Before we get started, it’s time for a little exercise. First, check the contacts list on your phone and ascertain from that list which of them are your best friends. Done that? Good. Now, go onto Facebook and do the same there. By now you should have a list of folks that you count among your most inner social circle; a group of friends with whom you enjoy spending time with and who, for the most part, you would happily take a bullet for (nerf rounds do count).
With that list in mind make sure that you don’t introduce any of your besties to Nidhogg 2 because quite simply, over a long enough period of time, you’ll lose them all to jealousy and fury. You have been warned.
The same as before but (slightly) better
As was emphatically the case with the original Nidhogg, the premise of its sequel is stunningly simple to grasp. Two warriors begin the contest at opposing ends of the screen, and must get to either the far left or right side of the screen until they reach the final area at the extremes of each direction; success coming when they are messily devoured by the titular Nidhogg dragon-serpent-thing which swoops in for a quick meal.
Obviously lurking between each warrior and success is their opposite number and so, as you may have guessed, such conflict is never resolved peaceably but instead through a deadly ballet of duellist swordsmanship and ample amounts of face stamping. As was the case with the first Nidhogg, this invariably results in a tug of war style scenario where players fight and kill for areas on each map, gaining and losing territory depending on their ability to keep the opposing player from reaching their side of each room.
As it is, successfully pulling off such feats violence, though effortless in execution, still takes some training and an even greater length of time to master. Starting with the basic duelling sword, strikes can be aimed at high, medium or low angles, all of which must be defended with either the respective level of block, or, an evasion. Another tactic of course, is to simply hurl your sword towards the face of your opponent; a surprising gambit that occasionally works, though should it miss, you will find yourself missing a stabby thing which to do away your foe – a true risk/reward mechanic if there ever was one.
Should you find yourself in a situation where you can’t put your hands on a murderous implement, flying kicks, sliding tackles, good old knuckle sandwiches and being able to stomp your opponent’s guts all over the floor can be used to turn the tide on your aggressor. Despite being far from helpless when you don’t have a weapon then, it does still take a skilled combatant to overwhelm an armed attacker in this fashion, though the feeling of accomplishing such a feat does prove to be predictably giddily satisfying.
One of the ways that Nidhogg 2 seeks to differentiate itself from its predecessor is in the selection of weapons that are now available to the player. In addition to the standard rapier which featured in the first game, players can now get their murderous paws on a broadsword, dagger and bow and arrow, with each presenting a unique approach to violence that must be mastered and thus adding some welcome extra depth to the proceedings as a result.
Of the trio of new methods with which to separate folk from their mortal coil, the bow and arrow proves to be the most interesting, as it introduces infinite, long range attacks which introduce a new wrinkle to Nidhogg’s standard formula. Luckily the developer has prevented this new ranged weapon from being disruptive, as the arrow moves fast enough that it can still catch a foe unawares, but not so quickly that a focused player cannot deflect it if they time their strike correctly; usually returning the incoming shaft back to the sender in the process.
Perhaps the most obvious change that Nidhogg 2 brings to the table is the radically different art style that can be seen in every pixel which bleeds out of its digital pours. Seeming like an LSD infused fever dream where colours and spongy shapes messily coalesce into a kaleidoscope of technicolour madness, Nidhogg 2’s art style might be unattractive to look at in screenshots, but in motion it just looks right, and deftly serves the ridiculousness of the on-screen action which consistently unfolds.
Another positive effect of this new art style is in how it affords an extra level of detail to the characters which engage in Nidhogg 2’s violent theatre. Specifically, players may now customise their warrior with all manner of crazy looking hairstyles, clothes, accessories and more in a bid to make them stand out from one another. Sure, it’s a small thing to have, but when taken alongside the often overwhelming amount of fun Nidhogg 2 provides, it stands as a welcome inclusion all the same.
Ultimately, outside of possibly Overcooked! you’ll not find another game on PS4 that manages to raise the ire of friends so hilariously, consistently and entertainingly as Nidhogg 2. From tense tournament battles that go on for nearly an hour, to turnaround scenarios which snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, Nidhogg 2 is an eminently social beast that is best enjoyed and played with friends locally, often providing hours upon hours of friendship destroying fun in the process.
Still not much for lone wolves to get their teeth into
However should you not have the ample number of human bodies available for either local or online play, Nidhogg 2 doesn’t really make a decent attempt to cater for solo players. Outside of a basic arcade mode where you fight opponents one after another across each of the game’s maps, there is quite literally nothing else for a lone player to do.
More than anything, this points to the fact that Nidhogg 2 is arguably a multiplayer affair through and through, and while the game does bring a few new bits and pieces to the table, the emphasis here is clearly more on iteration rather than innovation.
Though Nidhogg 2 hardly represents a sizeable leap over its predecessor, the new wrinkles that developer Messhof has wrought into its existing structure nonetheless succeed in keeping the formula feeling fresh whilst preserving the solid foundation upon which it has been built.
As with the first Nidhogg, similar caveats apply; this is ostensibly a game for people who have friends and don’t mind losing them, so furiously emotional and entertaining are its competitive multiplayer shenanigans. For others who might be seeking something better aligned with their lone wolf pursuits however, Nidhogg 2 provides little remedy in this regard.