Nighogg 2 is everything fans wanted while still appealing to newcomers.
In many ways, Nidhogg 2 is a traditional sequel. Its graphics are improved, animations look smoother, environments have more detail and general gameplay remains mostly unchanged apart from a few new gimmicks.
The core of Nidhogg 2 is largely the same as the original. You’re trying to go all the way to the right on the map and your opponent is trying to go all the way to the left. Whoever gets the most recent kill gets the right of way to start running towards the finish. This same gameplay loop can make for brutal back-and-forth action that goes on for a dozen minutes, and because of the generous defensive respawns, the losing player has plenty of chances to make a hard-fought comeback. Thanks to some added verticality, there are some ways to circumvent conflict when you’re just trying to make a sprint to your finish line. The mind games you can play against your opponent like juking a stab or retreating briefly before going for a sudden sword throw build a tension as you try desperately to pin down your opponent’s play style. With a basic gameplay loop, Nidhogg 2 is a great couch competitive experience for those willing to get deep into the metagame while remaining simple enough that friends who typically shy away from games can jump into tournament mode and not feel overwhelmed.
My biggest issue with the original game was its lack of variety. Customization, stages and weaponry offered very little to make a match different from the last. In Nidhogg 2, there are ten different stages that have entirely different aesthetics and movement challenges, each body part of your avatar is customizable and the weapons you use also vary from respawn to respawn. Easily the most jarring change to the look of Nidhogg 2 is the cartoony, almost early claymation look of the characters. While they’re a huge departure from the characters in the first game, the way they look and express themselves during combat is rad and only serves to further the bizarre world developer Messhof Games created.
Seriously, though, Nidhogg 2 is a delightfully weird world that looks like an early ‘80s children fantasy movie on acid. It’s bright and beautiful, but the game is also disgusting with duals inside giant worms complete with the winner exiting out its rear end. Playing couch co-op with my significant other, the game inspired as many “ew!” moments as it did bouts of laughter. This twisted fantasy aesthetic adds much more personality to the game, and it makes going through the various sections of levels enjoyable. Simply put, the level design in Nidhogg 2 is memorable and it’s easy to love each of the ten stages.
Another big change up in Nidhogg 2 is the addition of weapons that cycle at random during play. In addition to the original rapier sword, players can spawn (at random) with a two-handed sword, a dagger, and, most surprisingly, a bow and arrow. Each weapon handles a little differently, and you have to master each of them if you want to beat your opponent who could have a bigger or more versatile weapon in his/her hand. The same high, middle and low strikes from the original game are back, but with the addition of different weapons, how you counter those three attacks varies. For example, the dagger is especially challenging when your enemy has a rapier or a two-handed sword, but if you can slide under their blow by ducking as they strike, they’re opened up to a quick jab in the gut. Learning the meta about how to use and counter the four weapons in the game adds another layer to Nidhogg 2, which only furthers the mind games you can play with your opponent.
Nighogg 2 is an arcade indie I can see myself playing once a week for the foreseeable future, and thanks to its singleplayer arcade mode and local and online multiplayer tournaments, it’s easy to see the game becoming a party hit amongst friends.
Addictive gameplay and delightful world building propel a game with simple mechanics to something more. Nidhogg 2 is everything it should have been: A natural evolution of gameplay with better visuals and a more memorable world to stab your friends in.
Nidhogg 2 was reviewed on PC courtesy of Evolve PR and Messhof, llc.
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