Review

Nidhogg Review

  • Game release: January 13, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

There can be only one.

You throw your sword at your opponent's head and curse as it's deflected. You're now defenseless, and your opponent knows it. He runs at you, ready to strike. You have only half a second. You roll backward, grab an old sword off the ground, and get it up just in time to impale your opponent as he reaches you. This buys you a precious moment to gain a little ground before he respawns.

This all happens within seconds, and in a good game of Nidhogg, it's the kind of thing that happens multiple times.

Nidhogg is part fighting game, part tug-of-war. Two fighters enter at the center of a 2D side-scrolling arena, armed with only a sword. You can move your sword to one of three different heights (low, medium, and high), and the combat works like fencing: you don't swing; you stab. If you and the other player have your swords at the same height, the blades will clash, making the question of where and when to strike a mind game. A well-timed change in sword position can disarm your opponent, leaving him open to be pierced through the torso (or head, if you're so positioned). Tapping a direction takes a small step, while holding runs. If you want to get a little fancier, you can dive-kick, roll, cartwheel, throw your sword, or, if empty-handed, try to pummel your opponent with your fists. All with only two action buttons: jump and attack. Rarely do games with such simple controls offer so much variety in their actions.

The first person to kill the other gets to run toward his or her goal like a football player dashing for the end zone. That fight is not the end, however, because you continue to respawn until you have either won or lost. If you can come back and kill the other player before he reaches his goal, you gain control of the screen and can make a mad dash for your goal instead. To take the football analogy further, it's like forcing your opponent to fumble and then running away with the ball, until he wrestles the ball back from you and goes their way again until somebody finally scores. A single game could just as easily last 20 seconds as 20 minutes, depending on the skill of both fighters. The back-and-forth between two well-matched players is thrilling, and there's a pure exhilaration that comes from being on the brink of a loss, making the right move at the right time, and fighting your way back to win.

The floor of this castle has been carpeted by colorful blood.

Nidhogg's battles can be intense in part because the playing field is perfectly even. There are no special characters to select, and every arena is symmetrical. Nobody starts with an advantage, and your victory or failure depends entirely on your own skill. Some strategies may seem to be surefire ways to succeed, but that's only true until your opponent catches on to what you're doing and learns how to defend against it.

You can fight on four different stages, each of which sports unique features to differentiate it from its brethren. One stage features areas with tall grass that hides the position of your sword, making close-quarters duels more of a guessing game. Another stage features long, narrow corridors that negate the usefulness of both jumps and sword throws. Everybody is likely to have a favorite stage, though the overly bright first screen of the Clouds stage might cause headaches for some.

Even though only two people can play at a time, Nidhogg is an excellent game for parties or other group activities. A built-in tournament mode facilitates up to eight players, and you can mix things up with gameplay variants such as low-gravity boomerang mode, where thrown swords come back to their original owner, or baby mode, which forces both fighters to crawl everywhere (good for an initial laugh but not the most enjoyable way to play). While there are tricks to pick up, there are no complex moves to learn. Nidhogg has all the intensity of a close fighting-game match without most of the complexity.

If you don't have any local friends to play with, your options are severely limited. A single-player mode lets you fight a string of AI fighters, which can be a lot of fun and perfect training for human opponents, but it can be "beaten" in about 30 minutes even by a beginner. It welcomes replays, but fighting the computer isn't nearly as satisfying as fighting a friend, and none of the multiplayer variants are available to a single player. Nidhogg is a game made for friendly competition, and you won't find much if you intend to play alone.

This wouldn't be as much of an issue if Nidhogg satisfactorily delivered on one of its promises: online multiplayer. Unfortunately, every match of the more than 20 I played was plagued by lag that ruined the experience. This isn't as noticeable if you're the player hosting the game (which could lead you to think you're a Nidhogg savant if you don't know any better), but as a guest player, you find yourself warping around the stage, landing a killing blow that doesn't actually kill your foe, and getting stuck while grabbing ledges. Even matches that aren't as loaded with these problems suffer just enough to make the experience disappointing at best and frustrating at worst.

Tall grass can make swordfighting both mysterious and dangerous.

There are other rough edges here and there, such as the apparent lack of D-pad support (at least on the Xbox 360 controller I played with) and the fact that not every menu can be controlled with the controller, though the game's Steam page claims "Full Controller Support." These are mostly small inconveniences that will hopefully be ironed out later in Nidhogg's life, as was the game's tutorial, which was broken at launch.

It would be easy to glance at Nidhogg and wonder how it could possibly be worth the price. The graphics look crude (though there is a fluidity to the animation that fits the action well), the single-player is almost nonexistent, and there are only four stages. Indeed, if you intend to play alone, Nidhogg is almost certainly not the game for you. But it also offers a rare local multiplayer experience that is easy to pick up, highly competitive, and perfectly balanced. If you have friends nearby, this is some of the most fun you can have stabbing them through the heart.

