Review

Nidhogg 2 Review - En Garde

  • First Released Aug 15, 2017
    released
  • PC
  • PS4
  • NS

Party on.

Editor's note: We've now tested Nidhogg 2's Nintendo Switch port, and we're pleased to report it runs as smoothly as it does on other platforms. Plus, local multiplayer with a single Joy-Con each is, well, a joy. Unfortunately, a lack of online players mean you're often left waiting to join an online match, and the matches you do get into are often subject to poor connectivity. Regardless, Nidhogg 2 remains an accomplished local multiplayer game that is thankfully now available on the best console for local multiplayer. -- Oscar Dayus, November 26 2018

The beauty of Nidhogg was in its simplicity. Its minimalist style and two-button gameplay fed into what was a wonderfully streamlined and focused experience. With Nidhogg 2, developer Messhof has attempted to expand the multiplayer fencing game with more maps, different weapon types, and a busier art style, with mixed results. Some of the changes--particularly the weapon selection and grotesque aesthetic--prove to be distractions from what is otherwise an excellent party game.

Nidhogg 2's concept, as with the first game, is to stab your opponent and race past their decaying corpse onto the next screen. Your enemy will respawn on the new screen within a couple of seconds to once again impede you from reaching your goal--a giant hungry worm. You can jab your sword at any of three heights--head, torso, or... below the torso--or throw it for a long-ranged attack. Of course, flinging your sword leaves you vulnerable, as does attacking at the wrong height, which creates openings for your opponent to counter.

This was the meta-game driving the original Nidhogg's competitive gameplay--except now there's more pieces to the puzzle. The sequel introduces three new weapons: a thicker broadsword, which can be swung from either top or bottom to bat your opponent's weapon away but leaves you vulnerable in the middle; a dagger, which has a much shorter reach but allows you to stab more quickly; and the long-range bow. Arrows can only be fired in the middle or bottom and can be hit back in your direction, but they're by far the longest ranged weapons in the game that don't leave you defenceless afterward.

The expanded arsenal is of course designed to add depth, and it does: wielding a dagger for a few seconds can be a refreshing change after three years spent playing Nidhogg with just the same old rapier. But the game's fast-paced nature and its lack of warning as to which weapon you'll spawn with next means that you're often left frustrated that your attempted swipe of a sword failed because you happened to reappear holding a bow instead. You can change the order of weapons you'll spawn with in Tournament Mode, but even there the speed at which matches unfold makes adapting in the split-second respawn window a struggle. In addition, those customization options are not included in Quick Play, Arcade, and online multiplayer--a minor but strange decision given some may wish to turn the new weapons off entirely.

The introduction of weapon variety also impacts balancing. The uniformity of map design and character types creates a level playing field, but this serves to further emphasize each weapon's weaknesses. The dagger in particular feels very underpowered--it's tricky to use its speedier stab when your opponent has a much longer sword keeping you at bay. Similarly, arrows take too long to fire, meaning a quick opponent can easily gain the upper hand. Even if they don't, arrows are pretty easy to dodge, and you'll be too busy hammering the Square / X button out of frustration to take advantage.

The pulsating electronic soundtrack helps each stage feel as enjoyable, as varied, and as weird as the last.

Messhof has taken a similar "bigger means better" approach when it comes to Nidhogg 2's art style. The minimalism seen in the original is gone in favour of a style that, while still retro, is noticeably noisier. At times, the lighting is lovely, and the greater color range allows for much more varied locales than the original's monochrome level design. But the style also makes it harder to immediately see what's happening on-screen, and this lack of clarity is representative of the sequel overall. Possibly the only area in which the increased amount of content has benefitted Nidhogg is in those added maps. The original arenas have been rebuilt, and they're accompanied by a number of all-new locations. They contain a number of environmental hazards such as pits, moving ice, and long grass--as well as a pulsating electronic soundtrack--helping each stage feel as enjoyable, as varied, and as weird as the last.

No Caption Provided

Despite all the distractions, however, Nidhogg 2 can be brilliant. The original's tense, frantic, hilarious nature has not been diminished, and local matches offer some of the best same-room multiplayer around. I think my ear is still ringing from a friend shouting so loudly (repeatedly) after he beat me (also repeatedly). Nidhogg 2 becomes a sport: even onlookers get swept up in the tug of war the game evolves into, and you'll cheer or cry more in each swing of momentum than most video games manage to muster in a whole campaign. It effortlessly creates moments of nail-biting tension and in the very next room uproarious hilarity: in the moment, simply batting an arrow back at an opponent can seem like the most daring maneuver ever attempted, while falling into a pit immediately after a momentus kill can paralyze a room with laughter.

