Nidhogg 2 Review: Why improvements can destroy something beautiful.

When I first fought my way to the Nidhogg, I was in utter amazement. Two people fencing with each other in a realm of nothing but possibility with crisp, definitive animation and the most simplistic looking characters one could ever have built, one yellow, one orange. The only thing the game was missing was an effective and useful matchmaking system with proper netcode. Yeah, playing online with your friends was damn near impossible, but, for local play, Nidhogg is king.

Nidhogg was simple, if you start on the left, move all the way to the right through multiple screens while fending off attacks from the man on the right, or, if you’re on the right, move all the way to the left through multiple screens while fending off attacks from the man on the left. It’s tug of war with swords, and you have to score a kill to advance through screens. SUPER basic, but very fun.

So, how does one make something objectively less fun by adding to it? I have two major reasons.

1. Additional weapons

There’s nothing really wrong with adding new options to a game, provided you can turn them off. The major issue with Nidhogg 2’s weapon system is that every time you respawn, you respawn with a new weapon in your hands, starting with the original rapier, then a broadsword, a dagger, and finally a bow & arrow.

None of this by itself would be a huge issue if they were useful in any way except the broadsword. (and, that’s only slightly okay, rapier ftw)

If we got to choose our weapon of choice at the beginning of the round, that would be cool, or, while respawning, hit a face button to choose a weapon, if you wanted to be able to change it up situationally. Right now, you’re likely to respawn with a bow & arrow while your opponent is running as fast as possible towards you and can gut you before you can even fire a shot.

2. World Design

I actually really enjoy the level design of the second game, sure, there are moving platforms and stuff like that, but, there was in the first game too. Heck, it’s all graphically coherent and looks decent, but, where it really fails in my mind is that everything looks goofy, and so when you get to the end and get eaten by a giant worm, it’s just… expected at that point. It’s like hearing a joke but already knowing the punchline. The game before looked like something potentially serious and you’re fighting over who gets eaten by a giant worm. I know, it’s nothing spectacular or amazing, but it was so surprising the first time I played. Everything is so cartoony in the second game that it’s missing the major “wow” factor it had the first time – and, I’m not talking about it being unexpected (as it was the first time I played Nidhogg), I just mean, that it so clearly changes the fundamentals of the world our characters our dueling in. Even the character animations feel more goofy now. They camped up the game that seems like the original was unintentionally campy.

All in all, Nidhogg 2 is NOT a bad game, it’s really quite fun. The updated netcode is a work of art, and on my dollar store internet, even I could fight with randoms from across planet earth who just wanted to stab me and get eaten first. If they update the weapon system somehow, letting you choose what weapons you want before a round starts, or possibly adding an option for just a duel with single weapons, that would be amazing.

It won’t ever be the Nidhogg 2 I hoped it was going to be, but, it’s clever and fun, and still a fun game in it’s own right, it just feels less when they’ve added so much more. I also want to point out I stole EVERY SCREENSHOT from their presskit, because pressing F12 actually restarted the game or something.

Graphically, the game is much different. It’s a clever style, but it doesn’t feel Nidhogg to me. I understand that telling an artist his graphics aren’t what my mind imagined in his first game is entirely wrong, and enjoyment of graphics are nothing if not subjective (except when it comes to cluttered Uis, cheaply thrown together assets with different resolutions, and other obvious problems) but, there are plenty of people who agree with that opinion. If you like the new artwork, support this guy. If you like the new weapons, support this guy. Heck, if you like Nidhogg 1, leave a message in the comments on his game that even though you disagree with the direction Nidhogg 2 went in, you want to support him because you were a fan of the first game, don’t let me detract from you supporting an indie developer because I disagree with the direction he went with his game.

I am just not a huge fan of Nidhogg 2’s gameplay or graphic style in general when compared to Nidhogg 1. Dive kicks knock both players down. No cartwheel thrusts. All of the old, effective strategies are removed and you’re stuck holding a bow and arrow that makes you feel like a dickhead.

Nidhogg 2 costs 14.99$ and, if you’re looking for a party game to play with your friends, sure, it gets the job done. It’s a ham-fisted good time for everybody. It’s just not the nuanced, intelligent combat the first game had to offer.

Get the game on Steam

Disclosure: We received this game for free.

Game’s Official Website

Developed by: Messhof

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