The Good
Symmetrical levels give neither player an advantage
Simple controls that allow for complex moves
Fantastic multiplayer
The Bad
Almost nonexistent single-player
Online matches leave much to be desired
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Britton Peele owns more than one sword, so it's sort of surprising that he also has friends to play Nidhogg with. He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of virtual swordfighters both online and off before writing this review, and looks forward to new challengers.

Discussion

46 comments
stev69
stev69

The bad.


"Almost nonexistent single-player"

"Online matches leave much to be desired"


So wtf does that leave? 8?

chibistevo32
chibistevo32

Good potential fun that's ruined by a lack of content and horrible lag outside of local play. It's pointless playing such a game if you're going to be even 1 frame behind your opponent.


Out of the pitiful 4 maps, only one of them is even remotely worth playing. The other maps are short and have annoying gimmicks while the Clouds map gives your eyes aids. And while the concept and general play is pretty fun and competitive, additively so, so much more could have been accomplished with things like interactive environments and additional movements.


And while the reviewer seems to think there is no set strategy for success and that play is pretty equal, two things come across as questionable: the first being the jump attack which is far too overpowered, making the disadvantage of having no sword completely nulled. I'd like to say it's easy to counter, but it really isn't unless your general play consists of nothing but assuming the player will use it. Second, the fencing mechanic seems inconsistent. A lot of the time it just seems to be pure randomness as to who parries and whose lunge hits first. Like someone said, a game of rock paper scissors, except you have no idea which one you've employed.


The controls are a bit annoying too. Oftentime it's difficult to remember and utilise which of the three positions your sword is in when running, and when both throwing your sword and rolling is set to up and down on the controls respectively, you will often find yourself doing the wrong movement half the time.


Also, I can't help but disregard both the price and time to make this. It's nearly double the price of your average indie game, and has literally zero working content outside local play on the Castle map.

Ark1of712
Ark1of712

The Nidhogg is a Norse dragon, didn't any of you play Age of Mythology!

Chronologo
Chronologo

The game is fun, I would have put more stages into it although and a few more paths to reach the final screen could add more value

LeroyPeterson
LeroyPeterson

The kind of game you play at work or school with others when you have nothing better to do. The kind of game that you wouldnt play at home, or spend anything less than $5 for.


Just like slime wars or that local multiplayer game with the rabbits that jump ontop of each other

Cellpwn
Cellpwn

I actually think Nidhogg looks pretty damn good in motion, kind of has a parchment-drawing esque aesthetic. I'll take fun gameplay over graphics anyway, which  the mainstream market seems to have backwards nowadays.

xbr85
xbr85

Graphics isn't the most important aspect of a game to me, but the developers could definitely have taken the time to enhance the graphics of this game, I'm sure the game is fun but I just can't find a reason why a game in 2013/2014 should look like this other than laziness. I'm not buying the "retro" excuse this time, especially with that price tag.

Masculus
Masculus

The game is brilliant. Best local mp game i've played in a while. Great for small doses. I could see pro tournaments of this joint.

Deserves more polish. It really could use more stages.

ExplicitMike
ExplicitMike

Nice to see the Coleco vision alive and well. LOL just joking this game is actually really fun. I will say the price is a little high given the production value.

hitomo
hitomo

dont know, maybe let players review the games, not some ... people on energy drinks

PaperthinTV
PaperthinTV

I'm sorry, but even for a BEGINNER, this game is hard to beat in less than 30 minutes. I spent HOURS trying to get past halfway in single-player and still not beat it. Do I just suck? Maybe I need to use a different controller? I don't know, but unless you're some pro-ass fucking gamer, you will not beat single-player in less than thirty minutes. PLEASSE

MrFacepunch
MrFacepunch

Screw graphics, this game is freakin' sick. When the core gameplay is as tight as this i don't care much what it looks like.

dengl
dengl

Given the choice between this and Blade Symphony, which is also 14.99 on Steam.  I'd go for Blade Symphony!

Freedomination
Freedomination

If i remember correctly Nidhogg is the snake that is eating the roots of Yggdrassil the world tree. The game looks like someone modded in multiplayer for prince of persia :D

iamllamapie
iamllamapie

Shows how little effort you can put in a game, stamp "indie" on it, and boom. Critical success 

DeanTheJinn
DeanTheJinn

WOW G$ i wonder how much nidhogg developers paid you because they clearly are swimming in the $$$$

cyloninside
cyloninside

how the fuck did this game get an 8?

philippnovikov
philippnovikov

"THE BAD

Almost nonexistent single-player

Online matches leave much to be desired"


You forgot:

Almost nonexistent graphics

nate1222
nate1222

Nidhogg looks as frantic as Megabyte Punch. Me likes.

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

The game may be great, but I'm personally so over the super primitive graphics all these indie devs work with nowadays. A big part of the appeal of gaming is visual aesthetic. This "retro" movement was cute a few years back, and with the right concept, it can work in a game's favor, but for crissakes...hire a freakin artist.

It's honestly getting insulting at this point. 

