your consent. And lastly, this means that if your opponent pauses, you cannot pause, meaning the only way to quit the match if they stay paused is to close the game entirely. It seems like these problems would be easy to fix, but the online mode becomes almost unbearable because of them.
Lastly, the game's art style needs addressing. When Nidhogg 2 was first revealed, I, like many other fans of the first game, was immediately taken aback by the complete 180 the developers seemed to pull with the game's art. However, love it or hate it, I must argue that there are some clear advantages to the new style. The most significant improvement is the larger character sprites. In the first game, the sprites barely took up any screen space at all, sometimes making it hard to tell at what height your enemy was guarding at. Now, it's nearly impossible to run into this problem, even if it means you now have to endure some truly revolting scenes. This includes one area where you exit out of the back end of a giant worm into a landscape where everything is made of... Well, I think you can guess what I'm getting at.
So, at the end of the day, I must say that Nidhogg 2 proved itself to be a worthy sequel to one of the best local multiplayer games of this generation. Nidhogg 2 improves upon many of the areas where the original fell short, and also adds some interesting optional additions that you can leave on to keep the experience fresh or turn off if you miss the pure gameplay of the original Nidhogg. Either way, I'm sure that this game will be a welcome addition to the library of any gamer looking for something new to play with their friends locally.
Our Nidhogg 2 review was conducted on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the developer. It is also available on PC via Steam.
Messhof Games was able to expand upon a simple concept in Nidhogg 2 without ruining what made the first game great. The new weapons are a welcome addition to the franchise, and the variety of maps prevents the experience from growing dull too quickly. However, it would have been nice had the developers put more thought and care into making the online play better, because as it stands right now, it simply isn't worth the hassle.(Review Policy)
- Improves upon the first game
- New weapons add variety
- Plenty of well-designed maps
- Great with a group of friends
- Online play is a hassle
- Bow and arrow slightly unbalanced