Nidhogg has been a long time coming. This game has won numerous awards from various gaming expos and was only really available to play outside said expos in Winnitron game cabinets. So finally when Messhof announced that Nidhogg will be coming to Steam, retro gamers alike collectively squealed like a gaggle of One Direction fans, but was it worth the wait?
Nidhogg first appeared in the wild way back in 2010 where it won Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s Indie Game of the Show at the 2010 Eurogamer Expo, since then it’s resurfaced at PAX, IGF, and GDC and now on your local Steam library!
The game itself is simple in its conception. It’s a virtual tug of war between two fencers where if one kills the other, they can proceed to their end zone unless they’re stopped and killed by the opposition in which in turn allows them to proceed back to their end zone. Controls are once again fairly simple. Using an Xbox controller you can use the X button to strike, A to jump, and the left thumbstick to raise or lower your weapon. All of this simplicity is presented once again in a simplistic yet stunning pixelated environment.
The game is less about it’s looks, controls, and concept, but more about outwitting your opponent and learning their play style. It’s that which turns the game into something more than a simple sword fighting brawler, it’s less about mashing buttons and jumping around and more about paying attention to your surroundings and watching your opponent intently hoping that they’ll slip up, just once.
The game itself contains three game modes, Single Player, Multiplayer, and Tournament. The single player pits you against sixteen computer controlled opponents each with their own unique play style. The aim is to complete the single player in the quickest time possible which at times can feel like hours. The single player is a perfect way for you to learn how to play the game, get to grips with the controls and learn the environments before jumping online and challenging your friends.
Multiplayer, as you may have gathered contains both an Online Versus and an Offline Versus. There’s also the option to tweak variants such as adding a time limit, allowing divekicks and throwing swords, as well as sudden death mode, baby mode, and low gravity, to really shake up gameplay. Personally I found the match making a little slow as there were only three or four people online, but joining a game with another Steam friend was easy and gameplay wasn’t at all laggy. The Offline multiplayer simply allows you to play offline with a friend.
The Tournament Mode however is one of the best features. This allows you to play a tournament that features up to eight local players. It follows the usual tournament rules with two players facing off through a series of events until one player comes out victorious over everyone else. This makes for a fantastic party game, unless you’re a bit of a sore loser, then I’d steer away.
Now you might have noticed that when I wrote about the single player mode I mentioned that you’ll be able to learn the environments. Nidhogg has four different areas for you to choose from, Castle, Clouds, Mines, and Wilds, each environment has it’s own unique features such as in the Castle there’s several low-hanging areas which prevent swords from being thrown into, in Clouds there’s certain parts of the level that disappear, in the Mines there’s conveyor belts that make it awkward to fence on, and in the Wilds there’s tall grass that you can hide in.
If you’re clever enough you can use each one of these unique features to your advantage to become the ultimate Nidhogg champion as well as developing your own fighting kill. Oh and did I mention that if you lose your sword either by having it parryed out of your hand or if you’ve thrown it, you’ll be able to carry on the fight using only your fists.
Overall Nidhogg looks ridiculously simple and slightly unappealing, but if you were to sit down and play through a few levels you’ll soon realise that it’s more than just pixelated characters poking eachother with pixel swords, there’s a level of skill involved. To become the winner you must learn from your opponent, something that I haven’t seen in a game for some-time. I bloody love it. My only real concern is the price. For £15 you don’t really get a lot, which is a little off putting. Hopefully Messhof adds some more to the game in the future.