I read on "X" indie developer's Kickstarter page "Our game is visually stylized to pay homage to classic games from three decades ago." No, tell the truth. "Our game looks like Pitfall for the AtarI 2600 because we couldn't be bothered hiring an artist."

bluefox755
bluefox755

This game might be fun, but looks hideous, even by indie standards. Simple graphics are ok, but this is just ugly.

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

I don't care tons for online multiplayer but this looks like it could be fun some of the few times I play local multiplayer with some friends. May pick this up on a Steam sale.

sakaixx
sakaixx

coming to ps4/psv forecasted

groowagon
groowagon

looks like fun. not $15-fun, though... such a simple game shouldn't cost that much.

fillup0
fillup0

@LeroyPeterson Don't underestimate the fun and the skill ceiling of this game man, even though it's simple, there is so much strategy.

fillup0
fillup0

@xbr85 It's pretty obvious that the devs spent a long time fine tuning the mechanics and controls of this game more than anything. It's also obvious that the visual style is intentional and the aesthetic as a whole is carefully crafted. The game feels like a really weird LSD trip and it's down to the music and trippy visuals. Yeah, the game may not have good graphics in a technical sense but the aesthetic is what matters and this game sets itself apart.


Maybe it's time to stop calling for graphics and start calling for better games. We've had too many games which are just tech demos last gen, lets not make this gen the same shit over again.

ThePixelOmen
ThePixelOmen

@xbr85 lol, are you serious? It's obviously an intentional art style. Get a clue.

Sargus
Sargus

@hitomo I was not under the influence of Red Bull when playing Nidhogg or writing this review.

fillup0
fillup0

@PaperthinTV I completed it in 40 minutes using the Xbox 360 controller analog stick. The game plays much better on a keyboard or a good d-pad, I can tell you that now. The AI is pretty easy to trick in all honestly. The falling platforms in the sky level for example, the AI sometimes appears to be completely oblivious to them.

Sargus
Sargus

@PaperthinTV I got the 30 minute number mostly from my own experience -- jumping into single-player was my first time ever playing Nidhogg, and I beat it in under an hour. It's possible I just found the right ways to cheese the AI, though. (I used a lot of divekicks, if that helps :-/ )

PaperthinTV
PaperthinTV

@iamllamapie This is pretty much true. And the dev's of nidhogg will not do the steam sale approach to their game either (I think I read this in an article). The launch sale is 20% off and that is the only sale it will ever have. It's worth it for the multiplayer and stuff.. I guess.. The dev's also sound like chav's because they want to attract this game to the "hardcore gamer" crowd, yet their game has the laggiest multiplayer.

DaRq_MiNoS
DaRq_MiNoS

@cyloninside It's got a Metacritic of 82, with Edge, IGN, VideoGamer, and Destructoid giving it 90s.  I'm not sure how much I can get into a game with graphics that are that old.  I played through that era long ago, and I don't have much desire to revisit it.  Papers, Please was a game I enjoyed though, and the graphics weren't much better.

Ultramarinus
Ultramarinus

@DinoBusterI especially love how the reviewers will severely criticize and decrease points if a game looks like it's from 2005 but will stamp a 8 on something that looks like it's from 1980.

NeoIostars
NeoIostars

@DinoBuster Maybe they're trying to cut back on the budget? Personally I don't mind the art style. There's a certain nostalgic nuance/atmosphere about it, and it's strangely fitting to the simplistic nature of the game. Then again, I'm an old fart, so your mileage may vary.

nate1222
nate1222

@DinoBuster Agreed. As fun as Nidhogg looks, I still think Megabyte Punch is a better buy.

jharring
jharring

@DinoBuster No kidding.  There are indie games with good art styles (Braid, Castle Crashers, Mark of the Ninja) so this kind of Atari 2600 flashback doesn't do anything for me.

Darkmoone1
Darkmoone1

@groowagon


Probably not as simple as you think it is...


And people probably paid $15 for plenty of things that would give less value than a game like this that provides competition locally and online.

LeroyPeterson
LeroyPeterson

@fillup0 @LeroyPeterson 

Almost any game can have ridiculous amounts of strategy. This is basically a 2D scroller with a rock-paper-scissor formula and responsive gameplay.
You could try and master this game, but I dont find it very rewarding after a couple of hours

Geardudu
Geardudu

@jharring @DinoBuster I think even Super Brothers: Sword & Sworcery, Cave Story, Hotline Miami or Gunpoint have nice visuals. But this is too much.

thorn3000
thorn3000

@Gearduduwell, take into consideration cave story was made by 1 guy (I mean the original version)...I like indie when it's artistic like Limbo, but when it's trying too hard to be too old school (VVVVV or this) it looks stupid

Nidhogg More Info

  • Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • PlayStation Vita
    Nidhogg is a two-player fencing game with football and platforming elements.
    6.6
    Average User RatingOut of 16 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Messhof
    Published by:
    Messhof
    Genres:
    Miscellaneous