You'll cheer or cry more in each swing of momentum than most video games manage to muster in a whole campaign.

Each strike is lethal, and every inch of ground gained over your opponent feels like a huge step toward victory. The controls have remained as natural as they were in the first game, allowing you to plan and execute strategies with ease, making it perfect for group sessions even if some haven't played before. And when you figure out your opponent's strategy, exploit it, and just before they respawn you reach the finish line to win a tournament, it's exhilarating. I just hope my ear stops ringing soon.

Nidhogg 2, then, adds a lot without really adding much at all. The new weapons and busy aesthetic can frustrate, making the overall package feel less refined, but the core gameplay still shines through. Despite its problems, Nidhogg 2 is spectacular, engrossing, funny, tragic, and dramatic in equal measure, and it will no doubt become another party game staple. Nidhogg 2 sacrifices simplicity for more options, and it doesn't prove to be a good trade. But when the underlying action is this good, I'll put up with the odd unwelcome dagger.

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The Good

  • Intuitive, easy controls make it perfect for new players to pick up and play.
  • Exhilarating when it goes right, and hilarious when it goes wrong.
  • An excellent party game.

The Bad

  • New weapons are unbalanced and detract from the original game's simplicity.
  • Updated art style makes it harder to immediately see the action.

About the Author

Neither of Oscar's ears were harmed (too much) in the making of this article. A complimentary code was provided to GameSpot for the purposes of this review.
14 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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stevo302

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Still one of the worst art designs I've seen. Those characters are hilarious.

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murekkep

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Aren't you a little bit late?

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oscardayus

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oscardayus  Staff

@murekkep: We first published this when the game launched on PC and PS4; we've simply updated the article with Switch impressions now that version is out.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

Crash error shown here.

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BigPrimeNumbers

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Glad there's a follow-up to the first one, but bummed that single player is very, very paltry.

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tingtong

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No Switch?? No thank you.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

I remember that when Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb first saw this, he said that his colour blindness made it difficult to immediately notice where the player characters are. There are just so many colours on-screen and they were applied without consideration of contrast.

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stevo302

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Messhof created a pretty damn good concept and never fully developed the premise. The first game was bereft of content, and the multiplayer was flat out broken, making the game useless beyond couch play.

Now they return without really learning anything, and further add not only a truly horrendous art style (seriously, the characters looks like the bstard children of The Simpsons and Morph) but also an imbalance to the gameplay, the only thing worth a damn in the first place.

They should have perfected the first game first instead of working on that stupid Flywrench game. The end product here is just sad given its potential. What a waste.

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LpcWarrior

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Is there online multiplayer in this game? I know the first one was local only and since all my friends are adults living in different time zones, it isnt easy to get them on the same couch as it was when we were kids.

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oscardayus

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Edited By oscardayus  Staff

@LpcWarrior: There is, but it isn't nearly as fun. You don't get the same tension, and you can't laugh at your friend when they shoot themselves with their own arrow :P

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GirlUSoCrazy

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It's hard to say whether weapons like the dagger are really underpowered or if we just don't know how to take advantage yet.

To me the greater randomness of what you get to use means you have to try and find the advantage of each situation, that could add to the fun but would require more experience. Still, for beginners, it means they can't always spam the same moves with the same weapon over and over, something's going to throw you off.

Could be good, I'll be picking it up and trying it out

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yukushi

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Edited By yukushi

This game should be on the ps2, it would be an insult to my ps4 pro and 4k tv to play this.

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Kintaro5000

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A pretty simple case of "Don't Fix What Aint Broke" in video game design. Nidhogg 2 is convoluted to the point of distracting from its original intent, and hopefully the team can either scale back all the excess in a new patch or learn from their mistakes in another iteration. Won't be grabbing this unless it's a free ps+ game.

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Nidhogg 2

First Released Aug 15, 2017
released
  • Macintosh
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

7
Good

Average Rating

3 Rating(s)

6

Developed by:

Genre(s):

Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen