I’m not going to beat around the bush, Nidhogg 2 is a great game. There, I’ve said it, now let’s spend the next few minutes discussing why it’s worth your time and attention. You see, Nidhogg 2 isn’t just great because it’s everything a sequel should be, it’s great because regardless as to whether you’re plugging in your first run or your first hundredth run, the game never buckles to its repetition. Nidhogg originally took the world by storm upon release of the first game back 2014 on PC and PlayStation 4, and now, it’s back once more.
Nidhogg 2 sees the return of the wurm, otherwise known as the titular Nidhogg. Players will need to make their way from one side of the level to the other side in order to be gobbled up by this gigantic foul beast. The kicker? Your opposition will be tasked with exactly the same thing and what follows on is a white-knuckled fight for supremacy, or digestion, to be more specific. The aim of the game is to kill anyone that stands in your way, be it the AI foe in single-player, your couch buddies in local-play, or strangers from the globe in online-play.
You would be forgiven for believing that this is a quick one-and-done experience that grows old, fast. Well, I found the game to offer massive replay value on the merits of its fun-factor alone. Those who played Nidhogg on alternate platforms will be glad to know that despite the addition few extras and the spruced up visuals, Nidhogg 2 houses the exact same framework as its predecessor. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, after all, if it’s not broken, don’t freakin’ fix it. Yes, Duke Nukem Forever, I’m forever referring to you with that.
Anyway, back on track. One typical run in Nidhogg 2 has you and your opponent dueling for the proverbial win. There’s a total of seven screens that players will need to make it through and by successfully making it to the next screen, you’ll move ever so closer towards your hard-earned victory. Once you make it to the end, as aforementioned, you’ll be eaten up by the wurm and will then win the game – if you can call that winning, that is. Nidhogg 2 provides more weaponry, screens and gameplay refinements than that of its predecessor.
Weapon placement is completely random as far as I could tell, meaning you’ll rarely know which weapon you’re going to be handed per-run. However with that said, the diversity here is great as far as weapon variety is concerned. It helps, of course, that the controls are very easy to gel with, despite the depth within. Players can move left to right, attack, jump, wall jump, jump kick, roll and even throw weaponry. This freedom of movement and the wide selection of move-sets allows for some truly tense, on the edge-of-your-seat moments.
When you manage to defeat your opposition, you’ll be granted a small burst of time to proceed in your winning direction before they’ll respawn. This overall system ensures that the tension of play never truly dies down, pitting your and your foe against one another in some of the most confrontational scenarios that I’ve endured in recent memory. One moment you’ll be gleefully running for victory and in the next instance, you’re spending fifteen minutes staring each other down before desperately trying to exploit a weakness.
Furthermore, it doesn’t matter whether you’re wielding a sword, holding a dagger, or enjoying some long-ranged bow and arrow goodness, there’s a counter for almost every single encounter in the game. Each distinct weapon also comes with their own pros and cons. Long-swords, for instance, are slow to handle but they pack one hell of a punch. Daggers, on the other hand, lack the reach of the long-sword, but they’re swifter. That’s not to mention stances that you can utilize to manipulate the outcome of any given stand-off.
Stances are fairly straightforward to get to grips with but it’s going to take some time and perseverance to understand how each weapon feels and behaves, as well as what stance you’re limited to. One example of this is that the long-sword can only be used to cover your top and lower stance, leaving you wide open to attack in the mid-region. These mechanics all fall into place through trial and error (in my case, loss) but that’s the game’s main allure, it’s robust, yet accessible. Nidhogg 2 truly ticks all of the right boxes for a game of this type.
When all is said and done, any fan of fast, action-packed and brutal competitive play should try this out, especially if you experienced the first outing and came out impressed. Nidhogg 2 offers nonstop, heart-in-your-throat gameplay, which I can only describe as constant “tug of war” combat that constantly maintains its appeal and excitement. My one and only gripe sits with the single-player’s AI, which don’t particularly present much of a challenge and can easily be circumvented. Swap that out for a real player, however, and you’re in for a treat.
Outside of its single-player, local-play and online-play, the game also supports eight player tournaments. Here, you can tweak a set number of options, such as weaponry and other useful tidbits to produce a bracket of challenges to your liking. The biggest change in Nidhogg 2 in comparison to Nidhogg is the visuals. Nidhogg 2 looks great. The visuals remain detailed, distinct and full of color throughout, which sits well with the game’s unique environments. Throw in a solid soundtrack and it’s hard not to appreciate what’s on offer.
Nidhogg 2 doesn’t stray too far from the concept of its predecessor. This, depending on what you want from a sequel, will be for the better or for the worse. Regardless, there’s no doubt that this game offers one of the best and most tense 1v1 experiences in recent memory. What I found most compelling is how in-depth and robust the game can be, whilst remaining totally accessible and fluid throughout.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.