Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4
Release: 15th August 2017
It wasn´t until last year that I jumped onto the hypetrain Nidhogg 1 created when it was released back in 2014, mostly because I got it in a bundle for cheap. Yet, quickly after starting the game up, I realized why it got praised as one of the best (1v1) multiplayer games out there, offering everything from simple mechanics to great moments every round. Now, after more than three years, Nidhogg finally returns to conquer the realms of multiplayer games once again. Frankly, Nidhogg 2 doesn´t reinvent the formula but was that necessary to begin with?
So, let´s begin with the things Nidhogg 2 left completely untouched like the concept. If you aren´t familiar with Nidhogg, because you somehow missed out of the first one, it´s a game in which you run from one end of the screen to another while killing your opponent. Once you killed your opponent your able to progress through the different stages of each level, unless you´re killed, putting your opponent in the situation of running to the end of his side of the level. Basically, it´s a run full of fights and deaths, until one is lucky and fast enough to reach the last of the three stages every level offers for each player. Once you reached the end, the name giving Nidhogg appears and eats you … what a great victory.
Another thing that Messhof left completely untouched is the gameplay. Mainly controlled by the left joystick and X button (in case you use an Xbox One controller) we´re able to switch between three different weapon stances, low, mid and high, as well as being able to throw our weapon, in order to stab our opponent and spill his body fluids all over the map. To block attacks you need to have the same stance as the attack, we can dodge by crouching and much more like picking up weapons, everything revolves around your joystick movements and reflexes, making every fight a pure adrenaline trip.
Nidhogg 2´s gameplay is super easy to learn but hard to master, only the fastest and smartest player can win, as long as you´re not killed by a surprisingly spawned opponent. While Nidhogg 2 certainly does a better job at preventing such surprise spawns I encountered several times in which my opponent either spawned behind an object, making him seemingly invisible or just meters away from me, just not as often as in the first game. Overall, the whole gameplay felt a little bit more fluid, be it the better spawns, the improved blocking mechanic, that lets you unarm your enemy or the overall feeling. Nothing I can really pinpoint, just a subjective observation during my time, since me and my friend had a lot less “How did that happen?” moments.
Speaking of changes and improvements, Nidhogg 2 also brings quite some new stuff to the table. First of all, we can now choose between 4 different weapons, our well-known sword, a dagger, a “longer dagger” and a bow, especially the bow is an interesting weapon, due to its lack of any melee powers. From the host menu we can either disable certain weapons, to create the classic Nidhogg feeling or even randomize a new weapon every time we respawn.
The implementation of the shuffle mechanic combined with expanded control over the game rules in particular creates some very new situations, if you have to kill your enemy with a bow for example. Nothing totally necessary but a neat gimmick to bring some change into the formula.
Additionally, Nidhogg 2 also improves one of the biggest weaknesses of its predecessor, the lacking map variety. Instead of only offering us a mere four maps, each only different in 1-2 aspects, Messhof took the time to create 10 maps, each one of them set in a different setting. From castles, to pirate ships or even volcanos, they not only look very different but even feature some unique designs and traps. One map is full of houses, little gaps and brings you into a living Nidhogg as a finale, another one has a moving floor etc. The price point simply seems a lot more compelling when you have that many very big, unique maps, that are by far not simply copy pasted.
Yet, the most discusses change of Nidhogg 2 is its new art style, which has nothing to do with the original, as seen in the pictures. While I prefer the amount of details implemented in the levels through it and the simply better looks, I can´t get along with the new character style either. Where the environment looks a lot more homogenic and distinctive, the models seem somewhat out-of-place.
Nidhogg 1 had very simple but fluid, smooth characters, Messhof decided to go with more clunky looking ones this time. Even though I got used to it fairly quickly, this change in art style can irritate quite a bit for the first rounds, especially if you consider the silly customization options enabled by these models, really, no one needed those.
If I would need to summarize Nidhogg 2, I would say, it´s Nidhogg 1 in bigger. The gameplay was left completely untouched, only expanded by different weapons, way more customization options and a huge variety of maps. It brings nothing truly game changing to the table, only improving on the few shortcomings of the original, presenting us with smarter map design and higher level graphics.
Still, Nidhogg 2 works as amazing as the first one, creating adrenaline loaded rounds full of hatred between friends, when one of you keeps killing the other. At the end, it’s a very safe played, unsurprising game, nonetheless, it´s a guarantee for fun at every gaming session, in a definitive version.
[A Review Code was provided by Evolve PR on behalf of Messhof]