Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Nidhogg 2 review

En Garde

The first question that most people will likely have about Nidhogg 2 is "What in the name of all that is holy IS a Nidhogg?"....well these people should probably use google a bit more really, but the answer to that question is a serpent/dragon from Norse mythology that nibbles on the roots of the world tree. In the world of Nidhogg 2 however it's a giant, grotesque worm that you must sacrifice yourself to. Reports that the design was based on Steve Bannon's true form have yet to be confirmed.

The original Nidhogg was something of a surprise hit with it's Atari style graphics, it's quick paced fencing gameplay and the bizarre fact that the aim was to get to the far right of the level so you could be devoured by the very Nidhogg of the title. But well crafted, fast paced controls coupled with great couch multiplayer meant Nidhogg found it's place among the indie darlings of the gaming world. With this amount of success a sequel was inevitable, so what's new in Nidhogg 2 (I'm a poet know the rest).

The most obvious difference is of course, the graphics. I've seen others describe it as 16 bit SNES style graphics, but personally it reminds me more of the early days of the PS1 where 2D games such as Rayman and Lomax were still being released. In all honesty I'm not certain how I feel about this drastic change in style, the Atari style graphics of the first Nidhogg game gave it and identity of it's own, as although there are an awful lot of retro style games out there few go further back than the 8 bit days in terms of graphical style. On the upside this graphical change means that you certainly can't accuse the games creators Messhoff games of not putting any effort in and there are alot of little touches in the various backgrounds of the ten maps. The maps themselves are based off familiar gaming themes such as castles and sewers and forests, but there are some sections of each map that stand out a little more such as the inside of a monsters stomach and an abattoir complete with spinning blade traps.

So what do you actually do in Nidhogg 2 I hear you hiss. Well you have three main choices on the menu, the first is arcade, a simple 10 stage battle of increasing difficulty, then there's online battles where the meat of most of your play will likely be as you take on people from around the world in either ranked or non-ranked games. Finally there's on the couch multiplayer with either one on one or a tournament mode for up to eight players. Once a battle starts the aim is simple, there are seven screens, you start off in the middle one and player one must battle to the far right and player two the far left. These battles consist of simple fencing battles which are actually very tense due to the fast and responsive controls and a simple high/low combat system, as you can hold your sword in a high, middle or low position. If both characters have their swords at the same level they'll bounce off each other. You can also knock your opponents sword out of their hand, slide, kick and stomp their head in. It's a dang good example of a simple combat system with hidden depths and it can lead to some deeply tense face offs, oh and if you're feeling daring you can still throw your sword at your opponents obviously high risk/reward tactic.

There are some other changes to this sequel that mix things up a bit more. The first is a character creation screen. It's simple in nature and doesn't exactly have tons of options, but it's a nice little addition. The more significant change however is that there are now a total of four weapons. The basic fencing sword is the bread and butter but now there's also a slower but larger and more powerful broad sword, a quicker dagger...that also has less reach and most game changing of all a bow and arrow, allowing ranged attacks that leave you in danger close up, plus arrows can be parried back at you. Each time you die you'll get a different weapon each with strengths and weaknesses. None are truly bad but personally I always groaned a little when I spawned with the dagger, it's not awful but the lack of reach is a problem.

Nidhogg 2's battles are usually very tense as you find yourself having to make quick snap choices. Should I throw my weapon at the risk of being unarmed, should I try and jump over the opponent and run right past (only possible if you have the previous kill to your name), should I slowly edge towards them for a tactical battle...and before you know it you've been skewered in the gut. The problem is that Nidhogg is clearly best against other humans...especially ones in the same room. The single player is bare bones to say the least and can easily be completed within half a hour...once you've done that there's just playing with friends....clearly the best way to play, or online. The online choices are far too limited as there are no tournaments and I feel that a trick has been missed by not having them online. It is true that individual games can be very lengthy or very short but with time limits imposed this could have been included to mask Nidhogg's ultimate's repetition...and that's really what it comes down to, Nidhogg 2 is fun, with great controls and tactical nuances...but there's just not enough there to satisfy. I'd compare it to fine dining, it's a fantastic plate of food, but a few bites and it's gone, leaving you hungry for more.

So all in all Nidhogg 2 is a slightly mixed game. It's a sequel that takes risks with the new direction it's visuals take, a risk that's mostly successful and adds some new features which provide layers to the combat, especially the new weapon types. The combat is a prime example of deceptively complex and simple at the same time and with a group of friends on the couch it's ideal...but there's just not enough meat on the bones to fill you up. Nidhogg 2 is a delicious snack of a game, but you'll end up feeling far from full.


That's it for this review, we've started out own twitch channel now (our first video with horrific commentary is at the top of this review) so give us a follow here and now...clean up time.

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Catch ya later yeah!

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